About The Production (Continued)
"Steven has such a love of actors," veteran casting director Ellen Lewis says.
"Right off, he knew he wanted Matthew Rhys to play Daniel Ellsberg, Bruce
Greenwood for Robert McNamara and Sarah Paulson for Mrs. Bradlee, and that was a
great start." Ultimately, Spielberg and Lewis would assemble an ensemble, some
20 strong, that encompasses some of today's most exciting actors, many of whom
have been part of the television renaissance underway in the early part of the
They include: Alison Brie (GLOW), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), David Cross (Mr.
Show), Bruce Greenwood (American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson),
Tracy Letts (Indignation), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Sarah Paulson
(American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson), Jesse Plemons (Bridge of
Spies), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name),
Bradley Whitford (Get Out) and Zach Woods (Silicon Valley). Also tapped from
Broadway are Tony winner Jessie Mueller, along with Stark Sands, Rick Holmes,
Pat Healy, Philip Casnoff, John Rue, Jennifer Dundas and Will Denton.
Alison Brie portrays Katharine Graham's eldest child, Lally, who was just 23
during the events in the film. Brie loved playing a young woman who is not
afraid to question or call out her mother but is also deeply devoted to
supporting a woman she knows is breaking the mold of her generation. "Lally,
like her mother, is fiercely intelligent. She's opinionated and she certainly
doesn't hold back those opinions. She has a very candid relationship with Kay.
That was so fun to play because she challenges her mother," Brie explains.
"She's the kind of person who tells it like it is and sometimes that's just what
her mother needs."
Spielberg was gratified to have Brie in the role. "I followed her on Mad Men and
saw her in Mud and I think she's an extraordinary actress so it was great to be
able to cast her as Lally," he says.
No matter their ties, mother and daughter have to navigate a major generation
gap. Perhaps few generations have been as divided as the parents who came of age
amid the Depression and children of the socially shifting 60s and 70s. "We're
right in the midst of the women's movement and that's where Lally and her mother
bump heads," says Brie. "Kay grew up in a very traditional family but Lally
really represents that younger generation who felt they had to be much more
vocal about women's rights."
Brie was thrown right into it - taking on Streep as Graham on her first day on
set - but says Streep set her at ease by diving into the scene so completely
that Brie was entranced. "You really feel Meryl is living and breathing this
person and she's in the moment with you. When I looked in her eyes, I could see
that Kay is constantly fluctuating between feeling confident and feeling
terrified. It was thrilling to watch."
Says Streep of the rapport between Lally and Kay: "You never feel quite as
stupid as you do around your own children-because they will correct you on every
point! I do love their mother-daughter relationship because it feels very real
to me. And Alison brings a lot of feeling to the role."
Carrie Coon joins the cast as the late Washington Post editorial writer Meg
Greenfield, who was renowned for her sparkling wit and garnered the Pulitzer
Prize in 1978. As another pioneering woman who made her way to the top of
journalism in that male-dominated era, Greenfield bonded with Graham. She also
penned a pivotal op-ed column in 1971, entitled "The Conflict of Two Great
Estates: Some Reflections on the Pentagon Papers," that analyzed the Supreme
Court's arguments in favor of the publication.
Coon felt particularly drawn to the script's emphasis on Graham's evolution.
"What makes it so personally relevant to me is that it's about a woman coming
into her own under tremendous pressure. I was intrigued by how Kay's leadership
was forged in this crucible that was also such a critical time in our
democracy." She says of the link between Greenfield and Graham: "I think they
became friends because you need allies in situations like this. They were both
women in situations where men usually had the power."
It wasn't that easy to research Greenfield, who eschewed the spotlight. "She was
never out there for her own self-promotion," says Coon. "I had a very slim book
she wrote called Washington, which she never finished, and there was also a
beautiful introduction to the book written by Katharine Graham. I also had one
interview that Meg did with Charlie Rose close to the end of her career after
she'd won the Pulitzer." But Coon also drew on stories that the film's
journalist consultants, as well as Graham's grandson Will, shared. "Will told me
some great stories about how Meg was an advocate for him throughout his life.
Having personal contact like that is always so enriching when you're bringing a
real person to life."
David Cross, the stand-up comic turned actor recently seen in Unbreakable Kimmy
Schmidt (and who previously worked with co-star Bob Odenkirk on Mr. Show), plays
another highly regarded member of The Washington Post team: managing editor
Howard Simons. A reporter since the 1950s, Simon would later become the curator
of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Simons is also a
key character in All The President's Men, played by Martin Balsam in that film.
Cross was most intrigued by the script's inside view of events usually seen from
the outside. "I knew about the Pentagon Papers but I wasn't aware of what
happened at The Washington Post," Cross says. "I knew nothing about Kay Graham's
ascension to a leadership role in the middle of it."
Also exciting for Cross was how Hanks went out of his way to bond with the
entire ensemble portraying The Post staff - rallying the troops much as Bradlee
himself had done. "Tom's genuineness was one of the keys to this being a fun,
loose, copacetic set. Early on, he invited all the people playing editors and
reporters to his place in New York for big lunch-which helped us build better
relationships on screen. He's a guy who remembers everybody's names and asks
everyone 'how are you doing?' There's no pretense."
Another historical figure who plays a role in The Post is one of the most
controversial men of the 20th Century: General Robert S. McNamara, a Defense
Secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, often considered the architect
of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara was directly responsible
for decisions expanding the war, the consequences of which would haunt him until
his passing in 2009. He would ultimately issue an apology to Americans, saying,
"We were wrong, terribly wrong." It was also McNamara who first commissioned the
study on the Vietnam War that became the Pentagon Papers. McNamara also
considered Graham a dear friend, which only twisted the knot she faced even
Taking the role is Bruce Greenwood, known for playing American presidents in
such films as Thirteen Days, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Kingsman:
The Golden Circle-and as Captain Pike in the rebooted Star Trek films and Gil
Garcetti in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. Greenwood notes that he saw McNamara as
having a fatal flaw: "He was a force of nature who could not not make a
decision. He'd rather make a bad decision than wait and make no decision, and he
ran afoul of that mindset in his life."
Greenwood found McNamara's complicated relationship with Graham fascinating.
"They had tremendous respect for one another. Bob had been there for her after
her husband died and was a close friend in the hardest period of her life," he
notes. "But Kay also had a son [Don] who went to Vietnam and when she discovered
that McNamara knew the war couldn't be won militarily, I think she couldn't
reconcile that. Her son came home but tens of thousands of others didn't, all
while McNamara knew the U.S could not win. That had to feel like a betrayal."
There was no lack of reading material on McNamara, and Greenwood especially
relied on Deborah Shapley's Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert
McNamara. He also poured over footage. "Even after the production was over I
kept studying McNamara, because I still wanted to understand him," Greenwood
confesses. "He was such a complex guy."
Carrie Coon's husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Tracy Letts
(Homeland) embodies another pivotal force at The Post: Frederick "Fritz" Beebe,
chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company in 1971. A former Wall
Street lawyer who worked for The Post since 1933, Beebe is still considered a
father figure of the paper today (he passed away at age 59 in 1973.) He was
deeply trusted by Graham; and, though at first skeptical of the idea of
publishing the Pentagon Papers, Beebe ultimately left the choice to the
publisher. Says Letts: "Fritz was a very important presence in Kay's life, an
avuncular presence and a legal counsel, but also clearly accepting of her as the
one running the company."
As someone devoted to drama, Letts especially enjoyed observing Spielberg at
work. "I love that he comes from the school where he's still editing in his
head. We didn't have to do a lot of coverage because he knows exactly how he's
going to cut it all together. That fact that he is also a funny, sweet man who
models inspiring behavior on set and embraces ensemble work, allowed us all to
work to the best of our ability."
Bob Odenkirk, famed as over-the-top criminal lawyer Saul Goodman from Breaking
Bad and Better Call Saul, takes a dramatic turn with another real-life role: the
late Ben Bagdikian, an award-winning journalist who joined The Washington Post
in 1970 - and whose past relationship with Daniel Ellsberg and the Rand
Corporation led him to chase down his own copy of The Pentagon Papers. Later,
Bagdikian would become the Dean of the University of California Berkeley School
"Ellsberg decided to trust Bagdikian to follow through on publishing the papers
and to bring a second set of the papers to a Congressman who would read them
into the Congressional Record, which is exactly what happened," Odenkirk
explains. Though Bagdikian knew he might face grave legal consequences, Odenkirk
believes most people would support his decision to keep digging and reporting.
"I think most Americans regardless of political view would say, 'I want all of
the truth. I would like to have access to all of the facts about what my
government is doing.' That's what Ben was trying to do."
As soon as he won the role, Odenkirk leapt into research, reading Bagdikian's
autobiography and watching footage. He drilled into the connection between the
reporter and Bradlee, who was his polar opposite. "Bagdikian wrote that early on
as a reporter he had learned to blend in. He felt his job was to be a good
listener and to not intrude his personality too much into the moment. By
contrast, Bradlee had a huge personality and enjoyed not hiding it at all."
Working with Hanks cemented that concept. "Tom's a blast. He is really the
epitome of an actor being in the moment. His energy is always right here and
right now on the set. So acting with him, you get to play the moment fresh every
single time which is what every actor most wants," Odenkirk comments.
Sarah Paulson, a Golden Globe and Emmy winner for the role of Marcia Clark in
American Crime Story, takes on Ben Bradlee's wife, Antoinette "Tony" Bradlee.
Beloved for her charm and known as one of Washington D.C.'s preeminent social
hostesses in the 50s and 60s (one who was said to have drawn the admiration of
John F. Kennedy), Tony would have an indelible impact on Ben, though their
marriage would not last. They would divorce in 1973, with Tony returning to her
passion for the fine arts.
In The Post, it is Tony who gives Ben insight into Graham's difficult position.
"Tony is trying to be supportive to Ben in a very heightened moment," says
Paulson. "But Tony is also the one who finally says to Ben you need to think
about what this is costing Kay. For Ben, as a hard newsman, it was easy to just
say this is what is morally right. But Tony shows him the stakes are different
for Kay, especially as a woman."
Though Tony Bradlee lived in a time and world in which she was expected to be an
adjunct to her husband, Paulson honed in on her individuality. "I found in my
research that she was a very formidable woman, yet with an effortless sort of
devil-may-care attitude," she says. "She was a ceramicist and she wasn't all
that interested in the political scene. She did it well-she put on the dress and
she'd have the people over to parties-but she wasn't going slave away in the
kitchen. She had her own life."
A major lure of the role was the chance to work opposite Hanks. "I think what's
so beautiful about Tom playing Bradlee is that behind that hard exterior you've
got Tom's big, beating heart that infuses every choice he makes as an actor.
He's incredibly smart but he leads with his heart. Even when he's playing a man
who is tough and hard-nosed, he's leading with his feeling. As an actor you feel
that in your scenes with him."
Graham has intrigued Paulson since she first read her autobiography years ago.
"It was incredibly inspiring when I was young," she says, "to fathom that a
woman could be in such a powerful position. She was the first female publisher
of a newspaper that size in our country's history, all while dealing with the
weight of family history, surviving as a widow and raising her children under a
big spotlight." Watching Streep personify Graham was a revelation. "Meryl is a
vessel in a way. She's permeable. Anything she decides to do becomes tangible
and real," Paulson observes.
One of the biggest casting challenges was finding the right actor to undertake
Daniel Ellsberg. He remains a figure seen by some as traitorous and to others as
a hero of transparency. The real Ellsberg had many layers. He was graduate of
Harvard, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, a Ph.D. in economics and a Pentagon
official who spent two years in Vietnam before he began working at the Rand
Corporation where he contributed to the study that became the Pentagon Papers -
before blowing the whistle on that same study.
Taking on the role is Matthew Rhys, who is best known for playing a Soviet
"sleeper agent" on the acclaimed television series The Americans. Rhys sees
Ellsberg and Graham on similar paths, each compelled to act in risky,
potentially law-breaking ways despite being upstanding citizens. "They were both
forced into a situation where they had to make these enormous decisions, with
great consequences as to what would happen to vast numbers of people, and also
to themselves. Both were pioneers made in the moment," he observes.
Ellsberg could no longer live at peace with what he knew to be true about the
war believes Rhys. "The extent of the lying that was going on to Congress and
especially to the American people bothered him deeply. There's one very simple
moment in the movie when Ellsberg is asked about Vietnam and he says 'everything
is still the same.' In other words, this is an unwinnable war and that never
changed. He had the courage to say that and to say that what several Presidents
have done in Vietnam is wrong for the country."
A great pleasure of the role was traveling to California to spend time with
Ellsberg. Rhys knew he didn't want to try to imitate the man, but he did get a
deeper sense of his essence. "Meeting Ellsberg was incredible because I
discovered he's more of a force than I realized. I wasn't expecting this
whirlwind encyclopedia of information and knowledge of every administration
since then until now. He is incredibly smart and there is still an absolute fire
burning in him," he observes.
He also had one big question for Ellsberg: "I asked him, during this period when
you were the subject of an FBI manhunt, were you scared? And he said: 'No, I
wasn't, because I had such conviction in what I was doing.' And that was a real
key into which he was. He wasn't a panicked, angst-ridden guy cowering in a
motel. He was sure about what he was doing and ready to sacrifice so that the
truth could prevail."
Portraying New York Times managing editor, Abe Rosenthal-a Pulitzer Prize winner
who worked for the paper for 56 years-is Michael Stuhlbarg, also seen this year
in Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water (and who worked with Spielberg in
Lincoln). Stuhlbarg notes that Rosenthal started the ball rolling by taking the
biggest risk of all. "From what I've read about Mr. Rosenthal, there was never
any question in his mind that he would publish the Papers, but he had quite a
fight on his hands amongst all the other people who were quite concerned about
it doing damage to the paper's reputation, among other things," he explains.
Rosenthal certainly knew the leadership at The Washington Post, but he may not
have yet seen them as the competition. "I don't think Abe necessarily felt like
The Post was anything more than a little family paper at the time, and they
hadn't necessarily up till that point proved they were more than that,"
Stuhlbarg continues. "He and Kay Graham would occasionally have a meal together,
because they were in the same business, but I don't think Abe felt threatened by
It thrilled Stuhlbarg to portray a news legend. "As I understand it, Rosenthal
was very forthright and after the highest level of journalism. We only see
glimpses of him, but it was fun to try to represent some of the energy he was
known for. It was in his DNA being a reporter, and he took his responsibilities
Rosenthal's son, the journalist Andy Rosenthal, visited the set of The Post and
lent his insights. He explains the role his father played: "The decision to
publish the Pentagon Papers was a huge one, because The Times knew that it was
going to have an immense impact. They were confident they were not harming
national security in that it was all historical information; it wasn't about
strategy, tactics or troop movements. The publisher of The Times, Arthur
Sulzberger, was a retired marine and the idea of publishing all these secret
documents was extremely unnerving for him. But his editors, led by my father,
were persuasive. In the end, he decided to do it against the advice of their
lawyers. And the impact was instantaneous ... In terms of our understanding of
what happened in Vietnam it was incredibly important. In terms of journalism, it
was even more important, because it set these ground rules, although there's
still a lot of tension about them."
He also recalls the prevailing atmosphere of fear among all involved, including
their families: "I remember even though I was 15 and I didn't really know
everything that was going on, my father would come home and talk about it and we
were really afraid that he would end up in prison."
The look and feel of the atmosphere on set jibed with Rosenthal's memories of
the period and especially the people involved. "Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep did a
great job giving the flavor of what these two people were actually like," he
says. "I was swept away by the whole thing."
Bradley Whitford, a two-time Emmy winner for his roles in The West Wing and
Transparent, plays one of the few characters in The Post not directly based on a
real person: Arthur Parsons, an amalgam of several people then preparing The
Washington Post for its initial IPO. In the film, it is Parsons who takes up the
opposing argument to protect the newspaper's future by not publishing the
Pentagon Papers. For Parsons, to publish would be to play Russian roulette with
the future of everyone working for the newspaper.
Explains Whitford: "Parsons believes Graham will be putting at risk all of the
people who work at The Post - and also risk all the potentially important
stories that they could do down the line. Even worse, she will be taking this
risk right at the very moment of the company's IPO. So Parsons is in a tough
position. He needs to let Graham and Bradlee know what the potential outcome is,
even if it is hard for them to hear."
Reflecting the prevailing attitudes of the time, Parsons is also a man not
entirely comfortable around powerful women. Notes Whitford: "It was unusual in
1971 for someone like Arthur Parsons to be confronted by a woman who is in
charge and has the final say - and that is a very interesting attitude to play
Parsons may be the film's clearest antagonist, but it is also his vehemence
against publishing that impels Graham to take her stand. "There is a reluctance,
given where Kay comes from, to make this decision but that's part of what makes
her work so wonderfully as the hero of the movie," says Whitford. "She's a
reluctant hero who then, under pressure, makes just about the bravest choice a
person can make."
The World of The Post
The dynamism of The Post emerges not only out of the mounting tension of its
characters. It is equally forged by the film's pacing and intent focus on the
visual details of its world of 1970s powerbrokers and reporters-which each tell
their own piece of the story.
Spielberg worked with a crack team, most of whom
he has been collaborating with for decades, to conjure the atmosphere. Vital to
that team is Janusz Kaminski, his trusted cinematographer and an accomplished
filmmaker in his own right (and a two-time Oscar winner for Schindler's List
and Saving Private Ryan).
"Janusz is a painter with light and the way that he and Steven work together is
wonderful," says Pascal. "One of his ideas was to show that Kay was the one
woman in a room filled with men and that story is being told visually in every
The pair also focused on reflective surfaces throughout. "This movie is about
reflecting back on our history," says Krieger, "so Janusz and Steven worked
together to highlight reflections, for example, in the ceiling of the newsroom
or even in a phone booth, which becomes part of the storytelling."
Kaminski and Spielberg chose to shoot on 35mm film, a nod back to 70s filmmaking
but also a way of enlivening the richness of every detail. "I wanted with Janusz
to make the film look like it was not a contemporary film but rather shot in the
early 1970s," says Spielberg. "It was all about color temperature and palette
and coordinating Janusz's lighting with Ann Roth's brilliant costumes."
Spielberg also relished the freedom of shooting a character-focused drama after
a special effects epic, trading the intricate storyboarding that such films
demand for a more free-form vision. "In terms of where we put the camera, I kind
of played it by ear, which was really fun for me. I love to do that when I can,"
Says Meryl Streep: "The look of this film makes what happens in offices and
dinner parties feel compelling and so propulsive you can't wait to see what
happens next. Janusz and Steven work seamlessly. They see with the same pair of
The task of re-creating The Washington Post's offices, where much of the film's
action unfolds, fell to two-time Oscar-winning production designer, Rick
Carter. He brought cast and crew right into the milieu. "You just couldn't
believe the realism of his set," says Pascal. "It even seemed to have cigarette
butts from 1971. Yet nothing was overdone. Sometimes you see period movies in
which the details become more important than the storytelling but everything
Rick does is always in service of the movie."
For Spielberg, so engrossed in the minute details of production, it was seeing
others react that brought it all home. "I remember I invited a friend of mine
who still works for The Washington Post, Richard Cohen, to come watch us shoot,
and he showed up on the set, walked onto the newsroom floor, looked around and
immediately his eyes filled with tears. He said, 'this is the place.'"
Carter threw himself into research to depict an era of publishing entirely
unlike our own - an era in which newsrooms had not a single computer, lined
instead with clacking typewriters and corded telephones. While film-lovers might
remember the bustling innards of The Washington Post from All The President's
Men, Carter soon learned that The Post offices were located in an entirely
different building with different dÃ©cor in 1971. He poured over the few archival
photographs that still exist.
"We found about 10 photographs to guide us but we didn't have photos that would
show everything, so it's partly an impression of what it would have been like.
One thing we saw is that The Post newsroom at that time was a vast, transparent
place," he describes. "It was completely open-a hodge-podge of desks,
typewriters, Rolodexes, telephones, carbon copies of stories everywhere,
ashtrays. It looked to me very much like the end of one era and the beginning of
another, which in a way is what the movie is about."
Carter had a clear aim in his design: "I wanted to create a room where the
actors could immerse themselves, right away, in the reality of a 1971 newsroom.
Whenever I work with Steven, what I try to design for him is a kind of a backlot
mentality where everywhere that he looks, he can be in the world of the story."
The first challenge was searching for a suitable locale to serve as the frame
for his work. Ultimately, Carter scouted out an empty office building in White
Plains, NY about to be turned into luxury condos. Just before the renovation,
the film production moved in and used the blank slate to forge the world of The
Post. "It gave us a place where we could bring in all the detail necessary,"
For Carter, the individual offices are an indelible part of each character. At
the center of the action is the all-seeing hub of Bradlee's editorial office.
"Ben works in an utterly transparent room," notes Carter. "It's like he's the
ship's captain, looking out over all of the people working with him. I found
that Tom really responded to being able to see everyone in the newsroom. And
Janusz found creative ways to light everything so that Bradlee's world feels
personal yet you're also taking in all that's going on around him."
Just as their personalities contrasted, so too do the offices of Bradlee and
Graham. Says Carter: "Rather than being out in the open like Ben, Kay's office
was hidden away in the executive suite. We had documentation from the 60 Minutes
stories and a few photos. Ben and Kay were quite different, but an important
aspect to me was to show how they complemented each other, so you see them
coming together in the newsroom. They realize that some things they can't do on
their own, they can do better together."
The Mid-century typewriters were a special thrill for Tom Hanks who has an
obsession with vintage typewriters. "The sound of them is especially fantastic,"
he notes. "Newsrooms don't sound that way anymore. You really get the essence of
a newsroom at that time with that gorgeous white noise in the background." The
newsroom felt so real that Hanks began to literally inhabit it. "I took naps on
the couch there like Ben Bradlee did," he confesses. "Rick Carter is a genius at
creating sets that feel alive like that."
Following Carter's mandate to fill the environs with the remains of a real
working newspaper, prop master Diana Burton hunted down many authentic
artifacts, including a word-for-word copy of the Pentagon Papers, which she was
able to explore in person in Washington, D.C. "The Papers are one of the stars
of the picture," Burton notes, "so we had to have something close to authentic.
We made one full set: 44 volumes, 7,700 pages in all. I went down to the
National Archives and actually handled them, so I was able feel the kind of
paper they were printed on so what we made was historically correct."
Another extraordinary prop Burton scoured the earth for was the Xerox machine
Daniel Ellsberg uses to stealthily copy the papers in a nearby advertising
agency. "As if I was a journalist, I used three sources to confirm the actual
machine used, a Xerox 914. Even then it wasn't easy to find," notes Burton. "We
located one at the Xerox Museum in Rochester. They lent it to us with a warning:
we couldn't plug it in or it would burn up. So we had to rig the light and the
action of the paper coming out but it was a spectacular find."
Carter's designs and Burton's props for The Post transported those who had been
there in haunting ways. "My first day on set was almost an out of body
experience," Post veteran Steve Coll recalls. "With all the extras looking like
1970s reporters, all the black phones, all the cigarette smoke lingering in the
air it was so real. The appetite of these filmmakers for accuracy was
The team also recreated the circa-1971 New York Times building. Carter's team
used the General Society of Mechanics and Trades building on Exchange Place to
forge The Times' facade, as well as the secret newsroom where Abe Rosenthal
edited the first Pentagon Papers story. Carter took one look at the magnificent
globes flanking the General Society's entrance and was sold. "The globes are
part of the iconography of The Times," Carter says. "They emanate light, and
that's a perfect metaphor for what the news should be."
After fitting five additional globes onto the facade, painting The Times logo
typeface onto the opaque glass, and attaching The Times plaque to the facing
wall, the old building came to life. The result was so time-transporting that
the current New York Times even published a story about the transformation.
Carter also toured Graham and Bradlee's former Georgetown residences to get a
sense of their layouts, which he recreated on soundstages at Brooklyn's Steiner
Studios. Other key locations include The New York Post's Bronx printing presses,
which stand in for the vintage presses of The Post, as well as the Brooklyn
State Courthouse and Columbia University's Low Library, which serve respectively
as the Federal Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Outside Low Library, Spielberg
shot the emblematic moment when Graham and Bradlee emerge from the courthouse,
where the Justices woukld eventually ruled 6-3 in their favor.
The printing press, outfitted with authentic, old school linotype machines, was
a favorite for Streep. "Rick really knocked it out of the park by finding and
bringing in all these old movable-type printing machines that no longer exist.
It was thrilling to do the scene there with the real typesetters. It was like
stepping back in time. It gave me the chills," she says.
A wooded enclave near White Plains became the marine base in Hau Nghia Province,
Vietnam, where military strategist Daniel Ellsberg first became disillusioned
about the war's reality, setting in motion his audacious actions. Spielberg and
Kaminski approached the sequence with the intensity of a team that has recreated
both World War I and II battles on screen with blistering authenticity.
For costume designer Ann Roth-a legend in her own right with a 6-decade career
encompassing somewhere near 200 film and theatre credits and an Oscar-similarly
meticulous research went into every thread and button. "The main thing I took
into consideration was that these characters are real people. So it was possible
to see what they actually wore. We were able to do that because of the wealth of
photos available," Roth says.
Krieger says of Roth's contribution: "She is a craftsperson of the highest
caliber. She does her research and she figures out how to transform with
clothes. She also really collaborates with actors, helping them to disappear
into their characters. She did it flawlessly on this movie with a very large and
broad range of characters."
Roth and her team didn't slavishly copy the existing photos but used them as
inspiration, especially dressing Streep as Graham, whose demure style at times
belied her growing leadership skills. After consulting such books as The
Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington by Gregg Herken, and
Georgetown Ladies Social Club: Power, Passion and Politics in the Nation's
Capitol by C. David Heyman, Roth mixed her research with her artistic
sensibilities and intuition, working closely with Streep. The outfits Streep
wears - including Graham's "retirement party" caftan, her suit at the board
meeting, the dress she chooses for the stock exchange - are based in reality but
bring something more.
Streep reflects on Roth's work: "Ann is just a genius designer. I can't even
think how many films I've worked with her on, all the way back to Silkwood. For
Katharine, we had a lot of archival material to draw upon but we also talked a
lot about how to present her. She was very tall, which gave her a sort of
patrician grace. She had a bearing that was intimidating to some people, even as
self-conscious as she was. So we worked hard to get to that distinctive quality.
I'm a shorty, so I had to sort of build it up a little bit to get that."
When it came to dressing Hanks, Roth notes that in 1971 Bradlee didn't yet
adhere to the dapper style for which he was later famed. "He was in a preppy
mode at that time, more like his Harvard days. It was only later on, after
Watergate, that he began to dress more like an English gentleman," she explains.
Krieger adds: "I think Ann had a lot to do with how deeply Tom was able to
inhabit Ben. Her clothing choices gave him some of that bravado. He walked and
talked differently in her clothes."
For Bradlee's editorial staff, Roth had the benefit of a photo archive that
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eugene Patterson, a character in the film,
donated to Emory University. "We were able to see all the staff in exactly what
they wore during this period. It was a tremendous help in researching the era so
that everything was as realistic and authentic as possible, which is exactly
what Steven wanted," says Roth.
The cast took Roth's costumes-and her knowledge of the era--into their toolboxes
with great appreciation. Sums up Alison Brie: "Ann is a living legend and I
think everyone on set kind of fell in love. She's someone who tells it like it
is and she knows the 70s. Not only that, some of the stuff I was wearing were
her own pieces from her closet. I wore a pair of her own shoes, and maybe even a
dress that had been hers. Her costumes are not an approximation. These are real
fashions and that means so much to an actor."
After production wrapped, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams began
their work stitching the story's final structure together and setting its
rhythms. This marks the 44th year of collaboration between Spielberg and
Williams as well as their 29th project together. "John usually plays everything
he's going to perform with the full orchestra on the piano for me first. But the
timing was so crunched on this film, this is one of the few times I've gone to a
John Williams scoring session having not heard a note," Spielberg notes. "Yet,
as usual, I loved every note. John brought a beautiful restraint to the score,
but it is also tremendously strong musically when needed."
Even before that, as principal photography came to a close, Spielberg made an
emotional speech that honed in on what made The Post so special for him. "This
is a true ensemble of actors, and I want to do it again," Spielberg said,
adding: "This has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my entire
He also recognizes that what this ensemble conjured on the screen reflects a
conversation already murmuring across America. "This is a very good time to
explore the virtues of a free press, to engage in an honest conversation about
what contributions the press at its most principled can make to our democracy,"
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