Oscars: 10 Things to Know About Best Picture Nominee 'The Post'

10:00 AM 2/20/2018

by Michael Waters

Why the film was banned in Lebanon, the reason it took only nine months to make, and how Tom Hanks met the real-life Katharine Graham.

The central pitch of The Post, Steven Spielberg’s film about The Washington Post’s 1971 decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, is timeliness.

Immediately after The New York Times released leaked documents that revealed how top U.S. officials misled the public about military commitments in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon’s administration obtained a court order demanding that the Times cease publication. Many viewers have drawn parallels between President Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press in 1971 and President Donald Trump’s today, and the film's underlying drama — whether Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) should join the Times in releasing the documents, despite the possible legal consequences — is one many newspapers might again face.

Now a best picture nominee at the Oscars, The Post has captured the attention of audiences across the globe. Yet the story behind how the movie was made — and the web of connections between its stars and their real-life counterparts — is as fascinating as the plot itself. 

  • Steven Spielberg Never Intended to Direct 'The Post'

    In a December roundtable with THR, director Steven Spielberg revealed that when he first read the script for The Post, he had no plans to turn it into a film. He was in the middle of work on the forthcoming Ready Player One (March 30) — he read the screenplay, at first, because he was curious. Ben Bradlee had been his longtime neighbor in East Hampton, and he wanted to know how the late Washington Post editor would be portrayed. But after finishing his read-through, Spielberg was so struck by the current political parallels that he decided he needed to direct it.

  • The Movie Took Only Nine Months to Make

    Erik Tanner

    The time between a director reading a script and the production process wrapping can stretch into years. For The Post, it took nine months. According to producer Kristie Macosko Krieger, when Spielberg read the script, he told her, “If I can't make it this year, I'm not making it." That set in motion a frenzy to get the film to production, including bringing on a star-studded cast featuring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and more. 

  • The Cast Agrees: This Is a Timely Movie

    Sabo

    There is a reason why Steven Spielberg told THR that, after reading the script, “I realized this was the only year to make this film.” To him, the parallels between the ways in which the Nixon and Trump administrations have cast publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post as their sworn enemies are striking.

    Star Tom Hanks had a similar reaction. After reading the script, he thought about the current political era: “This is ridiculously timely.” Comparing the attacks on the press by Nixon to those by Trump, he said, “You can’t do that and still have the United States of America. … I think the current administration and their like-minded allies are waging a guerrilla war on the First Amendment.”

  • Meryl Streep Doesn't Want Katharine Graham's Name Forgotten

    Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Paraount Pictures

    Maybe no film has shaped the American memory of the Nixon era more than All the President’s Men, the 1976 movie about The Washington Post’s investigation into the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down Nixon. Yet Katharine Graham, despite her influence as publisher of The Washington Post, didn’t make a single appearance in the movie.

    To Streep, one important effect of The Post is to re-center Graham as a central force in journalism during Nixon’s presidency. Though the leak of the Pentagon Papers that inspired The Post took place a year before the Watergate break-in, Graham’s influence over the paper — and over politics in general — would only loom larger in the coming years. “Our history about The Washington Post largely formed by All the President’s Men, in which she doesn’t appear,” Streep told THR at the premiere. “And she was responsible for the courageous stance that the reporters were able to take.”

  • A Censorship Commission Briefly Prevented the Film's Release in Lebanon

    Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

    On Jan 17, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reversed a ban on The Post, marking the first time in the nation’s history that a movie ban was overturned. The Post wound up prohibited in Lebanon because Steven Spielberg had been added to a “boycott Israel” list after his 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, which was partially set in Israel. Following a social media outcry, Prime Minister Hariri requested that the minister of interior “overrule and reverse the banning recommendations of the commission and authorize the movie to be released.” The Post began screening in Lebanese theaters on Jan 18.

     

  • How Ben Bradlee's Granddaughter Reacted to the Film

    Courtesy of HBO

    In The Post, Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the late Washington Post editor who helped influence Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. In a Dec. 22 guest column, Anna Bradlee, Ben Bradlee’s granddaughter, says that her grandfather would have loved the coalition of Hollywood and Washington D.C. figures that made the film possible. Bradlee, after all, lived in close proximity to Hollywood names like Steven Spielberg and Nora Ephron.

    In her column, Anna Bradlee describes her grandfather as “no saint and no church mouse,” noting that “he was gruff — a teddy bear at heart, but intimidating — he didn’t kiss boo-boos or make sock puppets.” Though to her not every part of the film accurately represented her grandfather, the moments that did resonate filled her with emotions. For instance, in a climatic scene, Bradlee phones Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and says, “If we don't publish [the Pentagon Papers]. … We will lose.... The country will lose.” That felt true to who he was, Bradlee's granddaughter writes.

  • How to Dress Meryl Streep

    Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

    Ann Roth, Meryl Streep’s costume designer for The Post, knows how important clothes were to Katharine Graham. As publisher of The Washington Post in the 1960s and 1970s, the real-life Graham had to navigate intense sexism, often being the only woman in the room during business meetings. “It’s funny about Katharine Graham’s clothes, I wanted them to be not that noticeable,” says Roth, who has worked on more than 200 films (including The Birdcage and The English Patient) across six decades. Though Roth read numerous books in preparation for her work on The Post, she had personal experience with many of the film’s most prominent characters. She met Graham — along with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee — on multiple occasions: “I know where she went to school and what kind of life she had.”

  • Tom Hanks Probably Would Not Attend a White House Screening of 'The Post'

    Getty Images

    On Jan 5, President Donald Trump requested to arrange a White House screening of The Post. In an earlier interview with THR, when asked about the possibility, Tom Hanks said he would not attend a White House screening. Hanks cited President Trump’s initial refusal to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville last August and the “Pocahontas” joke he made during a November 2017 Navajo veterans’ event. To Hanks, this is a moment to take a stand: “In some ways, our personal choices are going to have to reflect our opinions,” he said. “We have to start voting, actually, before the election. So, I would probably vote not to go.” 

  • Tom Hanks Met Katharine Graham One Day Before Her Death

    Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox; Ron Galella/WireImage

    In an interview with THR, Tom Hanks recounted how he had met Katharine Graham the day before she died in July 2001. The two were placed at the same lunch table in a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, where they discussed movies and pop culture. He remembers Graham, who was then 84, as being “incredibly sharp, just filled with personality. Curious. Interested.” After their lunch was over, Graham said, “So long,” and drove away in a golf cart. Hours later, she passed away.

     

  • Meryl Streep Can’t Name All of Her Oscar Nominations

    Randy Holmes/ABC

    During a Jan 8 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, host Jimmy Kimmel asked Meryl Streep to name — in 60 seconds — all of the 20 movies for which she has been nominated for an Oscar. (As of this year, with a best actress nomination for her role in The Post, that number is up to 21.) After a rocky start in which she paused and asked, “…What?” she was able to name a few movies before incorrectly listing her 1988 film Cry in the Dark. When Kimmel told her she had not received a nomination for that role, Streep exclaimed,  “Why? Why?”