Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep Unveil 'The Post' at First Screening

The Post Still 1 -Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys and costume designer Ann Roth answered questions after debuting the Fox film Sunday night.

Steven Spielberg unveiled his latest movie, The Post, in New York City Sunday night with a screening and panel alongside Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys.

The Fox newspaper drama recounts how the Washington Post's publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) teamed up to catch up with The New York Times and publish the Pentagon Papers, risking court sanctions to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets related to the Vietnam War that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods are among the ensemble cast of the movie, which is dedicated to the late Nora Ephron.

Though reviews and social media judgments from those who attended the screening are under strict embargo, the audience at AMC Lincoln Square greeted Spielberg and the cast with a standing ovation. During the post-screening panel, Spielberg outlined how the movie quickly came together over the space of just nine months, from the moment producer Amy Pascal flagged Liz Hannah’s spec script to the movie’s first screening.

“It just felt like this was going to be a movie that I was gonna want to make immediately, and I was still making this other movie for Warner Bros.,” said Spielberg, who had been working on Warner Bros.' Ready Player One for two and a half years. He started work on The Post while Ready Player One’s special effects were being completed, and had Spotlight’s Josh Singer pen a rewrite. Said Spielberg, “This was like something that couldn’t wait for three years or two years. This was a story that I really felt we needed to tell today.”

During the panel, Hanks recounted his previous meetings with Bradlee and Graham, and praised the movie’s inclusion of the newspaper printing process. “Look how complicated it was to put out a newspaper — that linotype machine along makes you wonder, how did they put that thing out every morning so that they could read it at 6 a.m.?” said Hanks. Spielberg then stressed, “This was a profession that was about the truth and often the cost of compiling stories, and then having to physically go into the linotype room…where it was really a hands-on craft. We wanted to show that because we have such respect for all the news organizations, from the beginning of news, that are able to get this stuff out and disseminated.”

Spielberg also explained why he used the real audio tapes of Richard Nixon in the movie, which are heard over a silhouette of the former president in the White House. “It just seemed to me that there’s a fabulous choice role for Richard Nixon and we should cast him in this movie. It shouldn’t be a voice impersonator; it should be the president himself,” he said, adding that he wanted to keep the focus on the Post staff. As for the movie’s clear connection to the current administration’s relationship with the press, Spielberg said, “The relevance is up to everybody to strike their own balance between the news today and the news then. But obviously, sometimes, bad things happen twice. History is certainly repeating itself.”

Streep — who coincidentally began the year with a moving speech at the Golden Globes about the importance of journalism — also spoke about playing Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Throughout the movie, Graham is portrayed as she learns to become a success in a man’s world. “Who can relate?” she said sarcastically. She also highlighted the working relationship between Graham and Bradlee, “a friendship so deep that it was like family,…with a mutual reliance on each other and realization of what the other is bringing to this: his bravado and her bravery.” Streep also admired how the movie is "about the working atmosphere. It’s so important right now, how men and women can deal with each other, especially if the woman is a superior. ... [In one scene,] she treats him like he is the boss, and that’s usually how that works. There is an accommodation to the ego of the men.”

Rhys, who plays Daniel Ellsberg, who was the source for the Pentagon Papers, and Odenkirk, who plays Post assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian, also spoke about their roles. Spielberg explained how the newspaper's former offices were re-created in upstate New York, and costume designer Ann Roth detailed how she dressed the actors.

And Hanks finally explained why it’s taken so long for him to make a movie with Streep: “I failed the audition for Mamma Mia!

The Post hits limited theaters Dec. 22 before expanding wide Jan. 12.