Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep discuss The Post, Oprah for President and #TimesUp
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The Post has come to screens at a time when the messages of the film are more poignant than ever. Stressing the importance of the free press and the immorality of government lies, interspersed with equality issues for women, The Post is a historical story with a strong modern-day message.
Speaking about The Post coming to fruition, director Steven Spielberg noted that the film came about “instantaneously”, and that “in my entire years of professionally directing, I’ve never had a film come together this quickly”.
Most people have wondered whether the current US administration is what has made this story so worth telling at this time. Yet Spielberg insists that while the film has a relevance to issues of today, “the issues are much bigger than one administration”, and if the election had gone a different way “I would have still found a real urgency to tell the story”.
Moreover, Spielberg was clearly drawn to this story for other reasons, and did not want these to be forgotten. “The first thing that attracted me to The Post was Catherine Graham”, he says. Catherine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post and played by Meryl Streep in the film had “a real potential power”, explains Spielberg, but she “hadn’t quite found her centre of gravity” nor discovered how to “use her own voice”. Spielberg insists that before all the obvious comparisons between 2017 and 1971, “it was the Catherine Graham story”.
Meryl Streep also insists that Catherine Graham is the core of this story, noting Graham’s unique position in that context. She explains “what was interesting about this screenplay, was that it felt, for a woman, to hold the line for press freedom, at a time when women were excluded from any kind of leadership role in the press”. This was a clear turning point as she explains “to risk everything, to have that fall to a woman who was really alone in the decision…that was a transitional moment for women”.
More broadly, Streep explains the position of women in the film industry, and while “we have different tastes, we have different interests” it is still apparent that “the predominance of offering from Hollywood had been usually, and around the world are stories driven by men”. Not denying that this is a good thing and that many of the films are fantastic, Streep still insist that while films should be made by women, they should also be “green lit” by women, and that equal representation in agencies, studios and corporate boards that own studios is something to strive for.
Tom Hanks also insist that television “kicks movies’ ass” when it comes to diversity in the workplace (mentioning The Handmaid’s Tale) believing it is “probably better than it has ever been”. He underlined that women are much better represented in “that medium than they are in motion pictures”.
Hanks also adds that “I’ve worked with women more often…Penny Marshall, I’ve made multiple movies with her, there was never any question of who was the boss on that film”. He continues “but I’m of a certain generation who, quite frankly, didn’t give too much of a shit of the gender…of who was the person in charge. The person in charge was the person in charge”.
Reflecting back on the content of the film and focusing on the journalistic message, Streep emphasises that “I certainly have been supportive of the Committee to Protect Journalists…specifically those that protect journalists whose lives are in danger is really importance”.
“Supporting journalists all of whom are in my opinion, underpaid, for the service they do to…we all have to support them, and to call out the attempts by powerful interests to control their work…I feel that more than ever right now”.
The iconic role of Ben Bradley also struck a chord with Hanks, after playing Bradley in the film, He highlights his philosophy. “Ben Bradley would say things like, ‘well you’ve got A story, but you don’t have THE story. Come back to me when you’ve got THE story’.”
He explains, “Meaning that, lets aim at the confirmable, almost empirical truth, because you cannot suffer by going out and printing the truth”. He praises this “code of ethics, that ethos, that discipline”.
Spielberg also insists that “The Post is very optimistic”, because “the outcome determined the future of the Washington post, the outcome of this story allowed Ben Bradley and Catherine Graham to ensure the genius investigate reporting of Carl Burnstien and Bob Woodward, the money trial that eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation”.
“One did lead to the other”, he insists, “and without the correct courage of Bradley and Graham, there would not have been enough cahooneys, combined with women’s intuition, to allow The Washington Post to go after Richard Nixon that way that it did”.
Moving onto broader issues, Streep shared her thoughts about Oprah running for president, stating “I think Oprah showed what a presidential candidate should talk like, and to what language and passion and principle they should adhere, to what rhetoric can rouse people and how important it is to people to feel that, and to get that encouragement, that’s the voice of a leader.
“Whether she’s leading us to the candidate we need, or whether she herself is a candidate, she sets the bar pretty high on campaign talk”.
She also commented on the Time’s Up initiative, explaining the unpredictable nature of the movement: “This global, sort of seismic change that is happening, somebody said is like an airplane being putting together while we’re going down the runway to take off…and I think we as a movement, it’s pretty interesting to be involved because there isn’t a leadership hierarchy, we don’t know who the top dog is. We have a hive. ‘like a hive a bees, we have more and more coming in, everybody’s making honey, everybody’s doing the good work, but it’s sort of a moving thing right now, and that’s good, because it needs to fly.”
Continuing, she explains “It needs to light on many different industries, many different enterprises, government, military, the church, the inequities, the imbalance of power isn’t just in Hollywood, the exploitation of women, their labour, and the exploitation of their reticence…that goes right through society, not just in the United states.
“So, it’s a growing thing, and the most heartening thing about it to me, is it doesn’t feel like a one off. It hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it will. I don’t think we’ll go backwards”.
The Post is out now, distributed by Entertainment One.