The Post, Steven Spielberg says, was unlike anything he’s ever done — for several reasons, as he explains in the video above.
First, there’s the timeliness of the story itself, which follows the team of editors and reporters at The Washington Post in 1971 as they debated whether to take the risk of publishing the Pentagon Papers, which would expose the government’s irresponsible actions involving the lengthy Vietnam War.
“I reacted to the script for the first time with a great deal of sort of enlightened frustration, obviously based on living in the current climate, atmosphere, and looking back and realizing that atmosphere had once before existed,” Spielberg says, referring to the Nixon administration’s attitude toward the press. “I’ve always believed in the power of the press. I’ve always believed the press, what they call the Fourth Estate, is a critical leveler of the playing field in terms of checks and balancing the truth with the lie. As I get older, my Indiana Jones becomes investigative journalists.” He laughs at his reference to his own work. “They become my real heroes.”
Second, the characters awed him, most of all Post publisher Katharine Graham, who inherited her father’s newspaper legacy only after her husband’s death. (Her father had bypassed her for the title.) “She was very confident that they made the right decision, that her father should have given it to her husband because he was so brilliant,” Spielberg explains. “She had always minimized herself… and our story is about how this amazing woman found her voice.”
And then there were his two leads, heavyweights Meryl Streep, who plays Graham, and Tom Hanks, who plays the Post‘s executive editor Ben Bradlee. “Tom and Meryl have never worked in a film together before, and I can’t believe that on my watch, I got to be the director to direct Tom and Meryl for the first time,” he marvels. “I’ll never forget that experience ever. And it was a great experience.”
And finally, there’s the rest of his powerhouse ensemble cast, including Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemons, Zach Woods, and more — a collection that thrilled Spielberg, especially in scenes when large numbers of the cast were in one room.
“It was just the kind of cast that’s a dream cast,” he says. “And I really encouraged electric, overlapping dialogue. I wanted everybody to certainly stick with the script, but turn it into kind of like a documentary, where it felt a little bit like a docu-drama… to feel like we were eavesdropping on real life.”
But if Spielberg was impressed at the talent he assembled, his performers were just as enthralled to be working on his film. Below, EW has an additional video featuring the actors of The Post on what it was like to work on a Spielberg production:
Watch the video at the top to see Spielberg and his “dream cast” elaborate on why a film like The Post matters today. The Post is now in theaters.