The Post

By Annette Kellow

Steven Spielberg’s latest film The Post has just hit our screens and is a journalistic tale of The Washington Post and it’s freedom of speech. Secrets of the governments involvement with Vietnam are uncovered with a fight to tell the story through the paper. Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of this major American newspaper – and with help from editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents.

Although set in 1971 it is particularly poignant in 2018 with the spotlight currently being on the American government and how media is portraying more truths than ever. Spielberg also has a gift for shining light on female empowerment, in which Katherine Graham (played by Meryl Streep) finds her voice. Being the only woman at the board table (unheard of in those times) she portrays a woman with vigour, dedication and power in fighting for what she believes in.

The Lady finds out more about this compelling film in conversation with Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep… 

The Post illustrates issues in the American government. Do you think the issues are more bigger and relevant because of the recent election?

Steven- I think the issues are much bigger than administration. Had the election gone another way, I would have still felt a real urge to tell this story. The first thing that attracted me to The Post was Katherine Graham. Her story and her evolution as a real person showed she had a real potential power but did not have the facility to exercise it as she had not found her centre of gravity and how to use her own voice. And that is part of the story. For the obvious comparisons between 1971 and 2017 it really was the Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee story.Katherine Graham didn’t always have a spotlight on her in the past.

How much attraction was it coming into the whole story as Katherine Graham who was suddenly pushed into the Spotlight?

Meryl- I thought what was interesting about the screenplay was that it fell to a woman to hold the line in the press at a time when woman were excluded from any kind of leadership role, especially in the press! There were no woman reporters, it was very unusual. Our friend Nora Ephron to whom the movie was dedicated to, graduated and ran a college newspaper, went to News Week for an interview to be a reporter. At that time Katherine Graham owned News Week. And the interviewer told her she was very welcome to be a researcher, copy girl or a secretary- but reporters were men!

It was a different world. So it was a crucial decision to risk everything and she was really alone in her position. That’s what interested in me. Holding the line for press freedom and it was certainly a new time for woman too.

Do you think we’ve reached a stage in the film industry where more stories should be told by woman and also made by woman?

Meryl- I think its important that the stories be about woman but also be equal. Half the world is female and half the world is male. We have different tastes, different interests- sometimes they dove tail and sometimes they don’t. It just seems the offerings in Hollywood have usually been driven by men. And that’s great- many of the films have been fantastic. But woman should be in them equally- making them, green lighting them. They should be equally represented in the agencies, at the heads of studios and the corporate boards that own studios- it would make the world a different place.

Steven- I think that woman directors are telling more stories and making a significant place for themselves. The Handmaids Tale is one such example. Mud Bound, Lady bird and Wonder Woman are a new kind of story emerging. This is the ebb and flow of woman in the business and a lot more are becoming heads at studios. In 1971 when this story was, there were no woman CEOS by any proportions, until Katherine Graham came along.

In that respect, can you feel the industry changing?

Tom- I think you can divide the industry into two distinct conferences. Television kicks ass when it comes down to diversity in the workplace by way of skin colour, background as well as the number of woman. In television woman are much better represented in that medium. I’ve worked many times with woman and there was never any question who was the boss on set! I believe more woman are going to be awarded on their merits, the quality of their work and it will get more specific. So it will represent the numbers as they truly are in our society all around.

Do you feel an affinity towards journalism, specifically and personally now?

Meryl- I certainly have been supportive of the protection of journalists, the organisations that protect journalists lives that are in danger which I think is very important. Supporting journalists to our nation should be helped and we should all call out attempts by powerful interests to control their work. 

The Post in cinemas nationwide now