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Perhaps more timely now than ever, the powerhouse trio of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep appear set to team up on The Post, a new fact-based drama that illustrates the importance of a free press during a particularly tenuous period in American history. The Post, which features a spec script from Liz Hannah, lays out the role The Washington Post played in exposing the whistle-blowing Pentagon Papers in 1971, and outlines how Post editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Kay Graham fought the federal government in their efforts to make the document public. Deadline was the first to break this story.
The onset of the eventual publication of the Pentagon Papers began with military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, a one-time proponent of the Vietnam War before he started working on the study at the RAND Corporation who felt the information should be absorbed to set future policy. He leaked the study – commissioned by the Defense Department that offered revelatory facts on a secret escalation of troops and bombings in what was appearing to be an unwinnable war – to The New York Times. This study made public vital information and the incendiary claim that the Johnson administration misled the American public as well as Congress about the Vietnam War.
This created further drama between the Nixon administration and a fraught press with a federal injunction used to block The New York Times following three installments of the leaks. With Ellsberg’s permission, The Washington Post was passed the football with Bradlee and Graham (as well as The New York Times) taking the case to the Supreme Court. In The Post, Hanks appears set to portray Bradlee and Streep will play Graham. The Post may have echoes of All the President’s Men as well as may find particular resonance in today’s increasingly fraught relationship between political figures and the independent press.
Fox and Amblin Entertainment are partnering in financing the project, with Fox taking charge of domestic distribution with the impression that Spielberg is intent on getting the film going fairly quickly. His schedule though, as usual, is pretty packed with the Oscar-winning filmmaker currently in post-production on Ready Player One and is readying The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a new drama set to star Oscar winner Mark Rylance (already a Spielberg alum with Bridge of Spies and The BFG) and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina). This would also mark a fifth reunion between Spielberg and Hanks, who most recently collaborated on Bridge of Spies; Streep (recently nominated for an Oscar for Florence Foster Jenkins) previously contributed a voice part to Spielberg’s 2001 science fiction drama A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
We shall stay tuned.