Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep to star in Pentagon Papers film The Post, and the timing couldn’t be better for Ben Bradlee’s widow

Steven Spielberg film about The Washington Post’s publication of Pentagon Papers that exposed US government deceit on Vietnam war comes as Trump White House wages war on American media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 11:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 11:39am

With journalism and “The Hollywood elite” consistently drawing ire from the Trump White House, it’s no surprise that the two would eventually team up.

Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg are joining forces for a new drama about the fourth estate called The Post, which chronicles The Washington Post’s legal battle to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971. Spielberg will direct, Hanks will play the Post’s larger-than-life executive editor, Ben Bradlee, and Streep will play Katharine Graham, the newspaper’s publisher, according to Deadline.

Details of the film have been kept under wraps since it was bought by former Sony Picture co-chair Amy Pascal’s new production company in October.

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Sally Quinn, Bradlee’s widow and a former Washington Post reporter, knew about the project (Spielberg has a house in the Hamptons across from Quinn and Bradlee’s) but had previously been sworn to secrecy.

“I am thrilled,” said Quinn. “This is the dream team.”

The last time Quinn saw her husband portrayed on the big screen was in 1976 when actor Jason Robards played Bradlee in All the President’s Men.” The actor had dinner with the couple and spent the day with Bradlee at the office. “He got him cold,” said Quinn. “It was just mind blowing.”

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She expect Hanks, who knew Bradlee personally, will do an equally praiseworthy job. “Tom is a brilliant actor. I don’t have to give him advice. They know Ben and they know what he’s like.”

“All I can can say is I think the timing is perfect. It could not be more relevant today to what’s going on,” added Quinn, whose upcoming book is a spiritual memoir called Finding Magic.

The movie’s existence is news to Katharine Weymouth, Graham’s granddaughter and the former publisher of The Post, but the media scion agreed with Quinn: the timing is on point.

“With the media under attack, I think everybody has thought about it in a new light and realises the importance of the people out there reporting on the facts,” Weymouth said.

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“One of the really interesting things about the Pentagon Papers,” continued Weymouth, “is the combination of The Post being both a mission as well as a business.”

All I can can say is I think the timing is perfect. It could not be more relevant today to what’s going on
Sally Quinn

Graham, the first woman to led a Fortune 500 company, made the decision to publish the papers against her lawyers’ advice, said Weymouth. “It was arguably not a good business decision, it was about the mission in the face of a lot of contrary advice and I think that’s why it’s such a great story.”

The Pentagon Papers, a secret US Department of Defence study of US decision-making on Vietnam since the second world war, were leaked at the height of the Vietnam war by Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst then working for the Rand Corporation – and revealed how the US public had been misled about the conflict.

So what advice would Graham’s granddaughter give to the three-time Oscar winner on the verge of stepping into Kay Graham’s shoes?

“My guess is she will approach it like she approaches any role. She’ll do her homework,” said Weymouth, who did add that Graham’s 1997 memoir, Personal History, would be a good start. “It’s so my grandmother’s voice. I can hear it when I read it.”

“I think my grandmother would be incredibly flattered that Meryl Streep was playing her. Who wouldn’t be?”