Veteran filmmaker Steven Spielberg says the deep political divisions among Americans and their distrust of much of the media made his Vietnam War-era drama The Post timely, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I realized this was the only year to make this film.”
“When I finished Liz’s script, I thought this was an idea that felt more like 2017 than 1971 — I could not believe the similarities between today and what happened with the Nixon administration against their avowed enemies The New York Times and The Washington Post,” Spielberg said. “I realized this was the only year to make this film.”
Spielberg’s The Post stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who both lead the 1971 fight against the U.S. government to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers.
The Academy Award-winning director says his first reaction after reading screenwriter Liz Hannah’s script was fear.
“This was a topic that was scaring everybody I know on my side of the [political] street — and quite rightly,” he said, adding that Americans now feel as if “we’ve lost the majority of good listeners, that our conversations have turned into skirmishes.”
“We live in an area where we don’t know a lot of red-state voters,” Spielberg continued. “Well, I know a lot because I have friends and family in other parts of this country, and so at dinner-table conversations outside of California, I’m completely mute or I get into these huge rows. The gray and the blue have become the blue and the red. And it is as vast a chasm as our nation faced before the Civil War. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Asked if he trusts the media, Spielberg said: “I’m not going to go on record saying which media I trust; I’m just saying, obviously, there is media that you would imagine I would not trust. (Laughter.) Obviously, there is media you would take for granted I trust, and you would be right.”
Streep offered a more specific answer, specifying that she reads “The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. I check in on Politico, Axios and Drudge, and I go to Fox often to see the manipulation” and says she has been deceived by the press in the past.
Elsewhere in the exhaustive interview, Streep and Spielberg named the contemporary media figures they admire most.
“I like Don Lemon. I like Rachel Maddow,” Spielberg said, adding “Yeah and I adore and follow Christiane Amanpour.”
“And Maggie Haberman,” Streep said of the New York Times reporter. “I tend to trust the women.”
Asked what he’d want President Donald Trump to take from seeing The Post, Spielberg said, “The truth is ready to make a comeback.”
The Post hits theaters on December 22, 2017.