In his memoir, the real Daniel Ellsberg claimed that walking out of RAND with the Pentagon Papers (and returning them) over the course of months was a calculated risk, since he had never had his bag checked by security, but he did not know for sure if it was not policy to do so.
Steven Spielberg wanted to have his film released as quickly as possible given the parallels between its theme and the burgeoning political 'fake news' climate in the U.S. According to Meryl Streep, filming started in May (2017) and finished at the end of July (2017) and Spielberg had it cut two weeks later, an unprecedented feat. The gestation from script to final cut lasted a modest 9 months.
Tom Hanks is an aficionado and collector of vintage typewriters, and he actually tried out every one of the typewriters in the Post's newsroom during the shoot and took one of them, a Corona Zephyr, for his own collection. 'I tested every single one of those machines and I picked out the one for me," he said. "I informed the prop department, I'm either buying it or stealing it - it's up to them."
In real life Daniel Ellsberg lent his name to a paradox in decision sciences that he popularized. Termed the Ellsberg paradox, it demonstrates that human beings have an aversion to ambiguity and prefer a known devil to an unknown angel thus violating certain assumptions of rational decision making theory.
The three primary sources for the screenplay's events and dialogue are Katharine Graham's memoir Personal History, Ben Bradlee's memoir A Good Life, and Daniel Ellsberg's memoir Secrets: a Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was the only one of the principal characters still living at the time of filming. After consulting with Ellsberg, Steven Spielberg expanded on his role with the prologue depicting his disillusionment with the war and his copying of the Pentagon Papers. Originally in the script Ellsberg was going to be an unknown, off-screen character until Ben Bagdikian's meeting with him.
Never having previously collaborated with director Steven Spielberg in a director/actor capacity, Meryl Streep was flabbergasted to learn that Spielberg never rehearses with his actors. Co-star Tom Hanks was well aware of this idiosyncrasy but decided, in gleeful anticipation of a 'diva' reaction, not to tell Streep. Despite her initial shock, Meryl and Steven got along extremely well during the shoot with Spielberg being so impressed with her character transformation, he had difficulty restraining himself from constantly complimenting her every take on set.
Early in the film, the White House bans Washington Post reporter Judith Martin from covering Tricia Nixon's wedding because Richard Nixon was incensed that Martin had crashed his other daughter, Julie Nixon's, wedding earlier. It's not mentioned, but Martin became the nationally syndicated etiquette columnist "Miss Manners," who now often advises against crashing parties.
Benjamin Bradlee's son, Ben Bradlee Jr., is depicted in Spotlight (2015) (played by John Slattery), a film based on the true story about the Boston Globe newspaper uncovering a major scandal. Josh Singer wrote both films.
Tom Hanks has a connection with both of the film's main characters' real-life individuals. Hanks knew Ben Bradlee (portrayed by Hanks), and he met Kay Graham (portrayed by Meryl Streep ) the day before she died.
In the scene showing Vietnam War protesters, the words spoken by one of them are taken from Mario Savio's "Put your bodies upon the gears" speech during the 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley.
Although this goes unexplained in the movie, when Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo needed to photocopy the pilfered papers, the place they found to do it was an advertising agency founded by Russo's then-girlfriend, Lynda Harris Sinay. For allowing the photocopying to happen at her business, Sinay was pursued by prosecutors, but was designated an unindicted co-conspirator and was never actually prosecuted. Sinay, who subsequently married businessman Stewart Resnick, later became well-known as an entrepreneur and businesswoman; the Resnicks own such businesses as the floral delivery service Teleflora, Fiji Water, and POM Wonderful.
The Post is co-screenwriter Josh Singer's third film exploring the importance of journalism in uncovering political scandal following The Fifth Estate (2013) about Julian Assange's Wikileaks organization and Spotlight (2015), which follows the Boston Globe's investigation into Catholic child sex abuse allegations.
All of the newspaper sound in this movie was recorded with a vintage microphone from the 1970s. The newspaper prop used during foley recording was also a vintage newspaper from 1970s England. The newspaper back then had a much softer sound making the foley recording pretty authentic.
The Linotype operators are using a very distinct fingering with their index, middle, third finger, and thumb of both hands, different than a regular typewriter. The Post and other newspapers generally went to 'off-set' printing during the '70s.
"The Post" is dedicated to Nora Ephron, who was an American writer and filmmaker, known for many screenplays including Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Her last film was Julie & Julia (2009). She also wrote several novels including Heartburn. She was married to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, winner of a Pulitzer for his investigative reporting with Bob Woodward on Watergate. She had known the identity of Deep Throat since 1974. After her divorce from Bernstein (the details of which are chronicled in the book and film Heartburn) Ephron told anyone who asked about the identity of Deep Throat that it was Mark Felt. Ephron later conceded that "No one, apart from my sons, believed me."
In a scene after the reporter learns of Neil Sheehan's story in The New York Times, there was a dialogue of conversation between Gen. Alexander Haig and Richard Nixon about the leaked of The Pentagon Papers. The conversation was an actual recording and the voice is a real voice of Richard Nixon and Gen. Alexander Haig. The Tapes was recorded from White House phone on June 13, 1971.
This is the first onscreen acting film collaboration and star teaming of actor Tom Hanks and actress Meryl Streep. The pair have both previously been credited for two pictures the two have both worked on but not in a top billing acting context. Streep did voice work for The Ant Bully (2006) and starred in Mamma Mia! (2008) which Hanks respectively was a producer and executive producer on.
With her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for The Post (2017), this is the first time that Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Academy Award for a performance in a film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards since Out of Africa (1985), a gap of 32 years, despite the fact she has been nominated 15 more times since then. She is also the first Best Actress nominee for a Steven Spielberg film since Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple (1985) in 1986 and the first woman to receive an acting nomination for a film directed by him since Sally Field for Lincoln (2012) in 2013.
Ben Bradlee was previously played in All the President's Men (1976) by Jason Robards, who played Tom Hanks's boss in Philadelphia (1993). Both Robards and Hanks are (as of 2018) the last actors to receive back-to-back Oscars - with Hanks winning two as Best Leading Actor while Robards winning two as Best Supporting Actor - his first for playing Ben Bradlee in Jason Robards.
By appearing in three Best Picture Oscar nominees in 2017, The Shape of Water (2017), Call Me by Your Name (2017) and this film, Michael Stuhlbarg overtook co-star Meryl Streep, in number of Best Picture nominees that each has appeared in. Michael Stuhlbarg has appeared in seven films nominated for the coveted award released by the end of 2017, while Meryl Streep has appeared in only six.
When the scene is shown of Daniel Ellsberg beginning to make copies of the report, he is using the second model Xerox copy machine, the 914. It was so named because it was so slow it would have only made 914 copies of the same document per hour. To make a copy of the individual pages, the machine required about 10 seconds to deliver the first duplicate. Hence Ellsberg was correct that it took so long to get the copies made.
It is raining in nearly all of the brief scenes of the Vietnam War. In Forrest Gump (1994), the title character played by Tom Hanks, who also stars in this film, serves in the war and mentions on two occasions how much it rained there.
Forty minutes into the film director Spielberg's son Sawyer Spielberg can be glimpsed as a plaza war protester (hippie headband and denim top) wielding a bullhorn. A minute later his sister Sasha Spielberg appears as the woman who hand-delivers an unmarked package to reporter Jake (Michael Cyril Creighton) at his newsroom desk, and then quickly retreats before he has had time to open it.
In The Money Pit (1986), Tom Hanks plays entertainment attorney Walter Fielding, one of whose clients is a band called 'Cheap Girls'. Their leader, played by Leslie West tells Walter that they want to change the band's name to 'Meryl Streep'.
During the scene where Bradlee's team begins to research the Pentagon Papers in his house, Bradlee criticizes one of his aides' typewriting skills by comparing them to playing "Chopsticks". Coincidentally, Tom Hanks played "Chopsticks" with Robert Loggia on the piano in the movie Big (1988); one of Hanks' first successful films.
At just over one hour into the movie where Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) discuss the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the gruesome aftermath, the camera begins a 53-second unbroken snail zoom in on Bradlee as he sits talking on a couch, ending up on a tight shot of him. The smooth zoom is almost as unnoticeable as the 6-minute zoom it mimics from All the President's Men (1976) where Robert Redford (as reporter Bob Woodward) was similarly the sole focus of the shot.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
This film ends almost exactly where All the President's Men (1976) begins. The final shot in The Post is of the night watchman Frank Wills discovering the Watergate burglars. The opening shot in All the President's Men is almost the exact same shot of the watchman discovering the burglars, making The Post a "prequel" to the other film.
The New York Times had published the Pentagon Papers before The Washington Post and had set the stage for legal battle that ended with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the newspaper in the the case New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713) . In June 2011, the entire Pentagon Papers were declassified and made public. In the 6-3 Court decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote, "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell."
Though the movie is not about Watergate, it is fitting that the movie ends with the depiction of the Watergate break-in, since it is likely that the Watergate break-in would not have happened without the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Nixon's creation of the infamous "Plumbers" group was a direct response to the leaking of the Pentagon Papers (the Plumbers first major effort being breaking into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist in an effort to find discrediting information on him). It would be the major figures in the Plumbers who would hatch and execute the plot to break into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate.
The last scene of the film shows the Watergate break-in, which was famously reported on by the Washington Post. In Forrest Gump (1994), the titular character, portrayed by Tom Hanks, spots the Watergate burglars and calls the police to report it.