Back in March news emerged not just that Steven Spielberg was working on a film about the Pentagon Papers, but that he’d already got Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks onboard to star. Now the director has been filling out the acting ensemble, as Variety reports that Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Zach Woods have all signed onto the movie. There’s no news on the exact roles they’ll play.
The movie will be based on Liz Hannah’s spec script, which recently landed one of the top spots on the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays. It’s ‘a drama about the Washington Post’s role in exposing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and how the Post’s editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Kay Graham challenged the federal government over their right to publish them.’
The Pentagon Papers were a Top Secret report commissioned to look at what was happening in the Vietnam War. It spoke of a dramatic escalation that was being hidden from the public, and much of its information seemed to support the growing idea that the war was unwinnable. After it was leaked to the Washington Post, the newspaper ended up in a legal battle with the government over whether they could publish more of what they’d learned from the report.
At a time when the current US President is at war with the media and angry about leaks, this look at freedom of the press, the First Amendment and government lies could end up being extremely timely. To ensure the film can properly address current events, the film is on an accelerated production schedule so that it can get an Oscar qualifying run at the end of the year, before getting a wider release in early 2018.