Several well-respect actors have signed up for the next Steven Spielberg-helmed historical drama. In 1971, the Nixon White House was rocked by the publication in the Washington Post of the so-called Pentagon Papers, a leaked Justice Department study of the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam. The papers’ leaker Daniel Ellsberg found himself the subject of a smear campaign by Nixon operatives, and was ultimately cleared of espionage charges after Watergate investigators discovered a link between Nixon staff members and efforts to discredit him. Publication of the papers by the Washington Post opened up a massive debate about the responsibility of the media to inform the public vs. their responsibility to protect classified information.
The new movie by Spielberg, which is called simply The Papers, will delve into the story of the Post‘s decision to publish some of those leaked documents, a move that led to a clash with the federal government. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are already onboard as Post editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katharine Graham respectively, and now the rest of the film’s cast has been filled out.
Joining Hanks and Streep in The Papers is an ensemble that rivals the ones Spielberg assembled for his last two historical procedurals, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies. As reported by Variety, 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 been added to the movie’s cast. The film, which was previously entitled The Post, is being fast-tracked with an awards season-qualifying December limited theatrical release date target in mind.
We have yet to hear what roles each of the above-named actors will be tackling, but there are some major historical figures attached to the story, including Daniel Ellsberg himself, president Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern.
Spielberg’s Lincoln tackled similar subject-matter to The Papers, taking a deep-dive into the agonizingly intricate procedures involved in passing the 13th Amendment. In that film, Spielberg utilized an expansive ensemble of skilled actors in order to bring life to the rather-dry subject matter, and the result was a box office hit that garnered 12 Oscar nominations, as well as two wins for Best Production Design and Actor. The newly-announced cast list for The Papers features a lot of performers who could find themselves contending for supporting actor/actress Oscars too, when the movie comes out.
While Lincoln was a major success for Spielberg, his overall track-record in recreating historical events is somewhat mixed. His 1997 film Amistad, another convoluted, procedure-heavy, star-filled movie about a major case, is not generally regarded as one of his better films. Spielberg did better with critics with his Cold War spy thriller Bridge of Spies in 2015, but it remains to be seen how The Papers ranks by comparison.