There have been three major movies in the last 20 years that were set primarily behind the scenes at CBS News. Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999) told the story of 60 Minutes and its controversial report about misdeeds in the tobacco industry. George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck (2005) went back to the 1950s to show how Edward R. Murrow took on Senator Joseph McCarthy. And 2015’s Truth, from director James Vanderbilt, looked back at the episode when 60 Minutes II and anchor Dan Rather ran a report about George W. Bush’s National Guard service, which was almost certainly based on forged documents.
None of those three movies featured Walter Cronkite, the CBS Evening News’ lead anchor from 1962-1981 who has never been the subject of a definitive big screen portrayal. But now Cronkite may soon get the motion picture treatment, courtesy of Steven Spielberg and his team from last year’s Bridge of Spies.
According to Deadline, Spielberg has teamed up with screenwriter Matt Charman and producer Marc Platt, both of whom he worked with on Bridge of Spies, to make a film about Cronkite, and specifically his relationship with the Vietnam War and, according to the report, “the role that America’s most trusted newsman played in turning public opinion against the increasingly un-winnable conflict.” In addition, Deadline states that the script has not yet been written, nor has Spielberg officially committed to directing.
Assuming the project eventually goes forward, it’s certainly one worth getting excited about. Spielberg has excelled with historical films in the past, and his best films in recent years have had special resonance to the baby boom generation (Munich, Bridge of Spies). A lot of the elements of the Cronkite idea - patriotism, loyalty, honor - are themes present in a lot of Spielberg’s earlier work. And a lot of Lyndon Johnson-related pop culture of the recent past has been successful, especially the 2014 film Selma, Robert Caro’s long series of biographies of the president and the Broadway play All the Way (though the recent HBO version of the latter wasn’t so well-received.)
The only concern is that Spielberg, as always, has a lot of projects on his plate and it’s far from certain he’ll actually ever get to the Cronkite film. He’s got The BFG coming out next month, and Ready Player One in production with a release date in the spring of 2018. He’s also committed to the Vatican drama The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara as well as the next Indiana Jones movie. Other projects he’s been reported to be considering include the photojournalist Lynsey Addario's memoir It's What I Do.
We'll bring you more information on the Walter Cronkite film as it becomes available.