Happy April Fools’ Day!
The story that inspired our first movie, All The President’s Men, was no joke. You may be wondering out of the hundreds of films set in Washington D.C., why I would choose the story of Watergate to represent this area of the country. Although there are hundreds of stories about the city, from a film critic’s perspective, this film represents several vital aspects of filmmaking, including phenomenal shots of D.C.; however, the main reason I chose this because of how it changed the course of American history and the political landscape.
“It leads everywhere. Get your notebook out. There’s more. Your lives are in danger.” – Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s source under “deep background” who lead Woodward and Bernstein to the truth behind Watergate.
In 1974, actor-writer-producer Robert Redford bought the rights (for a whopping $450,000) to Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book, All The President’s Men. Redford was so personally invested in their story that he had been in contact with the two reporters since 1972 before they had written the book. It was Redford’s idea to have the book focus on the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, and not on Watergate.
Redford had strong creative opinions of the telling of the story. Although William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), was officially (and accidentally) the screenwriter, it took several revisions to reach Redford’s level of perfection. Revisionists included director Alan J. Pakula (To Kill a Mockingbird), Carl Bernstein, Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail), and Redford. Eventually Redford and Pakula spent hours perfecting the script until they were satisfied. Regardless of revisions, Goldman won his second Oscar for the Best Writing, Based on Material from Another Medium.
The filmmakers were obsessed with the authenticity of the 32,000 square foot replica of the Washington Post’s newsroom at Burbank Studios. The single set cost $450,000 and included everything from the exact position of the desks, ashtrays, posters, even the actual reporter’s wastebaskets and contents. Woodward and Bernstein also allowed the filmmakers to have access to their wardrobe. They also hired the actual guard, Frank Wills, from the Watergate hotel who discovered the breakin to play himself.
All The President’s Men shows One of the more challenging scenes was when Pakula wanted to have a camera slowly leave Woodward and Bernstein looking through the file cards from the Library of Congress and disappear over 100 feet above the actors, in natural light. However, the shot was a success and shows excellent views of the Library of Congress. Other locations shown in the film are the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Lafayette Park outside the White House, the Capital, the FBI building, the White House, Dupont Circle, and the Treasury Department.
All The President’s Men is one of my all-time favorite movies: the writing, the directing, the camera angles, and the true story of how America journalism uncovered the most shocking cover-ups in modern American history (at that time). It is known as the best film on true investigative journalism. Maintaining a 93% for critics score on Rotten Tomato and a 92% audience score. It won four academy awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jason Robards), Best Writing (William Goldman), Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration, and Best Sound.
I hope you enjoy the film as much as I do. It is a true American classic set in the center of America’s political heartbeat. Although this shows one of the worst aspects of political corruption, true journalism thrives in moments of darkness.
Fun Fact: the majority of the film is set in almost complete darkness, except for the Post newsroom, which is in bright, fluorescent lighting. This was done on purpose to show the mystery and darkness surrounding the scandal, yet true journalism is where the truth comes to light.