“Follow the money…” The power of the free press and the written word against unchecked power is the subject of today’s Lockdown Rewatch with Alan J. Paukula’s masterful political thriller All The Presidents Men (1976). The third film in Pakula’s ‘paranoia trilogy’ is based on the scandal that rocked a nation, went to the very top of the U.S. government, and made every subsequent scandal a ‘-gate’ – Watergate. Starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post investigative journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who pull at the threads of a conspiracy covered up by those in power, and follow it to its shocking conclusion. A great script, stellar cinematography, and superb acting help make All The President’s Men a masterclass in film making (just ask David Fincher). And yes, it even has the paranoia-tinged ‘meeting a shadowy man in a multi-storey car park’ scene.
But did you know…
1) Though The Washington Post supported the production, for logistical reasons they could not allow filming inside their actual offices. The production simply recreated the office on a Burbank soundstage, painstakingly so – they ordered the exact same desks used by The Post, had special colours of paint mixed (“6 ½ PA Blue”). The entire newsroom was photographed and measured, a brick from the lobby was provided to be recreated with fiberglass, and actual rubbish from the desks of (the infamously messy) Post staff were donated to help make the set look as realistic as possible.
2) Redford bought the rights to the book for $450,000, and had more low-key plans initially. “My first concept was for a small movie, costing less than $2 milion. But Playboy ran excerpts from the book prior to publication. It became a hot item. Studios jumped into hectic bidding.” Redford wanted to use two unknowns for the lead roles, but ballooning costs meant the studio wanted star power – Redford stepped in, and Hoffman, another big star, was brought on in order to make the duo equal.
3) Hoffman and Redford spent weeks at the Washington Post offices, rubbing shoulders with reporters and researching how everything works. They also learned each other’s lines in order to make the Bernsetin/Woodward dynamic work better – they could comfortably finish each other’s sentence.