...from Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo SDSA...
I got a call from Production Designer Rick Carter to decorate this film in March. He figured since I had done BRIDGE OF SPIES, the familiarity with the players would be an asset given the speed at which we would need to get this movie made on such a tight schedule. Getting the newsroom dressed first gave us a bit of breathing room to work on the built sets, but it was a frantic schedule.
Steven said it was a film that needed to be made and released immediately considering the political climate we had found ourselves in. The freedom of the press is being threatened again now as it was in 1971. I hope that this film will get people even more involved in our democracy and in upholding the freedom of the press. Using the Nixon tapes to make a statement about our current administration was a subtle stroke of Spielbergian genius.
When we set out to re-create THE WASHINGTON POST
newsroom from 1971, we couldn’t find many photos of the actual newsroom of that period. But after meeting with some people from THE POST who were around in ‘71 and then looking through photos provided by Katherine Graham’s long-time assistant, Evelyn Small, we confirmed that the newsroom at that time was actually gray, not brightly colored as it was in the somewhat later occurring events depicted in the film ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN...they had moved into another building in the interim...which was great news, since none of us wanted to re-create ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN. This was before THE POST
was a national entity. It was still a hometown newspaper trying to become nationally viable.
The location was found in White Plains, NY...a mostly empty AT&T building that was built in the mid-1950s. Perfect architecture, perfect floor plan...even the buildings outside the window looked like DC in the ‘70s! This was a vast space to fill. I sourced the dressing from all over the tri-state area, a bit from LA and, interestingly, chairs from Minnesota.*
This was a set I couldn’t stop fussing with. I wanted Steven to be able to shoot from every corner of the space as if he were in a real newsroom. When the actors came in and were assigned their own desks, the room really started to come to life. Steven said the set became a character in the film, and there is no greater compliment than that for a set decorator.
Editor’s note: Producer Amy Pascal says, “You just couldn’t believe the realism of this set. It even seemed to have cigarette butts from 1971. Yet nothing was overdone.”
Editor Ben Bradlee’s office...
office was an extension of the newsroom, and a place where reporters and editors could hang out. We were told he liked a clear view of the news floor from his desk. I had reference photos of his office, so was able to capture the casual look of a well-traveled newsman. He had cartoons, illustrations and photos with JFK casually pinned to his walls. I made sure to get the same Royal typewriter Ben Bradlee actually had in his office, since Tom Hanks is a typewriter fanatic.
I always like to put some things on the sets that the camera may never pick up on but the actors will appreciate for their character. In Bradlee’s
office and home, I paid special attention to the book titles on his shelves. The camera might not see them, but Tom Hanks noticed. He went straight to the shelves and started looking through the books.
Publisher Katharine Graham’s office...
Katharine Graham’s office was on the executive floor and was her private quiet space away from the noise of the newsroom. I decorated it as a modern office with feminine flourishes. She was in a man’s world, so I didn’t want it to be too feminine but to feel like she had it redecorated to her taste after her husband died and she took over the paper. I personalized her space with photos of her husband and father, and since she was a luminary, photos of her with past presidents and celebrities.
We were lucky enough to find a printer who still uses the linotype machines in his work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We were able to build out this space to make it seem as if it were part of the presses at THE POST
. The presses were actually shot at the NEW YORK POST printing press.
The linotype is truly a fascinating machine, not unlike a primitive computer. Showing how the typeface was laid out before everything became automated really made the finale of the movie so dynamic.
Editor’s note: Meryl Streep shares...
“They really knocked it out of the park by finding and bringing in all these old movable-type printing machines that no longer exist.
It was thrilling to do the scene there with the real typesetters. It was like stepping back in time. It gave me the chills
Katharine Graham’s Georgetown home...
I read Katharine Graham’s biography to get a sense of the world she lived in. She was a socialite and entertained all the time. She came from a very wealthy family, was brought up to be a wife and a hostess of grand parties...and her family was very important to her. I used family photos in her study and in her office at THE POST
to illustrate this. I wanted her house to look sophisticated and wealthy in the public rooms, but warm and welcoming in her private spaces. Evelyn, her long-time assistant, said she had a room called “the womb room” where she spent a lot of her time. We made her study into this room, thus it was warmer and more comfortable than the rest of the house.
I filled the desk drawers in her study, and in her office at work, and also the drawers of her bedroom night stand, so if Meryl Streep opened any of them, there would be things that would help her feel like Katharine Graham. Katharine’s book titles were important, too. Since both she and Ben were well-read individuals, the books were an important part of their characters.
She had a vast art collection and collected Asian and Japanese art as her mother had. The Diego Rivera painting above her mantel is a copy of one she actually had in her library. The palettes of her home came from research provided by Evelyn. There weren’t many photos of the house before Billy Baldwin redecorated it in 1981, but everyone I spoke to told me they remembered the red room and the golden tones of the dining room.
Editor’s note: Steven Spielberg says, “There is an empowering side to this story as you watch this woman find her voice and also her sense of personal commitment.”
Ben Bradlee’s house...
In contrast to Katharine Graham’s
formal surroundings, I wanted Ben Bradlee’s
house to be a comfortable family home. We built both of these Georgetown townhouses on stage, next door to one another, so they actually felt like neighbors but with starkly different interiors.
house is formal and perfectly appointed, Bradlee’s
house is a family home with kids and kids’ mess and books.
I spoke to his daughters and got a sense of what the house actually felt like. They told me it was very eclectic, filled with mementos from their many trips to Paris and his time as a foreign correspondent. The gray/blue paint was inspired by the newsroom and some family photos the daughters sent me. Bradlee had a large collection of Canton china and an affinity for blue and white pottery. The home wasn’t decorated, it was filled with a collection of things they had acquired over the course of their lives, more like a jumble of mementos and miss-matched furnishings that all worked together to give him a very different persona at home than in the newsroom.
His wife Toni was an artist and sculptor. Her studio allowed me to add another bohemian layer to the house that contrasted with Kay's
formality. Many of the paintings in Bradlee’s house were painted by Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg’s wife. She is quite an accomplished painter and was thrilled when I asked if I could use some of her paintings in the set. The large white circular sculptures in the studio were re-creations of Toni’s actual work made by one of our scenics.
Once the built sets were finished, we moved out onto the streets of Manhattan and onto the streets of White Plains NY which bears a strange resemblance to the Brutalist architecture of DC in the ‘70s.
The Rand Corp
and the ad agency
and the Democratic National Convention office
were shot on other floors of the same building as the newsroom. This building became our second sound stage and it became a game of how can we disguise the elevator bank as yet another set? But since we had such limited shooting time and so much to do, it was really a terrific location.
restaurant where Kay
have breakfast was in filmed in the Downtown Association in NYC. The dinner in New York
was in the Oak Room
in the Oak Room at the Plaza
. I spent a lot of time there as a kid so it was fun to re-create that place. It, sadly, is no longer open to the public.
Vietnam was shot at SUNY Purchase in Westchester NY. We bulldozed a field and created the Marine base camp, and then the battle was shot in a forested area close by.
Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo SDSA would like to acknowledge all the vendors and prop houses with whom she worked, especially SDSA Business Members:
Arenson Prop Centre
History for Hire
...and particular thanks to Ron Fennick of Fennick NYC
“For desks and phones and pay phones and so much more. He actually totally saved my life multiple times!”
FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
SUPREME COURT RULING: NEW YORK TIMES V. UNITED STATES 403 U.S. 713
EXCERPT FROM JUSTICE HUGO BLACK:
“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”