Fox/Amblin has set December 27th, 2017 — an Oscar date — for the release of Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers movie. Tentatively titled “The Post,” the film stars Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as the newspaper’s publisher Katherine Graham. Think “Lou Grant” on the big screen.
You know, I trust Steven Spielberg the way Mariah Carey’s fans love her. He is our premiere film maker. His last historical film, “Lincoln,” was a masterpiece. But there are a few questions here.
First, the Pentagon Papers were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the New York Times’s Neil Sheehan. The scoop appeared on the front page of the Times on June 13, 1971. It was a few days later that Ellsberg gave the Washington Post some of the papers, which they then published. Ultimately, the Times and the Post had to go to to the Supreme court to keep publishing, and they won. (I’m telling the abridged version here right now.)
Ellsberg was arrested, indicted for leaking, and went before a grand jury. But a mistrial was called after it was discovered that Nixon had his goons break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to steal papers. (I note here that Ellsberg, unlike Edward Snowden, didn’t run and hide. Ellsberg was a hero.)
Sheehan, an acclaimed journalist, wrote a bestselling memoir about the US governement’s history with the Vietnam war called “A Bright Shining Lie.”
Over the years, there has been an HBO Movie based on the Sheehan book starring Bill Paxtona s Sheehan, and an FX Network movie based on the Pentagon Papers story starring James Spader as Ellsberg. In 2009 there was a very good documentary about Ellsberg called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”
For the Spielberg movie there is scant information about casting. But certainly Ellsberg and Sheehan would have to be major characters. We’re crossing our fingers that they’ve got the right story. It’s very timely in this political climate of the president calling journalists purveyors of ‘fake news.’ Trump is Nixon reincarnated.