Seeing stars in the newsroom

Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as (above, from left) director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as (above) director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as (above, from left) director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep (above) and Tom Hanks.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as (above, from left) director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
Upcoming movie The Post boasts stars such as director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (above).PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Director Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks visit The Washington Post headquarters to do research for an upcoming film

WASHINGTON • Okay, everyone, be cool.

The Washington Post's headquarters went on high alert on Thursday morning. There were VIPs in the house - director Steven Spielberg and actors Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

They were touring the building and meeting Post staff to do research for an upcoming movie, The Post, about the newspaper's handling of the Pentagon Papers.

Hanks plays executive editor Ben Bradlee and Streep, publisher Katharine Graham.

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But the directive - issued by higher-ups in e-mail messages and in whispered admonishments - was to refrain from gawking and snapping pictures (no doubt to elicit social-media envy).

The rah-rah factor was mostly kept to a minimum as the group - which also included producer Amy Pascal, Spielberg's DreamWorks partner Kristie Macosko Krieger and screenwriter Josh Singer - spent the morning at the headquarters on 13th and K streets.

Their itinerary included a morning tour and meet-and-greet with publisher Fred Ryan, then sitting in on the regular morning news meeting, where editors and reporters pitch their stories for the day, hoping to secure good real estate on the home page and in print.

Spotted through the conference room's glass walls, Spielberg (wearing white adidas shoes, a baseball cap, tie and blazer), Hanks (grey denim jacket, no tie) and Streep (navy blouse and slacks) looked more engrossed and attentive than your average attendee.

Hanks himself was not under a camera-phone ban and, after the meeting, took a selfie and then snapped a photo of the placard identifying the man the room was named after - Bradlee, who guided the Post through Watergate and the Pentagon Papers stories.

The Watergate scandal in the 1970s, linked to illegal activities by the administration, led to the resignation of United States president Richard Nixon in 1974.

The Pentagon Papers, about the US military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, were leaked to The New York Times.

The newspaper and The Washington Post later won a court fight over the right to publish the information.

On Thursday, Hanks said "there are gonna be a lot of broken hearts" as he exited the meeting, likely referring to the reporters whose stories would not get prime play.

The group huddled in executive editor Marty Baron's office for a debrief, then met in a conference room upstairs with Post veterans who had been around in the era being portrayed in the film.

Then it was time for a field trip to the Post's production facility in Springfield, Virginia.

"They wanted to see when you say, 'Stop the presses', what that really means," Mr Ryan said.

The Hollywood contingent was curious about almost everything about the paper, he added.

"They asked thorough questions - everything from 'what's a slug (name for a story)?' to how the legal department (to ensure the paper does not, say, malign people's reputation) gets involved," he said.

After showing off the Post's fancy digital "hub", which features a massive screen displaying Web traffic of its online offerings, Mr Ryan said he was surprised at what seemed to impress Spielberg the most.

That would be the triangle chimes, Mr Ryan added, referring to the long-standing traditional alert that indicates that news meetings are about to start, a sound created by a decidedly low-fi process of ringing an actual triangle in front of a microphone.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Seeing stars in the newsroom'. Print Edition | Subscribe