Okay, everyone, be cool.
Washington Post headquarters went on high alert Thursday morning: There were V-VIPs in the house — director Steven Spielberg and actors Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. They were touring the building and meeting with Posties to do research for their upcoming movie, “The Post,” about the newspaper’s handling of the Pentagon Papers. (Hanks plays executive editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep publisher Katharine Graham.)
But the directive — issued by higher-ups in emails and in whispered admonishments — was to refrain from gawking and snapping pics (no doubt to elicit social-media envy).
The lookee-loo 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 13th and K streets HQ. 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 homepage and in print.
Spotted through the conference room’s glass walls, Spielberg (wearing white Adidas, a baseball cap, tie and blazer), Hanks (gray denim jacket, no tie), and Streep (navy blouse and slacks) looked more engrossed and attentive than your average attendee. And Hanks himself wasn’t 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: his character, Bradlee, who guided The Post through the Watergate and Pentagon Papers stories. “There are gonna be a lot of broken hearts,” he said as he left, likely referring to the poor reporters whose stories wouldn’t get primo play.
The group huddled in Executive Editor Martin Baron’s office for a debrief, then met in an upstairs conference room with Post veterans who could help the Hollywood contingent understand the era and the people portrayed in the film. Then it was time for a field trip — to The Post’s production facility in Springfield, Va.
“They wanted to see when you say, ‘stop the presses!’ what that really means,” Ryan tells us. The Hollywood contingent was curious about just about everything about the paper, he said. “They asked very thorough questions — everything from ‘what’s a slug?’ and how a story comes together, from the reporting to how legal gets involved,” he said.
And after showing off The Post’s fancy digital “hub,” which features a massive screen displaying Web traffic, Ryan said he was surprised at what seemed to impress Spielberg the most. That would be the triangle chimes, Ryan said, referring to the long-standing traditional alert that indicates that news meetings are about to start, a sound created by a decidedly lo-fi process of ringing an actual triangle in front of a microphone. “He loved that.”