Meryl Streep: "Oprah sets the bar pretty high"

Eva Mackevic

Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks discuss the importance of diversifying the film industry, freedom of the press and their new drama, The Post

The Post is the upcoming political drama about Katharine Graham—the first female newspaper publisher in the US who exposed the infamous Pentagon Papers—a covert study of The United States' military involvement in the Vietnam War. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, this high-strung, fast-paced drama deftly tackles a number of issues that are of burning relevance in the current political climate—feminism, fake news and the role of journalism in calling out the wrongdoings of the government. In a London press conference, Spielberg, Streep and Hanks discussed the important role of films such as The Post in drawing attention to these issues. 

“What was interesting about the screenplay was that it fell to a woman to hold the line of press freedom at a time when women were excluded from any kind of leadership role in the press,” said Meryl Streep of her initial interest in the movie.


Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg at the London press conference for The Post 

“At that time, all reporters were male. And I look around this room, and I see many, many women. And you would not be here in 1971. So it was a different world. So for this crucial, crucial decision to hold the line, to risk everything, to have all of that fall to a woman, who was really alone in her position, that’s what interested me. Both, holding the line for press freedom, and the fact that it was a transitional moment for women,” she added.

Tom Hanks agreed, saying that even though he’s worked with numerous female producers and directors, the industry could certainly do with diversifying the film boards and the decision-making departments.

"Television kicks movies’ ass when it comes to diversity in the workplace"

“Television kicks movies’ ass when it comes to diversity in the workplace, both in terms of racial diversity as well as the number of women who work in it. Women are much better represented in that medium than they are in motion pictures. Economics of movies have been determined, I think, by the men who make the decisions. Why not make it specific? There’s no reason for us not to say, 'We need more women on this board, we need more women running these departments, we need more women in our company and the decision-making process so it actually represents the numbers as they truly are in our society.'”

The actors also addressed the subject of sexual abuse scandals in Hollywood and the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, comparing them to a “seismic movement” that’s just the beginning of something much bigger.

“The imbalance in power isn’t just in Hollywood. The exploitation of women, their labour and exploitation of their reticence to come forward. That goes right through societies. And the most heartening thing to me is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a one-off. It’s not going to go away,” said Streep.

"I think Oprah has shown what a presidential candidate should talk like"

When asked if she would endorse Oprah Winfrey as a presidential candidate, the actress gave a tacitly affirmative answer, praising Winfrey's poise and eloquence.  

“I think Oprah has shown what a presidential candidate should talk like. And to what language, and passion, and principle they should adhere. To what rhetoric can rouse people and how important it is to people to feel that and get that encouragement—that’s the voice of a leader. Whether she’s leading us to the candidate we need or she herself is a candidate, she sets the bar pretty high on campaign talk.”

The Post is out in cinemas across the country on January 19