It was only a few days ago that the tantalizing prospect of Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a politically tinged true story drama called The Post hit our radar, but this thing is moving quickly. Not only are the trio committing to the 20th Century Fox/Amblin co-production, they want to get this thing before cameras ASAP and are clearing their schedules to start production in May, which means it should be in theaters by the end of the year, and thus enters the fray as one of this year’s major awards contenders. But Oscars aren’t necessarily the reason Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep are itching to make The Post.
Scripted by Liz Hannah, the drama recounts the Washington Post’s role in exposing the Pentagon Papers to the public in 1971, and how Post editor Ben Bradlee (to be played by Hanks) teamed up with the organization’s first female publisher Kay Graham (Streep’s character) and the New York Times to challenge the federal government over their right to publish. The Pentagon Papers was a classified study that revealed harrowing details about the futility of the Vietnam War, which exposed that the Nixon Administration had been lying to the public. When the White House stopped the New York Times’ initial release of the papers, Bradlee and Graham fought to publish the rest in direct defiance of the Executive Branch.
The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that the New York Times and Washington Post were covered by the First Amendment and that the White House had failed to prove how the publishing of the Papers would cause harm to national security. It was a major victor for the freedom of the press, and during a time when the Trump administration is installing unprecedented, standoffish, and troublingly antagonistic relations with the press, one can imagine the immediacy with which Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep want to tell this story.
In setting The Post as his next project, Spielberg is pushing back what he was prepping as his next film, the religious drama The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. That film boasts a screenplay by Lincoln scribe Tony Kushner and has Mark Rylance and Oscar Isaac set to star, but Spielberg is still searching for the right young actor to portray the titular boy. That film will now come after The Post, all the while Spielberg continues post-production on his sci-fi epic Ready Player One, which wrapped filming last fall but involves extensive motion-capture visual effects and isn’t slated for release until March 30, 2018. That gives Spielberg plenty of time to oversee post on that film while shooting and editing The Post, and it’s kind of miraculous that The Post will hit theaters before Ready Player One despite the fact that it was shot after.
As for Indiana Jones 5, that wasn’t expected to begin filming until 2018 anyway as Spielberg was going to do Mortara first, so it’s possible that project maintains its July 19, 2019 release date. What’s in flux now is Mortara. If Spielberg does indeed intend on releasing The Post this year, his 2017 will be taken up by post on Ready Player One and the production, post-production, promotion and likely awards campaign for The Post, meaning The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara probably wouldn’t begin production until sometime in 2018. Of course, Spielberg is known for working quickly. He wrapped Jurassic Park in November 1992 only to start shooting Schindler’s List in March 1993, releasing both films in 1993, and he wrapped Amistad in April 1997 then was rolling cameras a mere two months later on his Oscar-winning epic Saving Private Ryan. So it’s entirely possible he shoots both The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Indiana Jones 5 in 2018, releasing both in 2019. Or it’s possible he pushes Mortara once more to prioritize Indiana Jones 5, which is no doubt what Paramount would prefer.