Back in 2017, Steven Spielberg’s film The Post was released in cinemas. It told the story of publisher Katherine and her editor-in-chief Ben, who agree to put their careers on the line and go about uncovering a web of historical scandals about the Vietnam war. It is a tense, confident, and intoxicating film that won favourable reviews for its unflinching and topical look at the dark underbelly of American politics as well as its stellar cast, a cast that Spielberg would later describe as the most perfect selection of actors he had ever worked with.
After the film was released, Spielberg was invited to a Q&A held by The Directors Guild Of America in Los Angeles. During his interview, Spielberg told the crowd that, despite the film having a nail-biting turnaround of just nine months, he had been able to get every single one of his first choices for the movies’ various roles. As Spielberg explained: “So often when I make a movie, I have my first choices, and I don’t always get my first choices sometimes due to availability or sometimes actors don’t like the script enough to say yes to me or to anybody,” he said. “But everybody I wanted in the movie, they were available and they all said yes. Every first choice is in the film.”
The cast included, in no particular order, the likes of Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys. Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Tracy Letts, and Dan Bucatinsky. For Spielberg, it was the perfect combination of personalities for The Post. Not only have the names on that list won something like 40 Emmy Nominations collectively, but many of them are also actors that Spielberg had wanted to work with for years. To top it all off, Spielberg was even able to continue his long-standing collaboration with John Williams, who provided the score for The Post.
During that same Q&A in 2017, Spielberg congratulated his casting director, Ellen Lewis, for bringing together the cast. Whilst Bradley Whitford and Bruce Greenwood had been on Spielberg’s radar for several years, he gave Ellen Lewis credit for spotting some new talent from the theatre world: “Ellen went to the theatre, and pulled some great people off the boards who I never knew about,” Spielberg said.
However, Lewis also spotted a couple of would-be members of the cast in television roles. Lewis was the casting director for the HBO behemoths, Boardwalk Empire and The Leftovers, and so, at the time of casting, had already developed an extensive knowledge of the best actors working in television. Jessie Plemons, for example, made her name for her roles in shows like Breaking Bad and Fargo, whilst Tracy Letts was a major player in Homeland. With stars like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, Spielberg dotted his film with a diversity of talent from the silver screen and some of the most pioneering shows from what has since been called “the golden age of TV”. For Spielberg, the cast of The Post reflected the wealth of acting talent in America and inspired the director to create one of the most poised and courageous films of his recent career.