All the President’s Men Review and Blu-ray Features
All the President’s Men
9 April 1976
Alan J. Pakula
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Memorization of each other’s lines between the two main character
The two lead actors memorized each other’s lines so that they could both interrupt each other in character. This unsettled a lot of the actors they were playing opposite, leading to a greater sense of verisimilitude.
Robert Redford felt that by casting him as Bob Woodward he was unnecessarily unbalancing the film. The obvious answer was to cast a star of equal weight. For that reason, he approached Dustin Hoffman at a Knicks game and offered him the role of Carl Bernstein.
Script true to the source
Nothing was allowed into the script unless it had been meticulously verified and confirmed by independent sources.
Casting of “Deep Throat”
Hal Holbrook was the first and only choice to play the informant Deep Throat. During the casting process, Bob Woodward, while looking at various actors photo head shots and resumes, but not revealing Deep Throat’s true identity, told and insisted to director Alan J. Pakula that Holbrook was the best choice to play Deep Throat. (Holbrook, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to W. Mark Felt).
Preparation for the role
To prepare for their roles, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman hung out in the Washington Post newsroom for several weeks, observing reporters and attending staff meetings. Once, when Redford was standing in a hallway, a group of high school students came through on a tour of the newspaper offices. The students immediately started taking pictures of Redford with their pocket cameras. At that point, Bob Woodward walked by. Redford told the students, “Wait a minute! Here’s the real Bob Woodward, the guy I’m playing in the movie! Don’t you want to take a picture of him?” The students said no, and walked on. Hoffman also recalled that he had been asked by the Post’s science reporter to fetch a new typewriter ribbon. Due to Hoffman’s long hair and casual dress, the science reporter had mistaken him for a copy boy.
For Aspiring Students
The film is still shown to aspiring students of journalism.
Screenwriter William Goldman was called to an impromptu meeting with Redford (the film’s producer) along with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. At that time, Goldman’s draft of the screenplay had been accepted and they were waiting on hearing from Woodward and Bernstein. At the meeting, they presented Goldman with a new screenplay – written by Bernstein, and then girlfriend Nora Ephron. Goldman refused to read the screenplay (for legal reasons) and walked out of the meeting. Only one scene from that screenplay ends up in the final version of the film: a scene where Bernstein outsmarts a secretary to get in to see someone. This scene was pure fiction – it did not happen in real life. (Woodward was allegedly unhappy with Bernstein’s script as well, because it depicted Woodward as a naive novice reporter and worshipper of Bernstein’s superior talent. Woodward later called Goldman to apologize for the incident, telling him, “I don’t know what the six worst things I’ve ever done in my life are, but letting that happen, letting them write that, is one of them.”)
In real life
Robert Redford was in contact with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein before their book had been written, and encouraged them to write more about how they conducted their investigation and less about the events they were reporting.
Washington Post Newsroom Set
The interior Washington Post newsroom set was built on a stage at Warner Brothers Studio, in Burbank, California. The film’s production designer George Jenkins was a former New York Broadway scenic designer. Designing the newsroom based upon the actual newspaper’s newsroom, George’s plan layout utilizes false perspective in the rear set area to increase the depth and scale-size for camera. As the newsroom desks recede, the construction coordinator’s prop makers cut each prop desk down in size to fill in, and match the reduced scale for each line of desks. Shelving was also reduced in size. When filming the set’s front action area, the extra actors filling in the background set’s scale, were selected related to their height fulfilling the perspective scale set dressing relationship. Viewing the film, the false perspective of the studio set accomplishes the size and scale of the actual Washington Post Newsroom.
On revealing the true identity of “Deep Throat”
During TV news coverage of the true identity of “Deep Throat”/W. Mark Felt that aired in 2005, Robert Redford stated that they tried to film in the actual Washington Post newsroom, but it proved impossible because many Post employees were too aware of the camera, and some even tried to “act”. Redford stated some employees would disappear into restrooms and apply makeup. The production team recreated the facility at a Burbank studio in Los Angeles for a reported $450,000. The Post did, however, cooperate with the production’s quest for authenticity by shipping several crates of actual newsroom refuse that included: unopened mail, government directories, Washington telephone directories, wire service copy, calendars, and even stickers fromBenjamin C. Bradlee’s secretary’s desk.
Initial Versions of Script
Neither director Alan J. Pakula nor Robert Redford were happy with screenwriterWilliam Goldman’s first draft. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were not keen on it either; in fact Bernstein penned a draft himself with his then girlfriend Nora Ephron. Redford rejected this effort too, so he and Pakula held all-day sessions working on the script, interviewing editors and reporters throughout.
#77 Greatest Movie of All Time.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #77 Greatest Movie of All Time. It was the first inclusion of this film on the list.
Follow the money
The film introduced the catchphrase “follow the money”, which was absent from the book, or any documentation of Watergate.
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
RT/Meta Critic Review
As smart and cautionary now as it was in the ’70s. (Click here to see)
For a video evaluation and screenshots of All the President’s Men, please see the previous review (from which the score has been copied).
Revisited was shot on hi-def video and has been encoded at 1080i on a BD-25 with the AVC codec. The contemporary footage has the clean, clear, colorful look that one would expect from recent footage shot for TV, with the only flaw being occasional combing and motion artifacts attributable to the 1080i formatting. This usually appears on vertical pans and is a brief and momentary distraction. The archive footage is mostly standard definition video, and it looks about as good as it can, which is to say that it’s grainy and ordinary. Excerpts from All the President’s Men appear to come from various sources; some look as good as the Blu-ray version, while others could be DVD.
Note that the program runs 1:27:46. The IMDb listing of two hours undoubtedly refers to the running time with commercials.
For an audio evaluation of All the President’s Men, please see the previous review (from which the score has been copied).
The audio for Revisited is basic Dolby Digital 2.0 at the standard bitrate of 192 kbps. It’s perfectly adequate for the talking heads and background score by Nathan Halpern.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, German SDH, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as Japanese when that language is selected as the player default.
The Revisited documentary is technically an “extra”, but I have treated it as a separate feature, because it occupies a separate Blu-ray disc. The remaining extras accompany the main feature and are discussed in the previous review. The score for this set has been raised to account for the inclusion of Revisited.