Thursday, September 17, 2009

Robert Redford and All the President's Men - Part II

C'mon, can Robert Redford's hair really still be that blonde? Redford is, what, 73, 74? Shocking, huh? Around his eyes and his jawline, most of the usual signs of aging are there. But with his golden hair, still pretty thick and curly, and that athletic build, even at his age, he retains some of the contours of boyishness. And more interesting, he still has the boyish enthusiasm of a young man.

As I said in the last post, I saw Redford, and Woodward and Bernstein last weekend at BAM talking about the making of "All the President's Men." Redford is proud of the film and shared how he pursued the two journalists to help him make a film about their efforts to break the Watergate story long before even they envisioned a book. Interestingly, Woodward and Bernstein were so consumed by their pursuit of Watergate that they never returned Redford's calls, convincing Redford that this was a project that would never go anywhere. Only much later, sometime in late 1974 or early 1975, after W and B had won the Pulitzer Prize and had written both "All the President's Men" and "Final Days" (an inside story about what went on in the White House just before Nixon resigned in August of 1974), did the three men finally get together, and with Alan Pakula, the eventual director, plan the film.

From the beginning, Redford, in particular, went to great lengths to make the film as authentic as possible. It turns out that the legend is true, that the garbage from the Washington Post's wastebaskets was actually transferred on a regular basis to the sound stage in LA where a perfect replica of the Post's offices had been constructed. But much more importantly and interestingly, both Redford and Pakula, and the screenwriter William Goldman, wanted to tell the Watergate story with great honesty. The actual notes that the two reporters used during phone calls and interviews were incorporated, in some cases, verbatim into the script, and as I suggested in the previous post, the relentless drudgery of doing investigative journalism is captured well, somehow, by the way, without making the movie at all boring.

After much discussion about the film and the times, the final inevitable topic broached was a comparison between then and now. Which administration, Nixon's or Bush's, did more to undermine the first amendment? Which administration was more corrupt? Which more evil? Would it surprise you to know, dear reader, that no one on the panel or, as far as I could tell, in the audience thought the abuses of Nixon came even close to the abuses of Bush? A telling sign of the times, and a reminder of either how much things change or how little.


  1. Well, Third, we lived through both, didn't we. I have no doubt that the administration of GWB was by far the more nepharious and in ways that we can only guess at now but which will be revealed, in time, by the drugery of investigation.

  2. Hmm. Very interesting, db. My answer to your comment is maybe, but for a somewhat fuller answer check out tomorrow's post.