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Interview With Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 10, 2018 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening everyone and welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York. At a time of
incredible tension between the presidency and the press, a new movie, "The Post" is incredibly well timed. It features two giants of Hollywood, Tom
Hanks and Meryl Streep playing two giants of journalism, Ben Bradley, the legendary editor of the Washington Post and Katharine Graham, the publisher
It was back in 1971, a similarly tense time between the Nixon administration and the press, when the Pentagon Papers were leaked by
Daniel Ellsberg. They showed that the administration had continue to send soldiers into the slaughterhouse in Vietnam, even knowing for years that
that war was unwinnable. Bradley and Graham became one of the greatest partnerships in journalism in United States. But their relationship wasn't
AMANPOUR: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, welcome to the program. So, incredible film and really, what incredible timing. Steven Spielberg as called it a
patriotic film. Would you agree?
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Absolutely. I mean, I think anything that gets down to the bottom of the assault on the First Amendment and proves that a Free
Press is one of the pillars of our democracy, I think that's a pretty patriotic message to put out. this -- the original script I read was
really about the week Katharine Graham became Katharine Graham and the fold-in of all the you know, a president there was trying to thwart the
truth, an attack and delegitimizing the press, carrying all the way up to the Supreme Court, making its decision, as well as the reality of what a
woman faced in the board room when things are supposed to be a meritocracy.
Put that all together and I think it's interesting to hear this movie is set (ph) in 1971 in ends up being a cauldron (ph) for 2018 now, that -- and
when you can go back and study your own history and see how it relates to now, you realize this ongoing fight to form a more perfect union is as
American as apple pie.
AMANPOUR: And I'm struck by what you say, you know, it's the week that Katherine Graham became Katherine Graham. And she did become one of these
-- the most amazing CEO who believed in quality, that that was good for the business, and she was brave because she went against her own group of
friends, her own tribe. She was so friendly with Robert McNamara and all the cabinet secretaries.
What -- when you tried to internalize -- and of course, you, as always, do a great job of looking exactly like her and sounding exactly like her, what
were you aiming for in portrayal?
MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: I was aiming, really, to -- to portray a woman of - - of my mother's generation, who confronted a moment in the `70s when everything changed for women. I mean, it was a -- sort of a breakout
moment. At the time that this film takes place, 1971, it's just a week and a half in -- in that time. But it was when Kent State was happening, all
those -- all the social upheavals.
She was a woman of another generation and she was sort of on the fulcrum of a change. She was one of the few CEOs. There were no female CEOs of any
industry, any companies at that time. It was very, very rare. She was only in that position because she inherited it. Her father owned the
paper, he passed it to her husband when it came time to and she basically was 45 years old when her husband died and the mantle of the post and 3,000
employees and everything fell to her.
And she didn't feel totally qualified to be there.
AMANPOUR: And actually, a clip we're going to play right now is when Katherine Graham is looking a little bit unsure at a breakfast with you,
Tom Hanks, Benjamin Bradlee, the legendary editor of the Washington Post and you're not quite sure who is whose boss. Here's the clip.
AMANPOUR: Was Ben the sort of driver of events or what Katherine Graham his boss? I mean you can see that he was pushing her to this decision.
HANKS: I think the only way that Ben was Katherine's equal was in his desire to do great journalism. He was not the man who made the call, he
was the man that pursued it and got it and then had to present it in this matter of so what are you going to do. He knew what the stakes were. He -
- I think Ben was confounded by having the greatest job in the world.
He loved what he did. He was a pirate and a beast and a -- you know, he was just a cad in so many ways. He loved his job and he filled up a room
in a big way. Everybody knew when Ben Bradlee was walking in because of his joy and expertise that he exuded. But he was second place behind the
Washington Star in Washington DC. They had the number two or three paper depending on what the week was.
And when the -- for the New York Times, which was one of the big boys, to get the biggest story in the world, it -- he -- he was -- he salivated in
order to play in that same game.
AMANPOUR: He wanted to catch up.
HANKS: He wanted to catch up and when the moment push came to shove, where (ph) he had the papers that told the truth and to -- and to publish them
would be to run afoul of the Justice Department of United States of America, well, unfortunately that was below his pay grade. And
fortunately, it was in hers.
STREEP: Yes. It was my decision, yes.
AMANPOUR: It was your decision?
AMANPOUR: Yes? You, Katherine Graham. And of course, Meryl, I mean all the president's men barely mention -- barely registered Katherine Graham.
I mean, she was sort of like if somebody said (ph) airbrushed out of that history.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel that this film with her as one of the central characters is part of the reckoning that we're undergoing right now? I
mean is it really about giving her her due?
STREEP: I think people looked up and recognized they're more aware of who's not at the table and who's left out of history. Because often, the -
- the more colorful personalities like Ben Bradlee commandeer the attention. But where the responsibility lay, where the really hard
decision -- who's lap that sat in, that was her.
And the only reason that Woodward and Bernstein were able to carry through the Watergate investigation, that they had the confidence that they would
be supported by the whole Washington Post organization, including all the television stations and everything, was because of the success of the
Pentagon Papers, where they really in a moment of crisis, they beat down the bad guys and they won.
[14:05:00] AMANPOUR: You were at the Golden Globes, they were all that wearing black. Oprah Winfrey on Sunday nights decided to give us stem
winding speech that everybody, including yourself, said that was her launching her presidential bid. Do you think she is? I mean, that's the
gossip in the conversation around the water cooler.
STREEP: Well, she's certainly raising the bar for who -- whom ever decides to run because they better burn the barn in the same way because it's just,
we realize how thirsty we are for that sort of return to a passionate adherence to our values and principles, as a country, as people, men and
women, and it's -- you can really pull of a big army behind you with that kind of rhetoric and real feeling and smarts, I think she's amazing.
AMANPOUR: Some people said that you should be running for president.
STREEP: Well, I've told him that also.
HANKS: Well, I'll take as V.P., I just hope President Winfrey gives me occasional rides on Air Force One, the helicopter that she gets to go
around in. But - this great thing has always been said about our country, is that anybody can grow up and become president of the United States. And
our current chief executives have proven literally, that anybody can become president of the United States. That is a sword of Damocles. That I think
is -- is hanging over us.
and the possibility of someone who is incredibly smart, incredibly passionate, who is in is always putting forward a message of inclusion and
cooperation and with the authenticity of someone that says, I want to wake up every day and make the world and our country and your city and your
neighborhood better than it is, I think that person is a type of president of the United States that I like, no matter what quarter that they come.
AMANPOUR: So, you think it's a legitimate bid?
HANKS: I wouldn't - I wouldn't put --
AMANPOUR: Would you support it? I mean, let's face it, She also is inexperienced in the matters of --of running a country.
STREEP: She's run a major corporation that didn't go bankrupt three or four or however many times. Yeah, I think she's more than qualified.
Intellectually, she's qualified. Her energy, her stamina, her passion. I think she's more than qualified.
HANKS: Someone who gets --
STREEP: And as for everybody growing up and thinking they can be president.
STREEP: For half of the population, that has been true.
HANKS: That's exactly --
STREEP: For our entire history, if you notice --
HANKS: As the man, let me walk back the statement I just said --
STREEP: Let me, the woman, explain this to you, Tom.
HANKS: I am so glad that you would enlighten me and I became enlightened simply by listening to what you had to say and I cannot argue with the
empirical truth of what you just pointed out. there is -- there is a -- there is a number of ways for history to be made here and I think the first
woman chief executive of the United States would need to have Oprah Winfrey's qualities. Now, whether or not she sees - look, people joke
around with me all the time, hey, why don't - you make a good speech, you look good on TV, why don't you do it? That's not the same thing as someone
who really may need to step in and say, boy, there's some heavy lifting that has to go on here and I might have to do it.
[14:15:00] AMANPOUR: It is fascinating moment and there is a sense that well, anybody can do it, they can try. But let me ask you about the
triumph of truth that your movie, "The Post" pays homage to in our era of fake news, alternative facts. And again at the Golden Globes, you know,
what you started there a year ago supported the Free Press, supported the committee to protect journalists. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association
announced a $1 million grant and donation, probably because of you to the CPJ. How important is that using, do you think, for you both?
STREEP: Well, I mean, I think the press is under siege globally and -- and we've seen so many journalists jailed in exponentially greater numbers now.
Part of that feels like some kind of permission issued passively (ph) by the United States that says, you know, might makes right. If you want to
shut it down, shut it down. And we've had journalists killed, jailed famously - Galizia, the woman who brought -- brought out the Panama Papers.
I mean --
AMANPOUR: In Malta.
STREEP: In Malta, the woman cutting her neck in -- in Russia. You know, the bad guys will always want to shut -- shut us down, but --
AMANPOUR: And you knew Ben Bradlee.
HANKS: I did.
AMANPOUR: Obviously Nora Ephron has been a great friend of yours. You played a journalist in her play on Broadway.
HANKS: That's right. Mike McAlary.
AMANPOUR: What does it mean to you, the -- the sanctity, the ability of a free and independent press to operate unhindered?
HANKS: I always go back to what Daniel Monahan (ph) said, that you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts.
There are empirical truths that are out there. It is -- it is very cold outside. I know -- say it -- say it's 42 degrees outside right now. 42
degrees is a number that you cannot argue with. Two times 12 is 24. That's physics along with a truth that you have to accept.
What tyrants do -- I study history, I read it for pleasure. What tyrants have done, back to the point where they were imprinting clay tablets with
hieroglyphics were to manipulate the truth, to denigrate the -- the -- in this case, let's move up to fast forward. Tyrants number one want to
denigrate the people that go about the fourth estate. (ph)
The journalists who go out and who try to determine what the truth is and in the United States of America by and large, have the -- have the
functionality in order to make sure that you don't print it until it is confirmed. Tyrants, first of all, want to delegitimize any effort in order
to do that and say no, no, no, we have the truth and so we (ph) have to believe us.
The next thing they do is try to put those -- those truth-tellers out of business and they do every thing they can. In some cultures, they take
sledge hammers to -- to printing presses and slice the necks of women journalists who go out and get the truth. And the end result is, is you
have a state-run here's what our king did today and isn't he a wonderful man and the next thing you know, you're living in Romania under Ceausescu.
That's the way it works.
And for there to be the true first amendment, which I think is the -- I think they could have maybe just given up after they'd written the -- you
know, once they wrote that, you can't -- no one can -- the government can't tell you how to worship god, they can't tell you who not to associate with,
you're not allowed to scream fire in a crowded theater unless there is a fire and finally, a freedom of a press of journalists in order to go
forward and put the -- put the record straight.
This is what -- this is what has made America America. And to have any sort of guerilla war being placed against people whose job is to go out and
find a truth is a threat to us all.
AMANPOUR: Well one of the great closing scenes of the film is when the journalist, Meg Greenfield is taking a call from the Supreme Court and
tells the newsroom that actually, we've won.
[14:15:00] STREEP: Harry Blackmun's decision.
AMANPOUR: It is fantastic. And there's a cheer that goes up, (inaudible) screenings and -- and elsewhere. So I want to ask you why you decided not
to go a White House screening for the -- for the -- for the show. Or --
HANKS: There was no invitation --
AMANPOPUR: Oh, really? Because --
HANKS: There was no --
AMANPOUR: Oh my god, what an omission. (ph)
HANKS: No, what the question was is -- it was a hypothetical one that was put to me saying (ph) if you were invited to the White House, would you go.
And I said I probably would not because it's -- I don't want to put forward such a false front as to disagree as passionately as I do with the --
what's the word? The --
AMANPOUR: Current incumbent.
HANKS: The -- well, yes. I think that there are bad -- we no have neo- Nazis in torchlight parades. We have jokes about Pocahontas put forward to Navajo code talkers. I think there is a disconnect with the -- the -- the
system of government that I could not in good faith go and take part in --
STREEP: No. I would go. I would go. I think you have to speak truth to power and go right up into his face and say what I thought.
STREEP: -- what he thought. And -- but you know, I think there is no way we're going to emerge from anything if we don't talk to each other. And --
AMANPOUR: Newton Minow, who as you all know was the first director of the FCC basically wrote about -- Tom Hanks has said he would not participate in
a screening of the film in the White House. Tom, with all respect to you, my favorite actor, I think it is Trump more than anyone who needs to learn
the lessons of this film.
HANKS: Well I hope he sees it.
STREEP: We heard that he asked for -- Friday --
STREEP: -- for a copy for the White House and Camp David in case --
HANKS: I --
STREEP: -- you can't get through the whole thing. And has to restart (ph) --
HANKS: I hope -- I hope he sees it and -- and takes the first amendment and the lessons from, let's say, the Nixon administration to heart.
STREEP: Well it's a thrilling movie, so he'll --
HANKS: Yes, it is.
AMANPOUR: It really is.
HANKS: He'll dig it. You know, I can tell you that right now. But also, we have not been invited to anything, so this is all - this is all a
AMANPOUR: We've still got you on the record about the hypothetical and of course for history-buffs it is incredible that Nixon's voice, is Nixon's
voice. It's the recordings of his voice, it's just it really transports you back.
STREEP: He's the best one in the movie.
HANKS: Yes, he is.
STREEP: We're good.
HANKS: He scored big.
AMANPOUR: So let's go to another major battle that we're all facing right now, it's obviously the #MeToo battle and it started - well actually it
started with Gretchen Carlson in Fox News and outing the sexual harassment at the very top of the pinnacle of power there and a year later coming to
Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein, and they said on Sunday on night, just about everybody was wearing black in protest of what's going on. Where do
you think, as a woman, this movement is going? Are we teetering on a sort of abyss, is it got direction, has it got focus, is there a second wave to
what's been going on other than a few trophy scalps?
STREEP: Well I think, someone said we're building the airplane while we're taking off at the same time we're taking off. The #MeToo movement really
started with Tarana Burke 10 years ago in response to abusive young women of color in the south and she worked and continues to work on those issues.
I mean in Oprah's speech she mentioned Reese Taylor -
HANKS: Yes, yes.
[14:20:00] STREEP: Who was raped and refused to shut up about it even though she was warned, and Rosa Park's part in that. I mean - I found that
I did not know that.
HANKS: We did not, we all screamed this at the tables.
STREEP: And it was - so this is a very old battle, it's a battle of dominance, same with the freedom of the press. Who's going to get to be top
dog .The weird thing is we elected the silverback because people want that clarity but actually it's sometimes and outmoded way of governing.
AMANPOUR: Where do men come into this fight? I know you've talked about this before, but where do men come in to support women as the feminist
writer Lindy West has just written in the New York Times - sexism, misogyny, is a male problem. They created it, they have to fix it.
STREEP: Thank you for asking.
AMANPOUR: She said what if -
HANKS: Read to me this challenge.
AMANPOUR: Well what about Matt Damon coming in and saying no I'm not going to take that role unless my co-star is paid exactly the same as I am.
HANKS: In fact this is what has to happen. There has to -
AMANPOUT: Would you say that?
HANKS: Oh no, absolutely and not only that, look I have an office and we actively are always seeking out. Because early in the here - the airplane
right now is made of canvas and wire and so what you, if you honestly want to make the lasting difference to say that it's not just about a pen and a
night of preaching to the choir, you then have to say let's find the women that will take these jobs. Let's put women - and it is a parody that is
necessary. The greatest thing that this women has said - that if 50 percent of the board of say Weinstein (inaudible) had been women, somebody would
have said what in the world is going on here? It is parody that is going to make ---
STREEP: It's congress it's just that there's a slush fund, it's shocking. Shocking that there's a slush fund that will pay off sexual harassment.
AMANPOUR: A non disclosure agreement.
[14:25:00] STREEP: You can deduct your sexual harassment settlement off your taxes but you can't but there's a cap on your real estate. Really it's
a problem of an imbalance of power and a dominant culture and the dominant voice has been - has distorted justice.
AMANPOUR: And what's the next sort of, set of dominoes to fall? I mean people talk about I know the assistants, the agents all, the people who
help people like Harvey Weinstein lure people to their bedrooms.
STREEP: The next one is in the military, it's in the hospital industry, it's in Goldman Sach's, it's not just Hollywood. Hollywood is why we pay
attention because they're bold-faced names and that stands out. But it's everywhere and I think that the fix is in. People are not - women are not
going to turn around and go back to the old bad way.
AMANPOUR: I have to ask you Meryl, because obviously it's been all over the place and you rebutted it very movingly, what is it with Rose McGowan who's
accused you of (inaudible) and not saying and all these years that you worked in some respect for Harvey Weinstein, that you must have known?
STREEP: I'm sure -- I'm sure in many ways she wished I knew. What happened to Rose is unbearable. And it sticks a knife in everyone's heart
that this man was allowed to continue in his -- the way he worked on people over the bodies of women. And he made a business over the bodies of women.
And going forward, we have to support the -- the survivors, figure out solutions why legislatively, it'll never happen again.
I mean really, we should have the ERA. The ERA will protect all -- would make it illegal -- I mean, and there's so many imbalances, but for Rose, I
think I have nothing but empathy and hope that she finds a way to heal. I really do. And I think she and so many of the women who've stepped forward
-- Annabella, Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento. These -- we owe them a debt of gratitude because they've changed the 21st century. They really have.
AMANPOUR: And on the record, you said that you were probably too big for him to try anything like that on you or behave like that around you.
STREEP: Yes. I think the assumption is that I needed him for my career. But, I mean, The Iron Lady was -- I was paid a million dollars to make The
Iron Lady by BBC Films and Pathe. Harvey picked up that film -- oh, and I also gave my entire salary away to the effort to build a national women's
history museum. I didn't need Harvey. Harvey needed me. And he -- I guess, hired Mossad spies so that people would not know this information,
so that it would be suppressed.
But what happened to Rose will never happen again because there's a network of women now that is pretty formidable. We all talk to each other -- our
business has benefitted from the fact that we didn't, for years and years and years. And this is making people in the corporate suites shake in
their boots, the agents shake in their boots. It's -- it's going to change the face of our industry because for so many years, we've been undervalued,
underpaid and exploited. So, that's over.
HANKS: Do you think I'm going to follow that?
AMANPOUR: No. And I don't think you should. That was great. Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: An extraordinary film. And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at
Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and good night from New York.