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Interview with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: 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 and owner.

It was back in 1971 at 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 continued 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 the United States, but their relationship wasn't always easy.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: So, can I ask you a hypothetical question?

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Oh, dear, I don't like hypothetical questions.

HANKS: I don't think you're going to like the real one either.

STREEP: Do you have the papers?

HANKS: Not yet.


AMANPOUR: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, welcome to the program.

STREEP: Nice to be with you.

HANKS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So, incredible film and really what incredible timing. Steven Spielberg has called it a patriotic film. Would you agree?

HANKS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think anything that gets down to the bottom of an 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 original script I read was really about the week Katherine Graham became Katherine Graham. And the fold in of all the - a president that was

trying to thwart the truth, attack and of delegitimizing the press carrying it all the way up to the Supreme Court making its decisions, as well as the

reality of what a woman faced in the boardroom when things were supposed to be meritocracy.

Put that all together and I think it's interesting to hear (INAUDIBLE) 1971 ends up being a cauldron for 2018 now. And when you can go back and study

our 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. It's the week that Katharine Graham became Katharine Graham. And she did become one of 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. When you tried to internalize it 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 that portrayal?

STREEP: I was aiming really to portray a woman 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, is 1971, that's just a week-and-a-half in that time, but it was when

Kent State was happening, 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. 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. She didn't feel totally qualified to be there.

[14:05:04] AMANPOUR: And actually, a clip we're going play right now is when Katharine Graham is looking a little bit unsure at a breakfast with

you, Tom Hanks, Benjamin Bradley, the legendary editor of "The Washington Post" and you're not quite sure who is whose boss. Here's the clip.


STREEP: Are you sure we're striking the right tone here, Ben?

HANKS: Oh, we're going to do this again?

STREEP: No, the new style section "The Times" (INAUDIBLE).

HANKS: I'm looking for a new editor.

STREEP: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) because I know I've talked to you about this before. You are losing female readership, you know, and I think you might

want to focus more on what women -

HANKS: Katherine, keep your finger out of my eye.


AMANPOUR: Was Ben the sort of driver of events or was Katherine Graham, his boss? I mean, you could 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 manner of - so what are you going to do?

He knew what the stakes were. 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 he was just a cad in so many ways. He loved his job and he filled up the room in a big way. Everybody knew when Ben Bradley was

walking in because of his joy and expertise that he exuded.

But he was second place behind "The Washington Star" in Washington D.C. They had the number two or three paper depending on what the week was.

And for "The New York Times", which was one of the big boys, to get the biggest story in the world, he salivated in order to play in that same -

STREEP: He wanted to catch up.

HANKS: He wanted to catch up. And the when the moment - push came to shove where he had the papers that told the truth and to publish them would

be to run afoul of the Justice Department of the United States of America. Well, unfortunately, that was below his pay grade and fortunately it was in


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 mentioned, barely registered Katherine

Graham. I mean, she was sort of like, as somebody said, airbrushed out of that history. 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 that they're more aware of who's not at the table and who's left out of history because often the more

colorful personalities like Ben Bradley commandeer the attention, but where the responsibilities lay, where the really hard decision - whose lap that

not sat in, that was her.

And the only reason that Woodward and Bernstein were able to carry through with 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.

AMANPOUR: You were at the Golden Globes. You were all there wearing black. Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night decided to give a 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 and the

conversation around the water cooler.

STREEP: Well, she's certainly raising the bar for whomever 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 our principles as a country, as a people, men

and women.

And you can really pull a big army behind you with that kind of rhetoric and real feeling and smarts. I think she's amazing.

AMANPOUR: Some people have said that you should be running for president.

STREEP: Well, I've told him that often.

HANKS: Well, I'll take - as VP, I just hope President Winfrey gives me occasional rides on Air Force One, the helicopter that you gets to go

around with.

But this great thing that's always been said about our country is that anybody can grow up and become president of the United States. And our

current chief executive has proven literally that anybody can become president of the United States.

[14:10:10] That is a sword of Damocles that I think is hanging over us. And the possibility of someone who is credibly smart, incredibly

passionate, who is in - is always putting forward a message of inclusion and cooperation and with the authenticity of someone who 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 the type of

president of the United States that I'd like to have no matter what quarter that they come from.

AMANPOUR: So, you think it's a legitimate bid. You would support that?

HANKS: I wouldn't put -

AMANPOUR: Would you support it? I mean, let's face it, she also is inexperienced in the matters of running a country.

STREEP: She's run a major corporation that didn't go bankrupt three or four or however many times. Yes, 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: And someone who -

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 with the men, let me walk back the state, you know I just said -


HANKS: I'm so glad that you have enlightened 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's 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. 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.

AMANPOUR: It is a fascinating moment. And there is a sense that while 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, 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 dollar grant and donation probably because of you to the CPJ. How important is that do

you think for you both?

STREEP: Well, I mean, I think the press is under siege globally. And we've seen so many journalists jailed in exponentially greater numbers now.

Part of that feels like some kind of permission issued tacitly 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 out the Panama Papers.

AMANPOUR: Oh, yes, in Malta.

STREEP: In Malta. The woman cut in her neck in Russia. You know, the bad guys will always want to shut us down, but -

AMANPOUR: You knew Ben Bradley.

HANKS: I did.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, Nora Ephron has been a great friend of yours. You played a journalist in her play on Broadway.

HANKS: Mike McAlary.

AMANPOUR: What does it mean to you the sanctity, the ability of a free and independent press to operate unhindered?

HANKS: I always go back to what Daniel Monaghan said, 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 very cold outside. I wouldn't 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 - in this case, let's move it up to fast forward, tyrants, number one, want to

denigrate the people that go out - the fourth estate. The journalists who go out and try to determine what the truth is.

And in the United States of America, by and large, 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 you have to believe us.

[14:15:03] The next thing they do is try to put those truth tellers out of business and they do everything they can. In some cultures, they take

sledgehammers to a printing press and slice the necks of women journalists, who go out and get the truth.

And the end result 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 had written - once

they wrote that, you can't - no one can - the government can't tell you who to, 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 press and journalists in order to go for

and put the record straight. This is what has made America America.

And to have any sort of guerilla war being placed against people whose job is to go up and find the 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 newsrooms that actually we've won.

STREEP: Harry Blackmun's decision.

AMANPOUR: It's fantastic. And there's a cheer that goes up certainly in screenings and elsewhere. So, I want to ask you why you decided not to go

to a White House screening for the show?

HANKS: There was no invitation.

AMANPOUR: Oh, really?

STREEP: I wasn't invited.

AMANPOUR: Really? Oh, my god. What an omission?

HANKS: No, what the question was, is that it was a hypothetical one that was put to me. So, 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?

AMANPOUR: Current incumbent.

HANKS: Well, yes. I think that there are bad - we now have neo-Nazis and torchlight parades. We have jokes about Pocahontas put forward to the

Navajo code talkers. I think there is a disconnect with the system of governments that I could not in good faith go and take part and do it.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel the same way, Meryl?

STREEP: No, I would go. I would go. I think you have to speak truth to power. I'd go right up into his face and say what I thought. And hear

what he thought. But I think there is no way we're going to emerge from anything if we don't talk to each other.

AMANPOUR: Newton Minow who, as you all know, is the first director of the FCC, basically wrote about - Tom Hanks has said he would not participate in

the 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 else who needs

to learn the lessons of this film.

HANKS: Well, I hope he sees it.

STREEP: We heard that he asked for it Friday.


STREEP: For a copy for the White House and Camp David in case.

AMANPOUR: You can't get through the whole thing.

HANKS: I hope he sees it and takes the First Amendment and the lessons from, let's say, the Nixon administration to heart.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's a thrilling movie.

HANKS: (INAUDIBLE). Yes, it is.

AMANPOUR: You really is.

HANKS: He'll dig it. I can tell you that right now. But, also, we have not been invited to anything, so this is all a hypothetical what if.

AMANPOUR: Yes. We 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 really transports you back.


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 and 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 as I said on Sunday 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? Has 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 that we're taking off.

The #MeToo movement really started with Tirana Burke, ten years ago, in response to abuse of 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 Recy Taylor.

[14:20:10] HANKS: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: Was raped?

STREEP: Yes, raped. And refused to shut up about it even though she was warned and Rosa Parks' part in that. I mean, I found that - I did not know


HANKS: We did not, so we all screamed at the table. I did not know. We did not know.

STREEP: 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 there's - sometimes it's an 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. You

have to fix it. She said what if -

HANKS: Bring to me this challenge.

AMANPOUR: What about Matt Damon coming in and saying, I know, I'm not going to take that role unless my co-star is paid exactly the same as I am.

HANKS: This is what has to happen.

STREEP: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Would you say that?

HANKS: Absolutely. And not only that, look, I have an office and we actively are always seeking out. Because early in 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 in the parity that is necessary, the greatest thing that this woman has said, that if 50 percent of the board of say Weinstein

Pictures had been women, somebody would have said what in the world is going on here. It is parity that is that is going to be -

STREEP: It's Congress. It says that there's a slush fund. It's shocking. Shocking that there's a slush fund that will pay off sexual harassment.

AMANPOUR: And non-disclosure agreement. And what about in your industry again, the enablers?

STREEP: How about you can you can deduct your sexual harassment settlement off your taxes, but you can't - there's a cap on your real estate. I mean,

really, this isn't - it's a problem of an imbalance of power and a dominant culture and the dominant voice has distorted justice.

AMANPOUR: And what's the next sort of set of dominoes to fall? I mean, people talk about, I don't 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 at Goldman Sachs. 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 - women

are not going to turn around and go back.

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 tacitly knowing and not saying and all these years that you worked in some respect for Harvey Weinstein?

STREEP: I'm sure in many ways she wished I knew. What happened to Rose is unbearable. It sticks a knife in everyone's heart that this man was

allowed to continue in the way he worked on people, over the bodies of women.

He made a business over the bodies of women. And going forward, we have to support the survivors, figure out solutions why legislatively it'll never

happen again. I mean, really, we should have the ERA. The ERA will protect - or would make it illegal - I mean, there's so many imbalances.

But for Rose, I think I have nothing but empathy and a hope that she finds a way to heal. I really do. And I think she and so many of the women who

have stepped forward - Annabella, Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento - we owe them a debt of gratitude because they've changed the 21st century. They really


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 $1 million 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 benefited 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 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.

HANKS: Thank you.

STREEP: Thanks, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: An extraordinary film. And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and good night from New York.