Synopsis : Two-time Academy Award® nominee Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, An Education) and Zoe Kazan (The Plot Against America limited series, The Big Sick) star as New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who together broke one of the most important stories in a generation–a story that helped propel the #Metoo movement, shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood and altered American culture forever.
Exclusive Interview with actors Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher
Q: Even though this is still ongoing litigation, how important is it for the movie to be seen right now, five years after it all exploded in the United States?
PC: It’s better late than never. And we’re still battling certain issues in our industry and in this world. But it’s such a powerful moment, and movie, and I think it’s a welcome film right now to our world.
AB: You know that the five years is just the result of what it takes to get a film made, interns of the article being written, they had the book following it up, then the rights to the book, the screenwriter, the director, the casting — all that is a huge process. It doesn’t sound strange to me that a film of this quality would come along five years after the event. That’s just the time necessary to bring things to fruition.
Q: In terms of being a character, how would you take into consideration the duty of the journalist versus informing the public?
AB: An organization as large as the New York Times has to be responsible and circumspect about making sure that all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. The larger the organization, the more responsible they have to be to ensure that the story is credible and backed up, and documented.
In the film, one of the things that Rebecca [Corbett] is always emphasizing is the need for documentation. I think that documentation lends immense credibility to this story. Whereas if this was simply an accusation about Harvey Weinstein in a hotel room, I think it would have fallen flat when poised against his immense power, his wealth, and his influence.
But with that kind of documentation, and with the meticulous research that the journalists have engaged in, with the courageous testimony of the witnesses and the survivors, this story has been made so much more powerful, so much more impactful and consequently, so much easier for people to understand and support — men and women around the globe.
PC: It’s remarkable to have Dean [Baquet] and Rebecca, these titans, these towering figures, but they became human. They really had intuition, their intelligence, their tenacity to take this story the whole way through, to never give up. And to keep these two great women, Jodi [Kantor] and Megan [Twohey], to believe in them all the way through. It’s such a beautiful testament to the power of journalism.
Q: As actors, what was the moment you really noticed that something had shifted in the film industry since the publication of the article and reportage of the trials of Weinstein? Did you really notice that something has changed, the situation would have been completely different five years ago?
AB: Well, the first thing that I noticed [was] little by little, there were more women on the set and how many more women there are in positions of greater responsibility and power. I noticed the necessity of having important training before we began to work on set; how many safeguards there are in terms of behavior, and the ability to report behavior on the set; how seriously the entire subject of harassment is taken today, as opposed to even five years ago.
It’s changed a lot. It’s really provided a very important foundation for justice, equity, inclusion, safety, and respect in the workplace. It’s a much better situation than it was even five years ago, and boy, it’s very different than when I came into the business forty years ago.
PC: It’s lightyears from when I started in 1985. But there has been a seismic shift in the last five years, because when you bring down a towering monster — when you start at the top and bring him down — things have changed. Women have risen. Slowly but surely, we are rising in this industry, to major positions of power — not just positions of power, major positions of power. And we are rising. It’s that simple.
Q: There’s not one concrete moment that you realized, “Okay, something is different now.”
PC: I don’t know that it’s something “concrete”, I just know that there are many, many more women involved in our industry than ever and ever before, and that struck me. That was a slower moving train, and now it’s a bullet train.
I don’t know if there’s one moment I woke up, or one moment on a set. But I think it’s just slowly I started to realize it. I’d just done two big projects back-to-back and both sets had so many women. I had two female directors. I had a female DP. As with this film: so many women that worked on this film. And there is safety in numbers.
Q: Patricia, you decided not to meet with Rebecca Corbett before filming. Can you talk about that? And what are the challenges in portraying an actual person that is also very much a heroic role?
PC: Well, I purposely did not meet with Rebecca because I knew of her before I took this part, long before this story. I knew she was this remarkable human being and quite heroic, and I didn’t want to mimic her or pretend to be her, out of respect for her. I wanted to call on the best parts of me, reach for my higher angels, to take on this remarkable human being. And also to keep her a human being, because there’s such reverence for her, in my own life and in many others.
I spoke to many people about her, several of her colleagues, and I’d seen her in some interviews. So I had to remember she is a working woman. She is whole. So I thought the best ode to Rebecca was to keep her human. But of course, her overwhelming intelligence, intuition , gracefulness, gift of words [eloquence?] — she really knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. It’s remarkable gift. I think she was probably just born with it.
It’s one of the highlights of my career to play such a remarkable human being.
Q: Were there any conflicts within her that you felt as an actor that you could work with in portraying her?
PC: Oh yes, she’s a human being. She is a woman who struggles like we all do at moments, she’s a woman who [makes] sacrifices. I think she also had to at times have doubts, like, can this story survive? I think she also had to at times be the objective [one] and the naysayer like “No, that’s not going to work”, you have to have this, you have to have that.
I had the great moment in my life to meet her recently — I finally met her. I’m so glad I did not meet her before I played her. Because she really is — the way people speak to her and look at her, the way Megan and Jodi — she is their North Star. But she is human, and I did get to really speak with her. And I actually touched her. So it was an exciting night I had. A very exciting night.
Q: They started working on this story in 2016. Why do you think Weinstein got away with what he did for so long in an industry that — at least from the outside — is perceived to be so progressive and liberal?
AB: I don’t know when they began working on the story because that’s way above my pay grade. But I will say it takes a long time to bring down a concerted ring of enablers because it’s so difficult to find witnesses and to find survivors who are willing to testify because they have been punished. They have been punished in the marketplace, their careers have been destroyed. These are all evidenced in the film, and many characters in the film testify how difficult it is to bring down.
But power, prestige and influence still hold sway wherever you go in the world. In telling the truth, the truth is often discounted and ignored. There’s nothing odd about an army of enablers and a culture of silence keeping the story under wraps for decades.
PC: I think sadly, also, having dealt with Harvey on several occasions, I guess I thought the worst he was was just a big angry bully. The fact that he was this monumental abuser and deeply flawed and odious human being — I think there were people who knew what he was doing and they were complicit, and they have their own demons and devils to work with. Many of them fell with him, thank God. But I think for the most part with many of us, we just thought he was just this big bully, and sadly, we didn’t know the lives that he was destroying.
Q: Patricia, you said the situation is lightyears from when you started. Can you expand a little on what it was like for you when you started?
PC: I look back and I have to almost laugh at it, because I realize now, there were absolutely no boundaries for men in this industry. It was a — we were fair game. Men were allowed to invite us to their hotel rooms, their apartments, to take us on trips, to have us run lines in their hotel rooms. You can’t imagine the amount of lack of boundaries that existed. And there was nowhere to go because it was all men. It was all men in power. And they were all complicit.
Now I’m not saying they were all bad people. Not every single man I worked with in this industry. There were some incredibly beautiful and honorable men I worked with. But it was a difficult situation to be a young actress in this industry when I first started out. I am so thankful that I was never deeply harmed, that I had enough self-respect —thank you, Mom and Dad. I had enough value to stand all of that borderline abuse and kindof come out on top, so to speak.
But I’m thankful now for the young actresses in this industry that will never suffer that — or hopefully, to a lesser degree. Because silence is no longer golden. You cannot be comp licit. And people want to speak up now.
Haven’t you noticed that, Andre? People want to actually, “What was he saying? What was happening? Are you okay?” Everyone’s always checking in to make sure that people are okay. We never had that in our industry. Never. Never. We have it now.
Q: The director, Maria Schrader, has been an actress as well. What was it like working with her, and have you worked with her before?
AB: I don’t have any experience with Maria as an actor. Her [work] is not readily available here in the United States for viewing. As an actor working with her as a director, it’s a wonderful experience. She is a very sensitive interpreter of character, amazingly so, and I felt as though every time I got a direction from her, I said to myself “Oh, this is spot on.” Spot on, and unexpected. My esteem for her is immense, and I’m so grateful that we had he to guide us on this film. She has done a marvelous job as a director, she is a real pleasure to work with. I’m only sorry that I never got a chance to see her other [work].
PC: She’s a very beautiful person, she’s a beautiful woman inside and out. She really led us with truth and being an actor and a director, they often go hand in hand. Her understanding of character goes without saying, because she’s done it herself many times. So I always felt we were in the best of hands. Every day I always knew she would know where the scene needed to go and where I needed to be, and she was unrelenting. Many directors these days are not — they just want to get the scene done. We were playing these remarkable, tenacious people, but she is the very definition of tenacious.
Q: Thank you.
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Here’s the trailer of the film.