Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the break-in at the Watergate complex, played himself.
One scene involving Robert Redford on the phone is a continuous six-minute single take with the camera tracking in slowly. Towards the end, Redford calls the phone caller by the wrong name, but as he stays in character. It appears genuine, and the take was used in the final cut.
On Tuesday, May 31, 2005, in advance of a revelatory July 2005 "Vanity Fair" article written by his attorney and spokesman, 91-year-old Mark Felt acknowledged publicly for the first time that he was "Deep Throat," a fact corroborated by Bob Woodward and The Washington Post. At the time of the Watergate break-in, Mr. Felt was the Deputy Director of the FBI, the second-in-command.
The two lead actors memorized each other's lines so that they could interrupt each other in character. This unsettled a lot of the actors they were playing opposite, leading to a greater sense of authenticity.
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' head shots and resumes, but not revealing Deep Throat's true identity, insisted to director Alan J. Pakula that Holbrook was the best choice to play Deep Throat. Holbrook bears a strong resemblance to Mark Felt.
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.
The film introduced the catchphrase "follow the money", which was absent from the book, or any documentation of Watergate.
Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in, was fired without explanation a few days later. He was out of work for three years until he played himself (one day's work) in this film. He never had a full-time job again, and died in 2000, at the age of 52.
When Kenneth Dahlberg tells Bob Woodward on the phone, "I've just been through a terrible ordeal! My neighbor's wife has been kidnapped!", he is not lying. On July 27, 1972, a few days before Bob Woodward called Dahlberg, Virginia Piper, wife of a prominent Minnesota businessman and a close friend of the Dahlberg family, was kidnapped from her home in Minneapolis. She was released two days later in Duluth, after her husband paid a $1 million ransom.
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 paper'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.
Nothing was allowed into the script unless it had been meticulously verified and confirmed by independent sources.
In real life, Judy Hoback was the bookkeeper who gave Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward crucial information about the slush fund payouts at the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Jane Alexander met with Hoback to prepare for her role in the film. Also, the filmmakers rented out Hoback's former home in Georgetown, D.C., and shot the scenes with Alexander and Dustin Hoffman in the actual living room where Hoback had first met with Bernstein.
The furious volley of typewriter hammers striking paper in the opening scenes was created by layering the sounds of gunshots and whiplashes over the actual sounds of a typewriter, accentuating the film's theme of words as weapons. This is also why the closing scene has a teletypewriter printing headlines with the sound of cannon fire from a 21-gun salute in the background.
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. (Vanity Fair article, 04/2011.)
The film was originally rated 'R' for its explicit language, likely due to the infrequent use of the F-word (a total of ten utterances). It was subsequently re-rated 'PG', likely due to the historical significance of the subject matter.
At the time of filming in Washington, D.C., Robert Redford stayed at the Watergate Hotel.
Warner Brothers agreed to finance the film only on condition that Robert Redford, then the number one box-office star, starred as Bob Woodward.
Screenwriter William Goldman had to tone down the dialogue from editor Harry Rosenfeld. In real life, Rosenfeld was so hilariously funny that Goldman didn't think that people would believe someone could be so spontaneously witty.
Screenwriter William Goldman was called to an impromptu meeting with Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein. At the time, Goldman's draft of the screenplay had been accepted and they were waiting to hear 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 and walked out of the meeting. Only one scene from that screenplay was in the final version of the film, Bernstein outsmarting a secretary to get in to see someone. This scene was pure fiction. Woodward was allegedly unhappy with Bernstein's script because it depicted Woodward as a naive novice reporter who worshipped Bernstein's superior talent. Woodward later called Goldman to apologize, saying "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."
The telephone number that Robert Redford dials for the White House is the real number of the White House Switchboard: 202-456-1414.
British director John Schlesinger declined an offer to direct. He felt the story of Watergate should be told by an American.
During filming, Jason Robards, Jr. decided that it was important for Ben Bradlee to always be "in the newsroom", so his presence would always be felt in the film. On days when he wasn't shooting scenes with the other actors, Robards came to the set and hung out in Ben Bradlee's office, usually sitting at Bradlee's desk and reading a book, so Bradlee would appear in the background of shots that featured Woodward, Bernstein, and other reporters.
This was the first film that Jimmy Carter watched during his tenure as President of the United States of America.
The producer paid so much attention to detail that the production design department made replicas of out-of-date phone books.
To ensure that both stars of the movie received top billing, Robert Redford's name was billed above Dustin Hoffman's on the posters and trailers, while Hoffman's name was billed above Redford's in the movie itself. This same strategy had been used for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), which paired John Wayne and James Stewart.
Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford hung out in the Washington Post offices for months, sitting in on news conferences.
William Goldman said Bob Woodward was extremely helpful to him, but Carl Bernstein was not, which was why he threw away the second half of the book.
In 2005, during television news coverage of the true identity of "Deep Throat"/Mark Felt, Robert Redford said that they tried to film in the actual Washington Post newsroom, but many Post employees were too aware of the camera, and some even tried to "act". Some employees would disappear into restrooms and apply make-up. The production team re-created the facility at a Burbank studio in Los Angeles for a reported $450,000. The Post cooperated with the production's quest for authenticity by shipping several crates of actual newsroom refuse, including unopened mail, government directories, Washington telephone directories, wire service copy, calendars, and even stickers from Benjamin C. Bradlee's secretary's desk.
Although he wasn't keen on the idea of a film being made in his offices, Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee realized that by cooperating he would have a better chance of influencing the production.
Unlike the book, the film itself only covers the first seven months of the Watergate scandal, from the time of the break-in to Nixon's second inauguration on January 20, 1973.
Nearly 200 desks, costing $500 each, were purchased from the same firm that sold desks to the Washington Post in 1971.
Director of photography Gordon Willis shot the scene where Bob Woodward talks on the phone to Kenneth H. Dahlberg in one unbroken 6-minute take. He used what is called a split focus diopter, like a lineless bifocal lens turned on its side, with the separator line positioned vertically against the pillar behind Redford so as to better conceal its presence. The giveaway is that the ceiling lights on the right are blurry while Redford is in focus, while the typewriter in the left foreground is out of focus while the ceiling tiles and background action on the left is in focus. In this type of shot, the actors or other elements cannot move in such a way as to cross the separator or, using this specific shot as example, one of Redford's elbows would be in focus while his other elbow would be blurred.
Robert Redford bought the rights to the source book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in 1974, the year it was first published, for $450,000. Adjusted for inflation, this amount would be equivalent to $2.15 million in 2014.
Jason Robards, Jr. won back-to-back Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this film, and then for Julia (1977), in each case playing real-life people.
The interior Washington Post newsroom set was built on a stage at Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California. Production designer George Jenkins was a former New York Broadway scenic designer. Designing the newsroom based upon the actual newspaper's newsroom, George's layout used false perspective in the rear of the set 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. When filming the set's front action area, the extras 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.
Except for a few scenes, the movie has barely any score. Even in the closing credits, the music starts after the main actors, actresses, and guest star credits were over. While the score by David Shire starts 28 minutes in, most of the music can be heard in the last half of the movie.
The Washington Post boss Katharine Graham, who was initially very apprehensive about the film using the paper's name, loved the film, and later wrote a letter of praise and approval to star and co-producer Robert Redford. As a condition of her sanctioning the production initially, Graham had begged Redford not to include her as a character in the film, but after viewing the finished product, Graham admitted that she wished she hadn't made that request of him.
Jane Alexander's Oscar-nominated performance for Best Actress in a Supporting Role runs for just over eight minutes in total screentime.
Chris Carter often quotes this movie as one of his bigger inspirations for The X-Files (1993), wherein a prominent character used the Deep Throat codename. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the names on Woodward and Bernstein's list of CREEP employees is "Scully".
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein offered to write the screenplay. Unfortunately, they were very poor screenwriters. They also included a lot of reporters' gags and in-jokes, and a subplot about each of them trying to score with women during the investigation. The only remnant of it is the early scene in which Bernstein talks to Sharon Lyons at the outdoor café.
Robert Redford is left-handed, and like almost all lefties, wears his watch on his right hand. Every close-up shows him doing things right-handed (writing, dialing phones, et cetera).
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.
Neither director Alan J. Pakula nor Robert Redford were happy with screenwriter William Goldman's first draft. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were not keen on it, either. In fact, Bernstein penned a draft 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.
The five Watergate burglars were: Bernard Barker (deceased), former Miami real estate agent and former CIA operative, involved in the 1962 Bay of Pigs incident. Virgilio Gonzales, locksmith and refugee of the Cuban revolution James McCord, former security coordinator for the Republican National Committee and former FBI agent. Eugenio Rolando Martinez, Cuban exile, former Barker real estate employee and former CIA operative Frank Sturgis (deceased), former CIA operative with connections to Barker; in his later years he trained anti-communist revolutionaries in South America They served 14 months in prison.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis had a customized split diopter sliding mechanism mounted on his camera so it could be moved in and out of a shot without any editing cuts.
Fourth-biggest hit movie at the box office for 1976, out-grossing such other films as The Bad News Bears (1976) and The Omen (1976).
The executive editor of the Washington Post hoped that the film would show newspapers "strive very hard for responsibility".
A brick from the main lobby of the Post building was supplied so it could be duplicated in fiberglass by the production design department.
Jason Robards, Jr. was always Robert Redford's first choice to play Benjamin C. Bradlee. When director Alan J. Pakula came on board, he instantly agreed with Redford's decision.
The movie ends with various news articles being typed up on-screen. The reports are shown out of order, running all the way into 1975, but end with the key report from August 1974 that "President Nixon resigns."
When Bernstein is rifling through his pockets, seeking notes written on scraps of paper, he pulls out a matchbook with a "G" on the cover. It was the logo of the largest supermarket in the District at the time.
The film was added to the U.S.'s Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2010.
When Bradlee looks at the first Woodward Bernstein article, Rosenfeld tells him that this is something that the New York Times doesn't have. This is a reference to the events of the previous year in which the Times received the Pentagon Papers - thousands of pages of documentation about the government's mishandling of and cover-ups regarding the Vietnam War. They received the documents before the Post and beat the Post in breaking the story, which was the second greatest political scandal of the century. The greatest such scandal was the Watergate affair.
Claims that Alan J. Pakula and Robert Redford re-wrote the screenplay have been debunked, however, after an investigation into the matter by Richard Stayton in Written By Magazine. Stayton compared several drafts of the script, including the final production draft, and concluded that Goldman was properly credited as the writer and that the final draft had "William Goldman's distinct signature on each page."
Robert Redford met Richard Nixon. When he was thirteen, Redford was presented an award for athletic prowess by the man who would go on to be President. Even then, Redford said he found the man to be rather creepy.
According to "Adventures in the Screen Trade", Alan J. Pakula drove William Goldman crazy asking for re-writes for scenes with the constant rejoinder "Don't deny me any riches!" Goldman goes on to say that if he could have his career all over again, he wouldn't go near this film.
Bob Woodward's apartment was at 1718 P Street, NW, near Dupont Circle. The actual building was used as a site when Woodward put a red flag in a flower pot to request a meeting with Deep Throat.
This movie contains twenty-five telephone conversations in which audiences are privy to both sides of the dialogue exchange.
When the film wrapped production, it was $3.5 million over budget and 35 days behind schedule.
Benjamin C. Bradlee, who was managing editor and then executive editor of the Washington Post, realized that the film was going to be made regardless of whether he approved of it or not, and felt that it made "more sense to try to influence it factually". Bradlee was portrayed by Jason Robards, Jr.
The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jr., Martin Balsam, and F. Murray Abraham; and five Oscar nominees: Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Lindsay Crouse, and Jane Alexander.
Donald Segretti served four months of a six month sentence for his crimes and was disbarred in 1976. Some years later, having demonstrated his remorse, Segretti was reinstated as a member in good standing of the California bar.
The phone number that Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) dials and reaches a man who speaks no English is 305-374-1299, the usual 555- prefix was not used. It is a real number, used by Net Capital Mortgage in Miami, Florida.
When Woodward meets Deep Throat in the underground car park, Deep Throat tells him about Liddy putting his hand over a flame and claiming that the trick is not to mind. This was the same one that T.E. Lawrence reputedly did as seen in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). It is also repeated in Prometheus (2012).
The film reunites Martin Balsam and Jack Warden, who previously appeared together as jurors in 12 Angry Men (1957) (coincidentally, sitting at ends of the table directly opposite one another.) It also reunites Balsam with Jason Robards, Jr., his co-star in A Thousand Clowns (1965), the film for which Balsam won an Oscar, and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).
The extreme closeup of typebars striking the paper, opening the film, was used 35yrs earlier in Citizen Kane (1941), at 1h 17m 33s (in that film).
The quote pinned by Woodward's desk is from a letter Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Rosebery in 1901. "My own idea is that it does not matter how many mistakes one makes in politics, so long as one keeps on making them. It is like throwing babies to the wolves: once you stop, the pack overtakes the sleigh. This explains why it is that the present administration prospers."
All the President's Men Revisited (2013), a feature length television documentary about the making of this movie, was broadcast thirty-seven years after this movie debuted.
The work area for the reporters at the Washington Post is dotted with Washington Redskin memorabilia. Carl Bernstein's work space is decorated with a popular period piece of a cyclist. A Baltimore Bullets button is pinned to a bulletin board next to his typewriter. Washington DC didn't have an NBA team at the time, but Baltimore is close by.
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are seven years older than Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director - Alan J. Pakula, Best Film Editing, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Jane Alexander, and won four Oscars - for Best Sound, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Jason Robards, Jr., and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - William Goldman. Both of the later films about former President Richard Nixon, Nixon (1995) and Frost/Nixon (2008), were Oscar nominated for four and five Academy Awards, respectively, and did not win an Oscar in any of the categories in which they were nominated.
Robert Walden / "Donald Segretti" is interviewed by Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. On the TV show Lou Grant (1977), Walden played a reporter for a newspaper that was owned by publisher Margaret Pynchon. This series was based on the Washington Post and its publisher Katheryn Graham.
The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham was in a scene in the Woodward and Bernstein book, and when that part was being cast, Geraldine Page was selected, but the scene was cut from the script.
The film was part of a cycle of 1970s conspiracy movies. These included: Executive Action (1973), Klute (1971), Chinatown (1974), Cutter's Way (1981), Telefon (1977), Winter Kills (1979), The Conversation (1974), The Parallax View (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Domino Principle (1977), Good Guys Wear Black (1978), Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), Hangar 18 (1980), Capricorn One (1977), and this movie.
Robert Redford's performance as Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman's performance as Carl Bernstein are tied for 27th place on the American Film Institute (AFI)'s top "100 Heroes & Villains" list.
Director Alan J. Pakula spent hours interviewing editors, journalists, and reporters, taking notes of their comments.
In addition to the DNC break-in, this film refers to the break-in of the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg in an attempt to discredit him. Ellsberg was the Rand Corporation employee who smuggled out copies of Robert Macnamara's massive and scandalous documentation of the U.S. handling of the Vietnam War, known as "the Pentagon Papers". This forms the basis of the film, The Post (2017). While released 41 years before The Post, All the President's Men serves as the sequel to that film.
When Bernstein tells Woodward that he has confirmation on Haldeman and that they can print the story, an extra in an orange shirt can be seen sitting a few feet away. The extra is Jeff MacKay, who would later play Mac on Magnum, P.I. (1980). Mackay was a cousin of Robert Redford.
In 1988, Jason Robards, Jr. became the eleventh performer to win the Triple Crown of acting: Oscar, Tony, and Emmy. Two Oscars: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, this movie, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Julia (1977). Tony: Best Actor, Play, "The Disenchanted" (1959). Emmy: Best Actor, Miniseries/Special: Inherit the Wind (1988).
As of 2015, Jason Robards, Jr. is the only actor to win consecutive Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Awards, winning Oscars for this movie and Julia (1977).
The newsroom set took up two soundstages and 33,000 square feet, and cost $500,000 to assemble.
Robert Redford has appeared in five films written by screenwriter William Goldman: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Hot Rock (1972), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), this movie, and A Bridge Too Far (1977).
Frank Willis, the security guard who foiled the original break in, plays himself in this movie.
One can see typing paper with red bands and the sides and with a large number printed on it. This is used for long-form stories, with the number indicating the page number in the typed story. The red bars represent approximate column width. when translated into the printed story.
Woodward says to Deep Throat that Godon Liddy has, "come in from the cold." This is an espionage expression referring to a field agent who has stopped doing field work, the implication being that it was too murky, too stressful, and too dangerous. Liddy was no longer in intelligence but was working for the Administration instead. This is a reference to a 1963 book about a cold war spy with an extremely dark tone by British author John le Carré. It was later turned in to a film named after the book, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965).
Jason Robards, Jr. received all of his Academy Award nominations for playing real-life people: Benjamin C. Bradlee in this movie, Dashiell Hammett in Julia (1977), and Howard Hughes in Melvin and Howard (1980). Robards won for the first two movies, but not the third. Each of these three Oscar nominations was in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.
James Karen worked on Nixon (1995) and this movie, playing Bill Rogers in Nixon (1995), and Hugh Sloan's lawyer in this movie. Karen is the only billed cast or crew member to have worked on both movies.
Frank Wills lived 28 years, 7 weeks, and 4 days after discovering the June 17, 1972 Watergate break in and reporting it. Singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson dedicated his 1973 album "A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night" to Wills for his courage and integrity in dealing with the Watergate break-in.
Alan J. Pakula initially had little interest in making this movie, thinking that it would turn out like a political version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
During one scene in the background, a newscaster can be heard talking about the 1972 World Chess Championship in Iceland, in which American Bobby Fischer was a participant. Fischer's story was retold in Pawn Sacrifice (2014) with Tobey Maguire as Fischer.
The movie is included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Jason Robards won an Oscar for playing Benjamin C. Bradlee, making him one of 17 actors (as of 2015) to win an Academy Award for playing a real person who was still alive the evening of the Award ceremony. Spencer Tracy played Father Edward Flanagan in Boys Town (1938). Gary Cooper played Alvin C. York in Sergeant York (1941). Patty Duke played Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962). Robert De Niro played Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980). Sissy Spacek played Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980). Jeremy Irons played Claus Von Bullow in Reversal of Fortune (1990). Susan Sarandon played Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (1995). Geoffrey Rush played David Helfgott in Shine (1996). Julia Roberts played Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich (2000). Jim Broadbent played John Bayley in Iris (2001). Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006). Sandra Bullock played Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009). Melissa Leo played Alice Eklund-Ward in The Fighter (2010). Christian Bale played Dickie Eklund in The Fighter (2010). Meryl Streep played Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011). Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2014).
Dustin Hoffman's brother, who works in the restaurant business, met Carl Bernstein at a party.
Robert Walden, James Karen, and Hal Holbrook appeared in Capricorn One (1977), which was another movie with a conspiracy theme.
The code name Deep Throat is a reference to a notorious X-rated film of the same name, Deep Throat (1972).
While meeting with Carl Bernstein, Dustin Hoffman noticed that Bernstein smoked so much that there were traces of cigarette ash on all of his shirts and ties, so he made sure that was included in the movie, as well as the line directed at Bernstein, "Is there any place you don't smoke?"
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Art Direction.
This movie's closing credits declare that the picture was "Filmed in Washington, D.C., and at the Burbank Studios, Burbank, California".
Jason Robards won an Oscar for this film, and again the following year for Julia, which was Meryl Streep's first film. Streep went on to work with both Robert Redford (Out of Africa) and Dustin Hoffman and Jane Alexander (both in Kramer vs. Kramer). She also appeared in The Post, which also featured Robards's character of Ben Bradlee. Bradlee was played by Tom Hanks who, like Robards, appeared in the film Philadelphia and won back to back Oscars for that film and Forrest Gump which, like both this film and The Post, re-create the infamous Watergate break-in.