Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men is the most authentic film ever made on journalists. It’s also the most engrossing. It’s influence was felt most recently in two popular films – David Fincher’s Zodiac and Ben Affleck’s Argo. There are scenes in both the films that are reminiscent of certain scenes from All the President’s Men. It is based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two primary characters in the film. It’s a detailed account of the Watergate Scandal that shook America in the 1970s and the subsequent investigation by Woodward and Bernstein that eventually lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The film begins with five men breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters located at the Watergate Complex, Washington, D.C on June 17, 1972. Woodward (played by Robert Redford) and Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) are two reporters from Washington Post who are assigned to the case. Woodward soon learns that all the five burglars had bugging equipment and connects them to Howard Hunt, who used to work for the C.I.A and Nixon’s special counsel Charles Colson. Ben Bradlee (played by Jason Robards) rejects their initial report as unfit to post in the front page and suggests that they get more concrete information.Woodward makes contact with his regular anonymous source, a senior government official going by the name “Deep Throat. The source tells a frustrated Woodward to simply “follow the money”. Woodward and Bernstein are not so much journalists as detectives. The film was promoted with the tagline: “The most devastating detective story of this century”. Woodward and Bernstein go through so much struggle that even real detectives would think thrice before deciding to take on a case of this magnitude. They dig through thousands of thousands of paper work and interview plenty of sources. Some of these sources are not reliable as they keep making contradictory statements. They were instructed not to utter a single word and as a result, feared for their lives. If Woodward and Bernstein don’t get all the details right, they are going to face some serious consequences. They are aware of them yet work relentlessly and tirelessly to uncover the truth. They work day and night and in one funny scene, Bernstein lets Woodward know that he is unable to function properly without the help of at least 20 cups of coffee. And no one can play restless and paranoid better than Dustin Hoffman. He even has the same hairstyle as the real-life Bernstein.
It was Robert Redford who got the idea of adapting Woodward and Bernstein’s book, with an intention to play Woodward. He hired veteran screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) to work on the screenplay and later met with director Alan J. Pakula, who was by now well-known for his chilling conspiracy thrillers such as Klute and The Parallax View. They all strived to ensure that every single detail was captured with stunning accuracy. Redford and Hoffman spent months at the Washington Post offices, taking down notes and learning how things actually worked over there. The crew were denied permission to shoot inside their offices so they had to recreate the interiors of the offices, including every nook and cranny, on sound stages. Veteran actors Jack Warden (12 Angry Men), Martin Balsam (12 Angry Men) and Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) play editor Harry Rosenfeld, managing-editor Howard Simon and “Deep Throat” respectively. A 2-hr documentary on the Watergate scandal as well as the making of the film, “All the President’s Men” Revisited, was released in 2013. Both the book and film are highly recommended for journalism students, conspiracy theory aficionados and anyone who loves good filmmaking.