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Why did All The President's Men matter so much to Robert Redford

01:00 Mon 21st Jan 2002 |

A.� The Watergate political�scandal, which brought down US President Richard M Nixon,�will be 30 years old this year. On 17 June, 1972, five people were arrested inside the Washington's Watergate office building equipped with electronic bugging equipment. Their target had been the headquarters of the Democratic Party.

All the President's Men tells how two young journalists from the Washington Post - Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - discovered that�the money�for the bugging operation�came from a slush fund run by the campaign to re-elect Nixon, a Republican like current President George W Bush.
Actor Robert Redford Woodward and Bernstein almost immediately the scandal broke.�At the time he was a left-leaning�critic of Nixon.�It was Redford who�suggested the structure of a book about the journalists' investigation, which won them a�Pulitzer Prize. Three years later, he stumped up $450,000 for the movie�rights�and began searching for a writer, ad director and a cast.

Q.� Rumour has it the production of the movie was particularly fraught. Why was this

A.� Today the movie is hailed as a classic; even in the 1970s it was the toast of the Academy Awards. But its production was�dogged by�problems from the start. Screenwriter William Goldman has said, in fact, that if he could live his life over, he would leave everything the same - except he wouldn't go anywhere near All the President's Men.

Scripting the movie proved very tricky because the book was such a complicated read, with an intricate�plot lines and large cast of characters. By the time the film came out, it was feared that everyone would be�sick of Watergate - and, of course, they�knew the ending.

Goldman and Bernstein had 'professional difficulties'�, and at one point�the senior staff�of the �Washington Post demanded a rewrite because of the way� they were portrayed. Bernstein and his fiancee Nora Ephron (who later wrote Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail) came up with their own screenplay, �which infuriated Goldman.

Q.� Who starred in the film

A.� Redford has always maintained he never intended to star in the film - but was forced to do so by Warners, who were bankrolling the film. The role denied Redford the opportunity of starring in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for which Jack Nicholson received an Oscar. Dustin Hoffman was brought in as the other big name, and American director Alan J Pakula agreed to direct. Redford played Bob Woodward; Hoffman was cast as�Carl Bernstein.

Q,� Was the film shot in the real Washington Post newsroom

A.� Again that proved difficult for crew and cast.�Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham�refused permission to film in the Post newsroom. So at a cost of $500,000, a complete newsroom set - 33,000 square feet in total - was built on two sound stages in Burbank. But the Post did co-operate enough to send over several thousand tonnes of office paper, telephone directories and wire reports.

Q.� How was the movie received by the US public

A,� The film�was 35 days and $3.5 million over budget when it eventually wrapped. It was, however, a hit, opening at 500 cinemas simultaneously and taking over $30 million in a year. Critics were almost universally impressed, and there were eight nominations and four Oscars, including Adapted Screenplay and Sound.
When Democrat Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, the first film he screened in the White House cinema was All the President's Men.

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by Katharine MacColl

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