All the President's Men (film)

All the President's Men

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Produced by Walter Coblenz
Screenplay by William Goldman
Based on All the President's Men
by Carl Bernstein
Bob Woodward
Starring Robert Redford
Dustin Hoffman
Jack Warden
Martin Balsam
Hal Holbrook
Jason Robards
Jane Alexander
Music by David Shire
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by Robert L. Wolfe
Wildwood Enterprises
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • April 9, 1976 (1976-04-09)
Running time
138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8.5 million
Box office $70.6 million[1]

All the President's Men is a 1976 American political thriller film directed by Alan J. Pakula. The screenplay by William Goldman is based on the 1974 non-fiction book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two journalists investigating the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. The film starred Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, respectively; it was produced by Walter Coblenz for Redford's Wildwood Enterprises.

All the President's Men is the third installment of what informally came to be known as Pakula's "paranoia trilogy". The other two films in the trilogy are Klute (1971) and The Parallax View (1974).

In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


On June 17, 1972, a security guard (Frank Wills, playing himself) at the Watergate complex finds a door kept unlocked with tape. He calls the police, who find and arrest five burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters within the complex. The next morning, The Washington Post assigns new reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) to the local courthouse to cover the story, which is thought to be of minor importance.

Woodward learns that the five men, four Cuban-Americans from Miami and James W. McCord, Jr., had bugging equipment and have their own "country club" attorney. At the arraignment, McCord identifies himself in court as having recently left the Central Intelligence Agency and the others also have CIA ties. Woodward connects the burglars to E. Howard Hunt, a former employee of the CIA, and President Richard Nixon's Special Counsel Charles Colson.

Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), another Post reporter, is assigned to cover the Watergate story with Woodward. The two are reluctant partners, but work well together. Executive editor Benjamin Bradlee (Jason Robards) believes their work is incomplete, however, and not worthy of the Post's front page. He encourages them to continue to gather information.

Woodward contacts "Deep Throat" (Hal Holbrook), a senior government official, an anonymous source he has used in the past. Communicating through copies of The New York Times and a balcony flowerpot, they meet in a parking garage in the middle of the night. Deep Throat speaks in riddles and metaphors about the Watergate break-in, but advises Woodward to "follow the money."

Over the next few weeks, Woodward and Bernstein connect the five burglars to thousands of dollars in diverted campaign contributions to Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP, or CREEP). Bradlee and others at the Post dislike the two young reporters' reliance on unnamed sources like Deep Throat, and wonder why the Nixon administration would break the law when the President is likely to defeat Democratic nominee George McGovern.

Through former CREEP treasurer Hugh W. Sloan, Jr. (Stephen Collins), Woodward and Bernstein connect a slush fund of hundreds of thousands of dollars to White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman"the second most important man in this country"and former Nixon Attorney General John N. Mitchell, now head of CREEP. They learn that CREEP used the fund to begin a "ratfucking" campaign to sabotage Democratic presidential candidates a year before the Watergate burglary, when Nixon was behind Edmund Muskie in the polls.

Bradlee's demand for thoroughness forces the reporters to obtain other sources to confirm the Haldeman connection. When the White House issues a non-denial denial of the Post's above-the-fold story, the editor thus continues to support them.

At the subtle climax, Woodward again meets secretly with Deep Throat, who finally reveals that the Watergate break-in and cover-up was indeed masterminded by Haldeman. Deep Throat also claims that the cover-up was not to hide the other burglaries or of their involvement with CREEP, but to hide the "covert operations" involving "the entire U.S. intelligence community", and warns that Woodward, Bernstein, and others' lives are in danger. When Woodward and Bernstein relay this to Bradlee, he urges the reporters to continue despite the risk and Nixon's re-election.

In the final scene, set on January 20, 1973, Bernstein and Woodward type out the full story, with the TV in their office showing Nixon taking the Oath of Office, for his second term as President of the United States, in the foreground. A montage of Watergate-related teletype headlines from the following years is shown, ending with Nixon's resignation and the inauguration of Vice President Gerald Ford on August 9, 1974.


Differences from the book

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.

The film introduced the catchphrase "follow the money", which was absent from the book, or any documentation of Watergate.


Robert Redford bought the rights to Woodward and Bernstein's book in 1974 for $450,000 with the notion to adapt it into a film with a budget of $5 million.[3] Ben Bradlee 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".[3] The executive editor of the Washington Post hoped that the film would show newspapers "strive very hard for responsibility".[3]

William Goldman was hired by Redford to write the script in 1974. He has said Bob Woodward was extremely helpful to him but Carl Bernstein was not, and that his crucial decision as to structure was to throw away the second half of the book.[4] Goldman delivered his first draft in August 1974 and Warners agreed to finance the movie.

Redford later claimed he was not happy with Goldman's first draft.[3] Woodward and Bernstein also read it and did not like it. Redford asked for their suggestions but Bernstein and then-girlfriend writer Nora Ephron wrote their own draft. Redford showed this draft to Goldman, suggesting there might be some material they could use; Goldman later called Redford's acceptance of the Bernstein-Ephron draft a "gutless betrayal".[5] Redford later expressed dissatisfaction with the Ephron-Bernstein draft, saying, "a lot of it was sophomoric and way off the beat".[3] According to Goldman, "in what they wrote, Bernstein was sure catnip to the ladies".[5] He also says a scene of Bernstein and Ephron's made it to the final film, a bit where Bernstein outfakes a secretary in order to see someone—something which didn't happen in real life.

Alan J. Pakula was then hired to direct and requested rewrites from Goldman. Redford and Pakula held all-day sessions working on the script. The director also spent hours interviewing editors and reporters, taking notes of their comments. Claims that Pakula and Redford rewrote 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."[6]

Dustin Hoffman and Redford visited the Post offices for months, sitting in on news conferences and conducting research for their roles.[3] The Post denied the production permission to shoot in its newsroom and so set designers took measurements of the newspaper's offices, photographed everything, and boxes of trash were gathered and transported to sets recreating the newsroom on two soundstages in Hollywood's Burbank Studios at a cost of $200,000. The filmmakers went to great lengths for accuracy and authenticity, including making replicas of phone books that were no longer in existence.[3] Nearly 200 desks at $500 apiece were purchased from the same firm that sold desks to the Post in 1971. The desks were also colored the same precise shade of paint. The production was supplied with a brick from the main lobby of the Post so that it could be duplicated in fiberglass for the set. Principal photography began on May 12, 1975 in Washington, D.C.[3]

The billing followed the formula of James Stewart and John Wayne in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), with Redford billed over Hoffman in the posters and trailers and Hoffman billed above Redford in the film itself.


All the President's Men grossed $70.6 million at the box office.[7]

The film received universal acclaim, currently holding a 92% "fresh" rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 51 reviews; the consensus reads: "A taut, solidly acted paean to the benefits of a free press and the dangers of unchecked power, made all the more effective by its origins in real-life events."[8]

In 2007, it was added to the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list at No. 77. AFI also named it No. 34 on its America's Most Inspiring Movies list and No. 57 on the Top 100 Thrilling Movies. The characters of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein shared the rank of No. 27 (Heroes) on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list. Entertainment Weekly ranked All the President's Men as one of its 25 "Powerful Political Thrillers".[9]


Award Category Winner/Nominee Result
Academy Awards[10][11]
Best Art Direction George Jenkins
George Gaines
Best Director Alan J. Pakula Nominated
Best Editing Robert L. Wolfe
Best Picture Walter Coblenz
Best Adapted Screenplay William Goldman Won
Best Sound Arthur Piantadosi
James E. Webb
Les Fresholtz
Dick Alexander
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards
Best Supporting Actress Jane Alexander Nominated
American Cinema Editors (ACE) Best Edited Feature Film Robert L. Wolfe
BAFTA Film Awards Best Actor Dustin Hoffman
Best Cinematography Gordon Willis
Best Director Alan J. Pakula
Best Film
Best Editing Robert L. Wolfe
Best Production Design/Art Direction George Jenkins
Best Screenplay William Goldman
Best Sound Track Arthur Piantadosi
James E. Webb
Les Fresholtz
Dick Alexander
Milton C. Burrow
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards
Best Supporting Actor Martin Balsam
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement Alan J. Pakula
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Alan J. Pakula
Best Picture
Best Screenplay William Goldman
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards
Kansas City Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards Won
National Board of Review Best Director Alan J. Pakula
Top 10 Films of the Year 1st place
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards Won
New York Film Critics Best Director Alan J. Pakula
Best Film
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards
Writers Guild of America (WGA) Best Adapted Screenplay

"All The Presidents Men" Revisited

Sundance Productions, which Redford owns, produced a two-hour documentary entitled "All The Presidents Men" Revisited.[12] Broadcast on Discovery Channel Worldwide on March 24, 2013, the documentary focuses on the Watergate case and the subsequent film adaptation, simultaneously retelling how the Washington Post broke Watergate and how the scandal unfolded, going behind the scenes of the film and answering such questions as how Watergate would be covered in the present day, whether such a scandal could happen again and who the real Richard Nixon was. The revelation of W. Mark Felt as Deep Throat was also covered.

Footage from the film is used, as well as interviews with not only central characters and actors such as Woodward, Bernstein, Redford, Hoffman, Bradlee and John Dean but also media stars such as Tom Brokaw, Jill Abramson, Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart. The documentary earned a 2013 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special.[13][14]



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