ENTERTAINMENT

‘She Said’ stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan borrowed an acting trick from ‘All the President’s Men’

Hollywood loves a journalism movie. The film industry has a long history of probing newsrooms for inspiration, whether it’s Rosalind Russell chasing one last story in His Girl Friday or Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford investigating Watergate in All the President’s Men. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the biggest news stories of the last decade is now coming to the big screen: the bombshell investigation into disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein.

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan headline She Said, a tense newsroom drama about the two New York Times journalists who helped expose Weinstein’s decades of misconduct. Mulligan and Kazan play Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who, in 2017, published a groundbreaking article detailing years of Weinstein’s alleged abuse. The film, directed by Maria Schrader, is a taut thriller that retraces Twohey and Kantor’s dogged investigation, and the result is a moving tribute to both the power of journalism and the many subjects who spoke out against Weinstein.

When EW spoke to Mulligan and Kazan shortly before the film’s Nov. 18 release, the two actresses said they were both “so nervous” to meet the real-life journalists they’d be portraying. But Mulligan and Kazan quickly stepped into a journalistic role of their own, grilling Twohey and Kantor about everything from how they conducted interviews to what their desks looked like in the New York Times office. The four women especially bonded over their shared experiences as working moms, something the film takes care to spotlight. (Mulligan, 37, is a mom of two with husband Marcus Mumford, and Kazan, 39, recently welcomed her second child with her partner Paul Dano.)  

Here, Mulligan and Kazan open up about bringing She Said to the screen — and the acting trick they borrowed from Redford and Hoffman in All the President’s Men.  

She Said

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in ‘She Said’

| Credit: Universal Pictures

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you got the chance to meet with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey before you started filming. What do you remember about your first meetings with them?

ZOE KAZAN: I think I met Jodi first because we were both in New York. We went to dinner. We live in neighborhoods very close to each other. My daughter was going to preschool at the same place that her daughter had gone to preschool. It felt like there was all this overlap. We had a favorite restaurant in common, so we went there, and I really felt like I was on some sort of blind date. [Laughs] I’ve never been on a blind date, but I was like, “Oh, this must be what a blind date feels like.”

I was so nervous because they’re both very intimidating — not as people, but for who they are. I think I was walking in with a lot of expectations, and then, she was just so warm and lovely. I felt like we had really known each other for a long time. They were both so generous with us about opening up their lives. I imagine it must be uncomfortable to be the subject when you’re so often not the subject. They’re usually in the position of asking the questions, and we were the ones asking the nosy questions.

CAREY MULLIGAN: Yeah, I was pretty nervous. I think the first time, I was at home in England, and there was still really restricted travel, so I don’t think I could even get to America at that point. So we Zoomed, and I think the first Zoom was all four of us. I thought I couldn’t do it on my own because I was so scared, so I made Zoe do it as well. [Laughs]

It’s that odd thing, isn’t it, [where people ask]: “Who do you want to play you in the film of your life?” I just wanted to do it justice, so I was nervous. They’re intimidating figures if you don’t know them because they’re so impressive. It’s always meeting people like that that makes me feel very silly and think, “Oh, I’m a professional pretender, and I’m now talking to this person who’s such a grown-up.” But they were just so lovely. They were really open, not just about the experience of putting together the investigation but also about their home lives and their relationship.  

As you both got to speak to them and really dive into this story, what surprised you the most? Were there any details you were surprised to learn?

KAZAN: I think I was surprised by how much they knew and how early. I had this naïve idea that once journalists knew the truth about something, then they could publish the truth. But there was so much that they had to do to get the documents to back up what they knew. Everything had to be airtight. Jodi says it was like writing a legal document, just putting that giant jigsaw puzzle together. That’s one of the pleasures of getting to watch the movie, even though the subject matter is so heavy. I think there’s real pleasure in watching people use the superpower of their brains to nail down this predator.

MULLIGAN: Also, what I was surprised by is that sitting in 2022, we can look back, and it seems inevitable that this would’ve happened. He would be held accountable, and then this incredible movement would be propelled by this. But none of that was inevitable. It was all completely unknown. Zoe talks about reading the article [in 2017] and thinking, “Well, I wonder if this will even change anything.” There was no inevitability about any of it. I think they felt that even as they published it. Their expectations were so modest, and I don’t think it crossed their mind even for a minute what the impact would be. So it was interesting to put yourself back in 2017, a different world. So much happened as a result of this, and they had no idea it would happen.

That’s the interesting thing about telling this story in 2022. We can obviously see the impact it had, but I can’t imagine what it was like for them right before they published.

MULLIGAN: I don’t think they can even fully process it now. Megan and Jodi talk about the day after they pressed “publish,” just how inundated they were with messages from all over the world. Phone calls and emails from women telling their stories — not just within our industry, across all industries and different walks of life. I can’t imagine what that must feel like. They describe it like a river changing the course of its direction. They had to work for so many months to try to get any source on the record, and then after they published, the sources were coming to them.

SHE SAID

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan in ‘She Said’

| Credit: JoJo Whilden/Universal Pictures

The film also portrays Jodi and Megan not just as journalists but as working mothers. You see them struggling with the late-night phone calls, juggling childcare, and dealing with the realities of postpartum depression. That’s not necessarily a perspective we often see on screen. What interested you about that part of this story?

MULLIGAN: I mean, for me, Megan’s experience was something I really connected to immediately. I had a pretty similar experience myself with my first child. I was fairly blindsided by postnatal depression, and I thought I was the only person in the world who’d ever had it and that I was a mad woman. Then, I realized how unbelievably common it is, and just sharing how I felt with other people massively helped me.

Also, [my experience] echoed Megan’s experience in a way because work was the thing that I could hold onto. It was alongside lots of other things and a ton of support, but that was the thing that pulled me through it. I think it is incredibly common and not much discussed — more so now probably than ever, but it’s still not much discussed — and it’s important to see it on screen alongside a woman who is incredibly capable and impressive in the workplace. I think it’s something that so many people go through that we just don’t talk about. I was really delighted that she chose to include it and that she shared it. She didn’t have to.

KAZAN: We rewatched All the President’s Men as we were getting ready to do this. When you see that movie, any snippet you see of their personal life, you see them at home in their apartment. Their apartment’s a mess, and you don’t need any other information about their bachelor life than that. Their work can be the center of their life. And I think there’s something really important about acknowledging that these two women were juggling something also very important to them, just as they were doing this work that was going to change the world. Both things had to stay up in the air that whole time.

For me, my partner Paul [Dano] was on the other side of the country shooting The Fabelmans while we were shooting this. The only way that we could make that work was to have my parents come and help out with my child and having a really extraordinary nanny who could fill in as well. So, I was going to work and doing this juggle of motherhood and then going home and experiencing that same thing. I really felt this great community of women. So many of us do that juggle, and I think it’s really important to put it on screen and shine a light on it.

When you think about the great canon of classic journalism movies, it’s a lot of men. You don’t necessarily see stories about people who are extraordinary investigative journalists and also working mothers.

MULLIGAN: I think what interested me in the story is that there are all these pieces that made up these women. Their experience brought them together, and this partnership made it possible. Because so many capable journalists had attempted to run this story and hadn’t been able to do it. What is it about these two and their lives that made them the ones who got it over the line? I do think motherhood is a part of it. I think they bonded through their experience of motherhood. They also both had daughters, and I know that personally inspired them as they went through this.

KAZAN: They also had the institutional support of The New York Times, which you see in the film. We’ve thought a lot about how this is a movie about collective action and the power of people standing up for truth and how that can make a difference. But it really makes a difference when an institution like The New York Times puts their muscle behind it.

I know you got to actually shoot in the New York Times offices during the early days of the pandemic. What was it like to be filming in that space?

MULLIGAN: That’s where we started the shoot. We started in the New York Times building, and it had been empty since March 2020. So we were not only the first feature film crew ever allowed to film in there, but also the first people allowed back in the building. And it was so weird! We were texting Megan and Jodi, and they were saying, “We can’t believe you’re in there before we are!” It’s such an important place to them, and we were there with our crew.

KAZAN: It was also a really uncanny experience because we’d be reading The New York Times on our phones, and I think in some sort of childish way, I had this idea, like, “Oh, in some other building they’re all making The New York Times, and it’s being beamed into my phone.” And then I’d be like, “No, we are in The New York Times. They’re all at home in their bedrooms, hunched over their computers.” [Laughs]

That’s so funny. You think, “I’m in the middle of the action!” except there is no action.

MULLIGAN: It was empty. It was completely empty, and we populated it with supporting artists. But production design was very specific with Megan and Jodi about what their particular desks looked like. We really wanted to recreate it.

KAZAN: But it was like everyone had been lifted out of the building. There was Valentine’s Day candy still on people’s desks and shoes under their desks. It was very strange.  

You two have worked together before on stage, but this is your first time acting in a film together. How did you want to approach your on-screen friendship?

MULLIGAN: I just can’t imagine ever having done it with anyone else. We’ve known each other for 14 years. Zoe was a bridesmaid at my wedding. We’d looked for years for something to do together, whether on stage or TV or whatever. With Wildlife, we came close to it in that Zoe co-wrote that with Paul, and we worked on that all together. But we never found the thing. We were also saying that for a long time, in most projects there was usually just one girl and not very many other women in it. But for this to come along and for us to be cast alongside one another in this incredible partnership, it just felt like such a godsend for us.

KAZAN: It really felt like there was a partnership on screen, and then there was a partnership off-screen. [I loved] having Carey’s brain to bounce off of and having the shorthand between us, really knowing how she works. We did a play for months together and shared a tiny dressing room, so I felt like there was a real sense that we could be there for each other artistically. Personally, I’ve never had anything like it on a film before.

MULLIGAN: I always thought the bit that would be challenging was the bit where they don’t know each other [at the beginning of the film]. We were pretty confident we could do the best friends part at the end. [Laughs] But the part of the film where they don’t know each other, they don’t immediately click. There’s somewhat of a tension. Megan doesn’t totally believe in Jodi’s mission. We had to give a little bit more thought to how this relationship starts and what brings them together.

When you think back to filming, what’s the day that sticks out the most in your mind?

MULLIGAN: I loved the newsroom stuff. Early on, we stole this from All the President’s Men, where Redford and Hoffman had learned each other’s line. So they both knew the whole script in all the scenes that they were in together. So, we did the same thing, where we knew each other’s lines for everything where we were in the newsroom together. Every time we were reporting back to Rebecca or Patricia Clarkson or Dean, I would know her lines, so we could overlap. I could finish her sentence, or she could finish mine. I remember the first time we did that was really fun.

KAZAN: They both have this information, and it’s just a case of who’s going to articulate that part of it first. It was such a partnership, so they could really finish each other’s sentences.

MULLIGAN: Just on that note, JoJo [Whilden] was our photographer on set. She grabbed us at some point and showed us a still from All the President’s Men of Redford and Hoffman and was like, “I want to recreate this.” So, we went and did that really quickly. Now, that’s the poster!

KAZAN: That never happens. All the good posters end up being things that are genuinely just taken from the film. But that was one where we were posing. [Laughs]

MULLIGAN: I find it so funny. It’s a kind of Easter egg that it’s based on this still from All the President’s Men!

You can hear that interview with Kazan and Mulligan below in the latest episode of EW’s The Awardist podcast, where we also discuss where Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Fabelmans, Babylon, and The Banshees of Inisherin star Colin Farrell currently stand in the 2023 Oscars race.

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