Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, and Bruce Greenwood in ‘Truth’
Journalists have always been good to Robert Redford — at least on the big screen. In 1976, he starred in All the President’s Men, which is still considered the pinnacle of newspaper movies. And twenty years later, he played a news director in the drama Up Close & Personal, a movie that’s remembered more for its lovingly soft-lit close-ups than its grit, but a sizable box-office hit nonetheless.
So it makes sense that the 79-year-old actor would seem so at ease in his new film, Truth, in which he plays embattled former CBS anchor Dan Rather. The movie — which had its world premiere Saturday night at the Toronto Film Festival — costars Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes, a 60 Minutes producer who played a part in the biggest scandal of Rather’s career: In 2004, the anchor broadcast a report featuring documents that purportedly proved that then-president George W. Bush had gone AWOL during his stint in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s. After the accuracy of the documents was called into question, Rather stepped down from his job at CBS, and Mapes was fired.
Truth, which was written and directed by Zodiac screenwriter James Vanderbilt, is a very different sort of journalism procedural than President’s Men: Whereas that Nixon-era classic found Redford and his costar Dustin Hoffman knocking on doors and lurking around parking garages, the action in Truth takes place largely in midtown Manhattan conference rooms and offices, where documents are sifted for clues and interrogations take place over speaker-phones. And while Redford played up Watergate investigator Bob Woodward’s youthful ambition, he depicts Rather as calm and paternalistic — a guy who’s been around long enough to be seemingly immune to panic, and who seems to always have a half-drained scotch glass at the ready.
But Rather is largely a supporting character in Truth, as the film’s focus is on Mapes, played by Blanchett as a whip-smart, shiv-sharp newshound whose pursuit of the truth may have blinded her to more practical fact-checking problems. The movie might have been adapted from Mapes’s 2005 memoir, but Truth doesn’t sanctify or lionize its controversial author: Instead, she’s portrayed here as unapologetically hard-charging — even when she might be charging in the wrong direction — and Blanchett’s performance, one of her best, finds her wielding Mapes’s intelligence as both a weapon and a defense mechanism. Blanchett has already stirred up serious Oscar talk with this year’s forthcoming, universally beloved Carol; her turn in Truth makes a double nomination totally plausible.
‘Truth’ producer William Sherak, actor Topher Grace, Dan Rather, actress Elisabeth Moss, producer Brad Fischer, writer/director James Vanderbilt, and Sony Pictures Classics exec Tom Bernard at the film’s premiere Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo: Getty Images)
Truth has already earned one key supporter: Rather himself. In town to support the film, the 83-year-old news veteran earned a standing ovation when he appeared on stage after its premiere. Watching himself depicted on screen, Rather said, was “an eerie experience, and I confess that I still haven’t quite gotten my head completely around it. To see one of the best actors of this or any other generation — Robert Redford —portray you is both an honor, and very humbling, [which is] not a word generally associated with people on television.”
At one point, Rather got emotional, getting choked up after one audience member asked him what he would have done differently. “[Journalism] is, on its very best days, kind of a crude art,” he told the crowd. “And I’ve certainly made my mistakes, and I have the scars to show for it … there are plenty of things I would do over, which is why I spend a lot of my time now trying to practice humility and modesty, and have tremendous gratitude.”
Truth will be released Oct. 16.