Pop Culture

The “Sacred Duty” of ‘She Said’

Like any other major film festival on the planet, Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival was a frequent stomping ground for Harvey Weinstein at the height of his power. And this week, almost five years to the day since Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s reporting unveiled his systematic abuse, the film about their work, She Said, will make its New York Film Festival debut.

“I remember, of course, because it’s not that far in the past, the ripple effect of that story and how it met up with other cultural forces to create what feels like the beginning of a seismic cultural shift,” says Zoe Kazan, who plays Kantor in the film. “We all know how it ended up, but this [movie] is about the job of journalism and what that job entails, and the bravery of the survivors coming forward.”

Taking the form of a classic journalism thriller like All the President’s Men or Spotlight, She Said follows the two Pulitzer Prize–winning reporters—played by Kazan and Carey Mulligan—as they work tirelessly to track down documents, details, and Weinsten’s victims, and help them tell their story. In their first interviews about the movie, which will play at the New York Film Festival on October 13 before Universal releases it in theaters on November 18, Kazan, Mulligan, Kantor, and Twohey all talked to Vanity Fair about the massive amount of responsibility they felt in telling this story, both in preserving the stories of the survivors, and also in the way this tale touched on their own experiences—and the experiences of many women across the country. As Mulligan puts it, “what a tribute to female heroism on display here.”

Kazan and Mulligan in She Said

By JoJo Whilden/Universal Pictures.

Kantor and Twohey are used to telling other people’s stories, so when I hop onto a Zoom call with them to talk to them about the film, they admit it’s still a little surreal to be on the other side of the interview process.

“We wrote our book because we felt like this story belonged to everybody, not just us,” says Kantor, who adds that their main priority in the adaptation process was about accuracy. “It was very important to us that the victims were represented with integrity and sensitivity, and that also The New York Times, our workplace, was.”

But they also wanted to give screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz and director Maria Schrader the space they needed to take their book and structure it in the way it would work for a film. “Certain scenes play out pretty much exactly as they really transpired, other things are invented or changed, and then there’s this third layer of things that didn’t literally happen, but have this sort of deeper truth that really is in line with what happened or how we felt at the time,” says Kantor.

When Kazan and Mulligan signed on to play Kantor and Twohey, they spent time with the reporters not only to see what they were like at work, but also in their personal lives. The book meticulously details the investigation, but the script adds in details about Kantor and Twohey’s family lives. Both are working mothers, who were trying to juggle the demands of their work and this story while also trying to be present for their children at home.

At the time of the investigation, Twohey had just had a baby, and her struggle with postpartum depression is captured in the film. She says Mulligan approached that part of her personal life with sensitivity and care. “I felt like she really spent a lot of time with me, and studied me and my family in a way in which she was able to not just portray a sense of me, but to portray this really personal and even difficult time in my life, in a very accurate and respectful way,” she says.

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