Background re
All the President's Men

Robert Redford first approached William Goldman about making a movie of the All the President's Men before the book had even been published. In fact, as Goldman recounts in his seminal book about screenwriting in Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade (which I strongly recommend to you all), Goldman writes that he didn't even know who Woodward and Bernstein were (nor did most of the country at that point in time). Nevertheless, Redford had already taken an option on the book and he wanted Goldman to adapt it.

In his book, Goldman notes that he had a number of concerns going into the project:

1) Watergate had been so heavily dealt with in the media that many people were sick of the topic.

2) Studio executives weren't high on films about politics.

3) There was no apparent structure to the book and very little dialogue.

4) There were so many names to keep straight: Stams and Sturgis and barker and Segretti and McCord and Kalmback and Magruder, etc.

5) You couldn't take many liberties with the subject matter not only for legal reasons but because of the importance of it. In addition, since Watergate was a great triumph for the media, any deviation from the story would likely be heavily criticized by the media.

6) Dealing with Redford who was not only going to be a co-star but was also the producer.

7) How do you make the ending work when everyone knows how it ends?

The politics of what happened after Goldman accepted the job are fascinating, but I won't tell you what happened. You'll have to go to the book for that. However, I will tell you this much––Woodward turned out to be a good guy, Bernstein and Redford not so much.

Anyway, I wanted to give you this background information so that you could appreciate some of the concerns about writing the screenplay from the adapter's point of view.

But before ending this brief background, I'll tell you how Goldman concludes his fascinating chapter on All the President's Men. Goldman begins his conclusion by recounting a very funny line, attributed to Peter Sellers, who was asked the question "What would you change if you had to live your life over?" Sellers replied, "I would do everything exactly the same except I wouldn't see The Magus."

All the President's Men would go on to win four Oscars including one for Goldman for Best Screenplay adaptation. However, Goldman writes that if you were to ask him "What would you change if you had your movie life to live over?" he'd reply, "I'd have written exactly the screenplays I've written. . . . Only I wouldn't have come near All The President's Men."