Sometimes, even Steven Spielberg has trouble assembling his dream cast. But that wasn’t the case with his latest film, the historical drama “The Post.” At a Q&A on Monday night hosted by the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, Spielberg told the audience that he’d been able to get every single one of his first choices. No small feat, considering that the turnaround time on the movie clocked in at just nine months, dating from Spielberg’s first acceptance of the script to its first November screenings.
“So often when I make a movie, I have my first choices, and I don’t always get my first choices sometimes due to availability or sometimes actors don’t like the script enough to say yes to me or to anybody,” he said. “But everybody I wanted in the movie, they were available and they all said yes. Every first choice is in the film.”
What do those first choices have in common, beyond being an ensemble that includes some of today’s most well-respected actors? At least 10 of them have made an impact not just on film, in television, and have been recognized accordingly by the Television Academy with nominations and wins across the board.
By IndieWire’s math, the following members of the cast have all been nominated for Emmys over the course of their careers:
- Meryl Streep
- Tom Hanks
- Sarah Paulson
- Bob Odenkirk
- Bradley Whitford
- Matthew Rhys
- Carrie Coon
- Jesse Plemons
- David Cross
- Dan Bucatinsky
And in total, they’ve been awarded 40 Emmy nominations and 18 wins — reflecting a cast that also reflects the best of prestige television over the last decade.
You can see the full breakdown of the numbers in this Google doc, as those statistics include not just acting categories, but producing, writing, and directing awards as well. This means that yes, Bob Odenkirk’s early years as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Ben Stiller Show” nudged up his numbers, as did Tom Hanks’ role as a director and executive producer on projects like “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Big Love.”
However, even if you isolate the acting categories alone, that’s 17 nominations and 7 wins for those 10 actors. And if you take Streep and Hanks out of the equation (given their status primarily as film actors) that’s still 15 nominations and 4 wins amongst the above.
Beyond the simple question of Emmy nominations that actually happened, though, this is a cast that has thrived on TV in recent years. Just going down the list:
Carrie Coon has received only one nomination for her acting work, thanks to “Fargo” Year 3. However, any viewer of “The Leftovers” will tell you that she deserved recognition three years in a row for her performance on that series.
Jesse Plemons has come a long way from being Saracen’s goofy best friend Landry on “Friday Night Lights,” and after breakout roles in “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo” Year 2, is on the verge of breaking out in a major way. He’ll next be seen in “Black Mirror” Season 4, which could make him awards-eligible for the Best Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy next year.
Zach Woods has been a key anchor in the ensemble for HBO’s “Silicon Valley” since the beginning.
Matthew Rhys was a critical favorite for years before the Emmys finally decided to recognize his work on “The Americans.”
Tracy Letts, beyond his Pulitzer Prize for Drama, was so good in the first episode of HBO’s “Divorce” that the producers decided not to kill the character off and make him a series regular. Letts was also a major part of “Homeland” Seasons 3 and 4.
Alison Brie never got the due she deserved for her work on “Community,” but is in the awards conversation this winter for her starring role on “GLOW.”
Michael Stuhlbarg deserved a nomination for his work in “Fargo” Year 3 this year and was a standout member of the cast in the SAG-winning series “Boardwalk Empire.”
Per the ensemble nature of the film, many of these actors make only limited appearances in “The Post,” but this is not a cast that’s exclusive to either TV or film, of course — even now, Letts and Stuhlbarg are also in the Oscars conversation this year for their “good dad” roles in “Lady Bird” and “Call Me By Your Name” (respectively).
Spielberg, during the Q&A, gave full credit to his casting director Ellen Lewis for bringing together the cast. While there were some he’d been wanting to work with for years, such as Whitford and Bruce Greenwood, he also said that “Ellen went to the theater, and pulled some great people off the boards who I never knew about.”
Many of the above do have theater experience, but it was more likely television that likely brought them to Lewis’s attention, especially given that she cast HBO shows including “The Leftovers” and “Boardwalk Empire.” It’s one of the best things, though, about the blurring of the line between what we understand as film and what we understand as television. Great actors can be on our TV screens every week — and also work with Spielberg.
“The Post” enters wide release on January 12, 2018.