So naturally, when HuffPost UK got an invitation to attend a press conference to promote their new film ‘The Post’, I jumped at the chance to go and sit for an afternoon basking in the glow of cinema royalty.
Here’s everything that went through my head on that fateful Thursday…
1. “The absolute state of me.”
Yeah, it wasn’t the most graceful of starts. Sans umbrella, I rocked up to the famous Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair - where the press conference was to take place - absolutely drenched from the rain. My Primark trainers had started letting water in. This was not how I needed to present myself when I inevitably charmed Meryl Streep, became her best friend and talked my way into ‘Mamma Mia! 3: Here We Go Again, Again’.
2. “Claridge’s is... something else.”
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t my first time going to a posh hotel for a press conference, but this was next level. We’re talking crystal chandeliers, wall-to-floor mirrors, floral displays everywhere, the works.
On my way to the French Salon (not to be confused with Audrey’s salon from ‘Coronation Street’, you understand), there was someone around every corner to point me in the right direction. That’s how fancy we’re talking.
3. “We’re dealing with some surprisingly punctual film stars here...”
Considering it’s usually a case of the bigger the star, the bigger the wait for them to actually turn up, this Holy Trinity of Hollywood were only 15 minutes behind schedule when they sat down at the long table (‘Notting Hill’ got it pretty right, to be honest), ready for a grilling.
Perhaps the emotional weight of their 41 collective Oscar nominations was slowing them down.
4. “Yeah, this photo is really crap…”
I tried, OK?
5. “Tom Hanks is an absolute hoot.”
Quite literally! The first thing he said into the microphone was a joke that he was late because he’d been waiting for a flourishing of trumpets to announce Meryl’s arrival, immediately followed by his best impression of a flourishing of trumpets. A refreshingly unselfconscious A-list star.
Between that, his jokes about having two-cocktail lunches on set and actual swearing (what would Sheriff Woody say?), it became quickly apparent that Tom Hanks is every bit as lovely as you’d hope, with a little bit extra thrown in.
6. “And so is Meryl Streep, for that matter.”
Obviously she’s not going to pack in this acting malarky and pursue a career in stand-up, but we could imagine being the most Oscar-nominated actor in history would go to some people’s heads, but Meryl was actually quite playful, in particular with Tom Hanks, who she would occasionally interrupt to crack jokes and have a bit of fun with.
When you think how seriously certain members of the acting glitterati can take themselves, it was nice to see that Meryl likes to have a bit of fun on the job.
7. “We are 10 minutes in, and nobody has dared speak Donald Trump’s name…”
Seriously, the man was like Voldemort.
No one had any hesitation speaking about him, and his administration (with Steven Spielberg saying he’d have been just as keen to do ‘The Post’ had “a certain election” gone another way, and both stars commenting on how relevant the film is in today’s political climate) but the words “Donald” and “Trump” were not uttered once during the initial Q&A.
8. “Strong answer from Tom Hanks about getting women recognised in the film industry.”
When asked about female-led stories, both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks said the key would be putting more women in charge behind the scenes, as well as in front of the camera.
After listing the strong women he’s worked under over the course of his career, Tom went as far as saying he thinks executives and producers should go out of their way to redress the balance and introduce more women.
He said: “We are going to see a different proportion, I think. More women are going be awarded their positions on the merit and quality of their work. And for a while, why not just literally... make it specific?
“There’s no reason, for a while, to say ‘we need more women on this board, we need more women running these departments’, so it actually represents the numbers as they truly are in society.”
9. “As if the first question Meryl Streep has been asked is about Oprah.”
Once the initial Q&A with a presenter was over, the journalists in the audience were given the chance to pose some questions to the team, starting with a question about whether Meryl thought that Oprah Winfrey should run for president.
She gave a typically diplomatic answer about how Oprah “showed what a Presidential candidate should talk like” and how she has “the voice of a leader… whether she’s leading us to the candidate we need or whether she is the candidate herself”.
The journalist in question then joked that her answer “sounded like a yes”, which it quite literally didn’t, but things then moved on.
10. “Errrrrm, was that some shade at the Baftas?”
Why yes, I do believe it was.
Putting on her best dejected voice (and a hint of a British accent), Meryl remarked: “Well, sadly. We haven’t been invited to the Baftas, so I can’t [comment on that]…”
To clarify, while ‘The Post’ was up for six Golden Globes, eight Critics’ Choice Awards and has already generated plenty of Oscar buzz, the Baftas didn’t give it a single nod when the nominations were revealed last week.
11. “Good answer all the same, though, Meryl.”
If we’re going to pick up on her slight Baftas shade, we should probably mention the fact that Meryl then gave an articulate response to the rest of the question, discussing how the ‘Time’s Up’ movement is still in its early stages, so it’s really impossible to say what its next step will be.
“As a movement, it’s pretty interesting to be involved, she said, “because there isn’t a leadership hierarchy, we don’t know who the top dog is, we have a hive. Everybody’s making honey, everybody’s doing good work, but it’s sort of a moving thing.
“And that’s good, because [this movement] needs to fly… through many different industries, many different enterprises, the government, the military, the church. The inequities and the imbalance in power isn’t just in politics.
“The exploitation of women and their labour and reticence to come forward goes right through societies. So it’s a growing thing, and the most heartening thing about it to me is that it doesn’t feel like a one-off. It hasn’t gone away. And I don’t think it will. I don’t think we’ll go backwards.”
12. “There is a definite reason Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.”
The third and final question from the audience was about the French reaction to the #MeToo movement, specifically a letter co-signed by 100 prominent French women including Catherine Deneuve who suggested it had ventured too far.
After asking the journalist who posed the question a bit about it, Meryl pondered, before declaring: “I’d better talk about this when I know what I’m talking about.”
Only speaking about an issue when you’ve properly researched and know what you’re talking about - that, folks, is how you last 30 years in showbusiness.
13. ”...And that’s that then.”
Suddenly we were no longer in the presence of Hollywood greatness, after just three questions from the audience. I did hear murmuring from cameramen at the back of the room there was a possibility the audience questions section had been cut short due to there not having been enough asked about the film itself.
I’m yet to receive responses to requests for comment on this though, so I’m taking that with a pinch of salt.
It was back out into the rain for me, without so much as a hint of a cameo in ‘Mamma Mia! 3’. Next time, maybe.
You can read our verdict on ‘The Post’, which is out in UK cinemas on Friday 19 January, here.