Last week’s world premiere for She Said in New York has afforded Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan an opportunity to reflect on the task they just undertook, to tell the story behind the story of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s 2017 reporting for the New York Times that first exposed the harrowing abuses of Harvey Weinstein. It was a monumental journalistic achievement, and the impact of their reporting, as well as that of the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow published just a few days later, brought about a seismic shift in industry attitudes to abuse, cracking open a door that survivors of Weinstein and the many other abusers exposed since have been able to step through. Kantor, Twohey and Farrow would go on to share the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting.
Directed by Maria Schrader from Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s script, and produced by Plan B’s Dede Garner and Jeremy Kleiner, She Said is adapted from Kantor and Twohey’s book of the same name. In the spirit of All the President’s Men and Spotlight, the film details the investigative reporting behind the story, from the initial whispers about Weinstein’s behavior through to its bombshell publication, as the pair uncovered truths that had lain buried for years while Weinstein wielded his outsized power.
Kazan, Mulligan, Kantor, and Twohey attended the film’s New York Film Festival world premiere Thursday, along with a number of the survivors of Weinstein’s abuses, including actress Ashley Judd, who plays herself in the movie. At the London Film Festival the following day, survivors including Zelda Perkins, Laura Madden, Lauren O’Connor and Rowena Chiu were present for a second emotional premiere. All of them had been included and consulted in the film’s production.
The New York screening was a moving experience for Kazan and Mulligan, as they held hands throughout their journey down the red carpet (Kazan, who is nine months pregnant, was unable to travel to London). Though they were cast in the movie separately, they have known one another for 14 years, having shared a dressing room during the Broadway transfer of Ian Rickson’s production of The Seagull. It’s a bond, they say, that reflects the closeness Kantor and Twohey developed as they supported one another in reporting this story.
So deep is that bond that it has informed their desire not to compete with one another as submissions are made for She Said’s awards run. Though the film is undeniably a two-hander, just as the original reporting had been, Kazan’s Twohey gets a little more screentime than Mulligan’s Kantor, and so Kazan will submit in Lead Actress while Mulligan plumps for Supporting. As they’ll explain, it has been a rare thing for movies to cast more than one lead role for women, and they have too often felt the pressure of competing for roles with their peers in the industry. Indeed, though they’ve searched for material to collaborate on in the years following The Seagull, this is the first time they have had the opportunity to perform together since.
It can be hard to argue with the changes made in the reckoning that followed these stories’ publication, and for Kazan and Mulligan, taking part in She Said felt like nothing short of recording a moment of essential history.
DEADLINE: How was this project presented to each of you?
CAREY MULLIGAN: I think I spoke to Dede Gardner first, right before the Oscars, so maybe in the Spring of 2021. I quickly came on board. What’s so funny is that when I first read it, it came through on one of those links that blow up your phone if you don’t read it within 24 hours. So, I read it, and Marcus [Mumford, Mulligan’s husband] read it. He said, “This is an incredible script, and Zoe should play Jodi.”
Of course, I was like, “Obviously Zoe should play Jodi because she’d be the best Jodi ever, but I’m just delighted to have the job and it’s not like I have any say in it.” It happened completely organically that about two weeks later, Zoe was meeting with Maria and Dede, and it was like we’d won the lottery.
DEADLINE: You didn’t ever suggest her?
MULLIGAN: No, they never asked my opinion, so I didn’t voice it. I always feel like you have to trust the process. Obviously, you always want to be working with your friends, but on this one, it wasn’t really one of those things where my opinion was being solicited. They had a very clear idea of what they wanted already. I trusted Dede and Maria because they both have such brilliant taste.
DEADLINE: Zoe, did you know Carey was involved?
ZOE KAZAN: Yeah, Carey and I have a really good mutual friend, and I’d gone for a long walk on the phone with him. This was right when we were all first getting vaccinated, so I was still having very long phone calls with everyone while walking alone. When he told me Carey was involved in the film, I was so happy for her without really considering who’d play the other role. I was just thrilled for Carey. Then, about two weeks later, my agents called and said, “You have to read this book quickly because you have a meeting.”
The bit about Carey not recommending me, though, I didn’t believe for the longest time.
MULLIGAN: I know [laughs]. Literally, I was like, “Zoe, I swear I had nothing to do with it.” Zoe is one of my favorite actresses on the planet, but it just really wasn’t one of those situations where I felt I could put someone forward. After I heard she had met with them, we spoke, and I remember trying to make it seem as though I didn’t desperately want it to be her. I didn’t want to say, “Right, you have to do it now, because we’re best friends and we’ve got to do this together.” I was trying to play it cool, but also encouraging her to do it.
DEADLINE: How far back does your friendship go?
MULLIGAN: Zoe and I met in a rehearsal room in London 14 years ago when I was playing Nina in The Seagull. When we transferred to Broadway, half of our cast switched out, and Zoe was cast as Masha. We ended up sharing a tiny dressing room together, and that was the start of it.
DEADLINE: Was it love at first sight?
MULLIGAN: Yes! Sorry, I answered that really quickly [laughs].
KAZAN: I remember us being polite around each other at first. We rehearsed in London for two weeks and I remember you being like, “I’m going to see some friends,” and me saying, “Oh, that’s nice.” Just both of us being really polite around each other for those first two weeks. And then, somehow some alchemical thing happened in traveling over the Atlantic Ocean together, and by the time we moved into our dressing room together it was like, “We are sisters!”
MULLIGAN: It was so funny because you and I were the youngest in the cast by a good decade, and we were in the tiniest, smallest dressing room you could possibly imagine. Maybe one person could lie down on the floor, but not two. It was that small and it was right on the top floor of the theater, so there was something about it that felt slightly mad. We felt like we were each other’s armor for the whole thing. We used to warm up together and do everything together for that whole period.
KAZAN: I think there’s a thing that happens when you’re a young actress—because there are so few good parts—where you get pitched against each other all the time. It’s like there’s only ever one girl in a thing, and I don’t know that I’d yet had the experience of being cast with another young actress. I was always going into audition rooms and trying to take that feeling of that out of the room because I just hated feeling pitted against everyone all the time.
So, it was such a joy to be with someone of my own age, who was having the same kinds of experiences that I was having, but different. We were auditioning all the time at that point. We were going in for a lot of the same roles and helping each other with auditions, talking about how they went. It suddenly felt like there was this other way of being that was available to me, where I’m on a team with someone and rooting for them. That felt exciting and new, and more like being in school than being in this cold world where you’re walking into and out of rooms trying to be the one to get a particular role.
At the time, I had the first play that I’d written that was about to be produced and Carey was listening to me having phone calls about casting. I remember her saying, “You are such a boss.” No one had ever said that to me before.
MULLIGAN: I remember that. You were so grown-up. Oh my god. It just blew my mind.
It’s not the first time that actresses have expressed the feeling that they’re often alone in a cast. It feels like something that is slowly changing—this film is an example of it, and perhaps it is also one of the secondary consequences of this injustice being exposed—but it has been that way for many, many years.
MULLIGAN: That’s the thing. I’ve been lucky in my career to end up in a couple of ensembles with women, Suffragette being one of them. But it’s rare that there’s more than one of you, and it’s very isolating in that sense. To that very point, Zoe and I have spent 14 years trying to find something to do together. We’ve been desperate to get back on stage together or do a movie. And we did work together again in the sense that Zoe wrote Wildlife. But to actually be on screen together… This year has been amazing for the number of women ensembles, but historically there has been a real scarcity of multiple women in a single frame.
Theirs is a partnership forged in fire, and it is remarkable.
DEADLINE: The film details how Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey came to know one another. They were colleagues but didn’t know each other very well before they started to work on this story. Zoe, you said that Carey had been your ‘armor’. Did it strike you that Jodi and Megan found something similar in one another?
MULLIGAN: Totally. What Megan and Jodi have been through together I don’t think they will fully process for a long time. Someone asked them a question in New York, about how they looked at what had come from their reporting. But you can’t quantify—even as an outsider—what has happened since that article ran, and the part they played in this huge, historic moment. Theirs is a partnership forged in fire, and it is remarkable.
I think my biggest concern for the film was, how do we do all those bits of the film where they’re not best friends? They start as distant colleagues, really, who don’t know one another.
KAZAN: Yeah. Paul [Dano, Kazan’s husband], before we went into this, said something like, “Are you nervous about acting with Carey? That, maybe because you know each other too well, it’ll be an impediment to you falling into these situations and these characters?” But I think it felt like having a life preserver. There was something liberating about knowing that I can’t—for lack of a better word—bullshit Carey. That, if I’m having an off-take or an off-day, I’d have the confidence to tell her, “I’m going to bail on this take and start again.” Because I’m looking into the eyes of someone who I know will see the truth of that moment.
It was also having a mental partner too, in the same way Jodi and Megan were able to bounce ideas off one another. From our earliest conversations, I felt like Carey’s instincts on this were so spot on that she would often step ahead of me in terms of her understanding of something. I remember a very early conversation we had, with Carey saying something like, “We shouldn’t be imitating these people. We’re looking for something magnetic here.” That was her first instinct, and I told her OK, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from 100%. The more we worked on it, the more I realized that it couldn’t look like someone was acting on screen, because it would be distracting. Rewatching All the President’s Men and Spotlight, I realized that when you’re dealing with something of such delicacy as a real-life investigation, you really just want to be watching people up there. The more acting that goes on, the more distracting it is, and you want to have that feeling that you’re peeking into the real newsroom.
With things like that, just having her brain to bounce ideas off, and having her as a piece of the infrastructure of my backbone—and being able to offer the same to her—felt essential.
They gave us two dressing rooms at the start of this, and we ditched one immediately. It was like we had this two-person cabal, where we were just constantly together.
MULLIGAN: They also put us in a divided, two-way trailer and we said, “Can we just share a one-way instead?” We were constantly in each other’s trailer anyway. It was so amazing to be able to have someone like that by my side. I value Zoe’s brain. She is the cleverest person I know, and the most well-read, the most thoughtful. I have always felt lucky to have a friend that understands issues so well, can talk about art so well, and can talk about a script so well. It felt like having the best, most complete version of a partner you could have.
But when Zoe says she felt she could bail on a take that didn’t feel truthful… I’ve never seen Zoe do a take that isn’t truthful. All the scenes I was the most nervous about in the script, which is a lot of the stuff where Ashley [Judd] phones and I’m in a sort of reactive state but she’s not actually on the other end of the phone, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to play those moments and keep them alive. When Zoe answers a phone call like that in the film, when there’s nobody on the other end of the line as you’re doing it—and it’s eight or nine times—every single time it was exactly the way you see it in the finished film. There was never a take that wasn’t fully inhabited. Zoe won’t feel the same, because she’s enormously self-critical, but that’s how it felt. So, I never felt I had to act because Zoe’s truthometer is just insane. She doesn’t replicate things; they’re just true every time. It makes your job such a walk in the park. Whenever we were together, I felt safe.
DEADLINE: Were Jodi and Megan available to you at all? You’re obviously adapting their material, but did you talk with them at all?
KAZAN: First of all, I just want to say that Rebecca Lenkiewicz did an incredible job on the script. She’d already done so much of the work that I would want to do, investigating the story behind the story. There is so much stuff in the movie that wasn’t in their book, and necessarily so much stuff in the book that couldn’t be in the movie. I’d recommend anyone who’s curious to know more about the ins and outs of their journalism to read the book She Said as well.
But as I was coming home from the New York premiere in the car with my mom and dad, my dad said, “One of the things I loved about the movie was that it reminds you of how much women have to do that is not part of their job.” I thought it was so sweet that my dad, who is in his 70s, had that sort of insight while watching this movie. They were both juggling motherhood, and Jennifer Ehle’s character, Laura Madden, was dealing with breast cancer at the same time as she was coming forward with this story. There’s always another ‘and’. That stuff, I think, really came out of Rebecca’s conversations with Jodi and Megan, and it really affected me as I was reading the script.
Carey and I did have many of our own conversations with Jodi and Megan leading up to production where we were asking our own nosy questions.
MULLIGAN: Yeah, I was still home in the UK, but Jodi and Zoe were in the same city, so they started meeting up in person much sooner. But we did a couple of Zooms, the four of us. Then Megan and I did a couple on our own.
KAZAN: I’d forgotten about our four-person Zooms. The biggest blind date of all time.
MULLIGAN: It was odd for us, and it must have been odd for them to suddenly be confronted with the people who were going to tell their story.
DEADLINE: Do you feel a responsibility in that moment to kind of dispel the tension, because presumably, you’re likely to meet more real people that you’ll play in various projects than those real people will ever meet actors who will play them?
MULLIGAN: I should have been thoughtful enough to think about that. I was just so fucking terrified [laughs].
KAZAN: I was nervous.
MULLIGAN: Really nervous, because they are formidable, incredible people and serious, serious journalists. I definitely had a moment of being like, “Are you happy that it’s me? That it’s us? Did you have someone else in mind?” That question of who plays you in the movie of your life is the ultimate dinner party question, and it’s like, “Am I a disappointment?”
KAZAN: I never have an answer to that question [laughs]. I’m always like, “David Thewlis.”
MULLIGAN: It took a while to get over that feeling, but eventually I had to go, “Fuck it, because I’m doing it now.” The thought definitely crosses your mind for a while, and then the hope that they’ll eventually be happy with all of it.
But after getting through all that stuff and actually landing in New York and spending time with and really talking to Megan, a really valuable part of the process was getting to go scene-by-scene and asking her… “How did you feel when you were literally sitting there with Lanny Davis?” Hearing the ins and outs of it all.
So much of the film is verbatim from the book, which is verbatim from the events as they happened in real life. You’re recreating those moments. Maybe in a slightly different setting in the film, but you could say, “How did it feel?” We just had a tremendous amount of resources to inform what we did in those scenes.
KAZAN: There were some questions I had that I felt surprised Jodi. Stuff like, “What do you bring to an interview? Are you bringing a recorder? Are you bringing a notebook? How do you use those? Are they being used practically or are they a prop? Are you getting dinner on the table when you and Ron are both on deadline? Who’s doing that? Who dealt with your childcare?” All of those little things that I felt were going to flesh out my understanding so that when I’m sitting there in a scene I don’t feel like a total fraud.
[Harvey Weinstein] had a hand in every pot… Many capable journalists had tried, before Jodi and Megan, to bring the story to light, and they couldn’t do it.
DEADLINE: I’ll speak for myself—though I think it’s true of others around this industry too—when I say that the breaking of this story made me ask a lot of questions of myself. What became clear was that people had been trying to nail this story for many years. I had to ask myself, “Where was I? What did I know? Was there anything I overlooked?” I think I’m right in saying neither of you had made a film with Weinstein.
KAZAN: No, but he was one of the producers on The Seagull. We never met him. He never showed up, we never had any interaction with him whatsoever.
But the thing I keep coming back to—and I don’t bring it up to pillory ourselves—is that I think he had a hand in every pot. It’s almost impossible to be person of our age or older and have a career in this industry without having been to a party he was at, or in a room with him in some way. So many of us have had our careers touched by him or received an email from him. I know contemporaries of mine who worked with him.
He was just so powerful, and I think that’s one of the reasons that many capable journalists had tried, before Jodi and Megan, to bring the story to light, and they couldn’t do it. I think the reason we all feel so personally implicated by this, or feel shame about it, is that we felt powerless to take him down. I know that when the story first came out, my first reaction was, “I wonder if it’ll change anything. I wonder if it’ll matter.” Because it wasn’t clear to me that it would. He had been one of the most powerful people in Hollywood for as long as I could remember.
MULLIGAN: I think you’re right. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t have interactions with him over the years. He did hold a sort of supreme power for so long. Multiple people had tried to break this story.
I think what’s so special about seeing the process of the journalism played out is the sort of laborious, boring part of it. It wasn’t ultimately a sensational story that they wrote. It was incredibly detailed and precise, and they printed exactly what they could 100% back up, and that was enough. But they had so much more they couldn’t print because they couldn’t verify every single thing.
I think to have a display of the integrity of the journalism they did, where every single fact was backed up and bulletproof, is very important to us today. It’s important for people to see what goes into running a story like this.
KAZAN: When we were talking to Jodi and Megan about the writing of this article, they both said it was almost like writing a legal document when you’re writing a piece of investigative journalism. It’s different than the other kind of writing that we do. Instead of building a story, they’re building a case.
It was the two of them holding themselves to that standard, and the New York Times holding them to that standard, that was the thing that allowed it to affect change because it was an absolutely airtight piece of journalism and there was no arguing with it.
The fallout was so immediate. My sort of jaded immediate response was instantly put to shame. He was fired from his company by that weekend.
DEADLINE: What do you think were the qualities you saw in Jodi and Megan that made them the ones—alongside Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker—to finally crack the case?
MULLIGAN: A part of why I was so interested in playing Megan was that I couldn’t get into her head. How do you ring someone up in the middle of the day and say, “I know about the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened to you, please could you tell me about it,” and then make that person feel safe enough that you can then put it in a newspaper. It’s extraordinary to be wired that way in the first place; to be able to do that. I couldn’t knock on someone’s door and do that. The idea of it makes me break out in hives.
Certainly, in the time I spent with Megan, it became clear that this job isn’t just a job for her. It’s a vocation. It’s what she’s built to do. The empathy they showed and the trust they built, as well as the genuine care, attention, and thoughtfulness that they put into all of these relationships, is extraordinary. It fired me up to say, “Who are you?” I could never in a million years do what they do. I find them fascinating.
KAZAN: The other thing is they were really trying to take down a system and not a man. Their aim was not small. I mean, they couldn’t have anticipated what would happen after their reporting came out, but it wasn’t about him, and our movie isn’t about him. It’s really about them looking at the whole picture because when a system supports a monster almost anything is possible.
I think it’s that thing of being able to sit down with these women and saying, “We can make a change if you trust me, and here are all the ways I am someone you should trust. Together we can make a change.” The beauty of these women coming forward—both the ones that went on the record and those that didn’t go on the record—is remarkable. It took so much to get them over the finish line of this story, and it took so many people being the bravest version of themselves.
DEADLINE: Many of the survivors of Weinstein’s abuses were present for the film’s world premiere in New York, as well as its European premiere in London. How involved were they in the making of the film?
MULLIGAN: They were very much involved.
KAZAN: We could never have excluded them.
MULLIGAN: From the offset, Dede Gardner did a lot of the work before the script even came to us as actors. Rebecca also spent time with all of the survivors portrayed in the film and they were all able to share their own stories about that time and be a part of the process.
DEADLINE: Of course, Ashley Judd even plays herself in the movie.
MULLIGAN: Exactly. By the time we came aboard, a lot of that collaboration had already been implemented and it was a part of the version of the script we came to.
KAZAN: There are also a couple of other survivors who act in the film. I know it meant a lot to me to have their participation. Both of us felt super cognizant of the weight of the whole story that we were being asked to participate in telling. Then, at the end of the day, you’re going to work and you’re doing your job, one scene at a time.
I did find I had to compartmentalize or put aside some of the weight of what we were doing. Otherwise, it felt too weighty to go to work every day. It’s emotional material. We’re portraying people who are also just going to work and trying to do their jobs every day, and it can’t be a massive emotional experience every day. It’s why it was so important that the film also made room for moments of emotion and release.
DEADLINE: It’s undeniable, the seismic impact this story had on our industry. Its ripple effects were felt far beyond Weinstein, and there can be no argument that things were changed for the better. At the same time, there are moments when I worry that the kind of insidious culture that enabled abusers like Weinstein might attempt to reassert itself in some other form if we’re not careful. I’m disinclined to charge each of you with the responsibility of declaring a verdict on what this all means for the future, but I am curious to ask how you feel about where things stand.
MULLIGAN: It’s interesting that when it comes to films that touch on this subject in any way, I think we as actors can often be asked to become feminist spokespeople on these issues when it’s not like I went to university to study this. I’m a professional pretender, really. With that said, as a woman, yes, I think change has certainly come to our industry. There are concrete changes that I think would be very difficult to slide back on. It has become standard practice, for instance, to employ intimacy coordinators, and on our set, we had somebody we could speak to at all times who was a therapist working for the production.
The first job I did after this story broke was a play. It was a monologue, and on the first day of rehearsals, we all had to read a code of conduct and sign and agree to abide by it. Things like that, which never would have been part of the job before, suddenly on day one you’re being told explicitly, “This is unacceptable.” Changes like that I don’t think will be possible to row back.
Ultimately, as artists, we can feel lucky to be a part of a project like this that tells a story that is a piece of history that matters. It continues the conversation. It helps. It’s not the answer, but it does put these issues into people’s living rooms and keeps people thinking about it. I think that’s all we can really offer, but I do think that’s something.
It’s a complete privilege to feel a part of something that can do that, and it does feel weighty. It felt weighty when we were making it and it feels weighty to be releasing it, because it’s a lot bigger than us, and there are a lot of people to honor in the film. These two journalists told a story that changed the world. And it’s a remarkable thing to see on screen; two women doing their jobs at the highest level, and the jobs they do help to change the world. It was an act of heroism from everyone; all of the witnesses, the survivors, everyone who worked at the Times, and Jodi and Megan. And the film is a testament to their heroism.
KAZAN: That’s a beautiful answer, and I agree. The only other thing I’d want to add is something that Jodi and Megan stressed over and over again—and it’s important to remember—which is that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that they would get this story.
Harvey Weinstein’s name means something now that is so completely different from what it meant before this reporting, and the other reporting around this story, came out. We can forget that he seemed like this monolithic creature—so unbelievably powerful—that all this whispering about his behavior didn’t matter. The people Megan and Jodi were reaching out to and asking to step forward were people that hadn’t had a lot of power in their lives, and they had something happen to them that made them feel even more powerless and alone.
For me, part of what’s inspiring about the film, and about Jodi and Megan’s work, is that they were really looking at people without a lot of power and saying, “I’m going to put the institution of the New York Times behind you. I’m going to build something around you that will protect you as your voice is being heard. We will make it matter.”
Their belief that power structures can be changed, I think, was the belief that powered their investigation. We’re not there yet. I don’t know what “there” is. I don’t know what a different version of the world looks like that is the most hopeful version of the world. But I think there’s a path to a different world that this movie shows one step toward. One little way to start chipping away at that monolithic block.