Research at the RBML | Ann Hornaday on All the Presidents’s Men

Ann Hornaday, movie critic at The Washington Post, recently visited the RBML as part of her research for her project entitled, “Follow the Money: The Making of ‘All the President’s Men.'” Below she discusses discovering multiple drafts of William Goldman’s screenplay, and how Woodward and Bernstein were transformed into big screen characters by Alan Pakula and Robert Redford.


What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library? 

The papers of screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote the Oscar-winning script for the movie I’m researching.

How long have you been using RBML materials (for this and/or previous research)?

I first visited RBML in 2022, while researching a Washington Post Magazine story about how the screenplay for ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN morphed over time; I returned this spring for a week and plan to come back at least once more.

What have you found? Did you come here knowing this material was here?

I knew that the collection held various drafts of the script, as well as correspondence relating to ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, but I discovered a wealth of research that director Alan J. Pakula and producer/star Robert Redford did in fleshing out the characters of real-life reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. This is mostly in the form of typewritten notes taken during story conferences and transcribed from phone conversations.

What have you found that’s surprised or perplexed you?

Over the years, a narrative has taken hold that Goldman wrote one or two initial drafts of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, and that Redford and Pakula did most if not all of the subsequent rewrites. I’m discovering that Goldman was involved pretty much right up to when filming started in the spring of 1975. Also, I’ve been surprised to learn how determined the filmmakers were to give Woodward some kind of love interest in the movie (a plan that never worked out).

What advice do you have for other researchers or students interested in using RBML’s special collections?

Avail yourself of the expertise of the staff! If I could do everything over again, I would have consulted with one of the fabulous curators to make sure that I was requesting the right files, and also using my time as efficiently as possible. And pack your own lunch. The lockers have more than enough space.