Variety‘s Brent Lang is reporting that 20th Century Fox will release Steven Spielberg‘s “untitled Pentagon Papers drama” platform-style on 12.22.17 with a nationwide expansion on 1.12.18 — obviously a declaration that Fox expects it to be a Best Picture contender. Lang is referring to The Post, which is what Deadline‘s Michael Fleming called the project in a 3.10 report.

Soon after I read a recent draft of Liz Hannah‘s script and posted an assessment. I called it engaging and well-written but more of a “middle-aged woman’s self-empowerment saga” than any kind of Spotlight or All The President’s Men-type deal.

Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, exec editor Ben Bradlee in the early ’70s.

Lang seems to be reporting that Spielberg, producer Amy Pascal and 20th Century Fox don’t like the title of Hannah’s script and are looking to invent something catchier. That or some kind of copyright issue has come into play.

Lang also reports that the film is “rumored” to star Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the two lead roles — i.e., the late Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham and its scrappy editor during the ’70s heyday, the late Ben Bradlee. Fleming wasn’t ambivalent about Streep and Hanks’ participation — he said they were flat-out on the team and “clearing their schedules” in order to start production in late May.

Lang notes that the “Spielberg Pentagon Papers project” will now join other presumed 2017 Best Picture headliners like Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, Michael Gracey and Hugh Jackman‘s The Greatest Showman and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s The Current War (i.e., Thomas Edison vs. George Westinghouse over plans to generate electricity for the public)

For whatever reason Lang decided not to include Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Detroit and Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name in his prognosis.

From my 3.17.17 piece: “The Post is about how Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham (Streep), who initially saw herself as less than ideally suited to the task and was little more than a blandly embedded figure in Washington social circles, gradually grew some courage and a sense of journalistic purpose during the Pentagon Papers episode, which transpired over a 17-day period in June 1971.

“Hannah’s script is about a testy, at times caustic relationship between Graham and exec editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) when the N.Y. Times published Neil Sheehan report about Daniel Ellsberg‘s Pentagon Papers documents (which proved that the stated motives and justifications for the Vietnam War were dishonest and deceptive) and the Post debated whether to publish a trove of similar docs, also from Ellsberg, and stand up to the Nixon administration’s legal challenges and threats.”