By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Steven Spielberg's new movie "The Post" may be set in 1971 but its theme about press freedom is all about today.
Spielberg rushed to get the movie filmed and released within a year. It is about the battle by newspapers to publish the leaked Pentagon Papers detailing the U.S. government's misleading portrayal of the Vietnam War.
"I just felt that there was an urgency to reflect 1971 and 2017 because they were very terrifyingly similar," the Oscar-winning director told a Hollywood audience after a screening of the film on Monday.
"Our intended audience are the people who have spent the last 13, 14 months thirsting and starving for the truth," Spielberg said. "They are out there, and they need some good news."
Spielberg, a prominent Hollywood Democrat, did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump. But "The Post" arrives in movie theaters in December at a time when the media has been under repeated attacks by Trump since his election in November 2016.
Trump has called the press "the enemy of the American people." He uses the term "fake news" to cast doubt on news reports critical of his administration, often without providing evidence to support his case.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in August the Trump administration was considering requiring journalists to reveal their sources amid Trump's push to stop leaks to the press.
Starring Meryl Streep as the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as late editor Ben Bradlee, "The Post" is seen by awards watchers as a front runner for next year's Oscars.
The film dramatizes the decisions by the New York Times and the Washington Post to publish the top-secret Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in the face of injunctions by the Nixon administration in a battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Spielberg said that before making the film he was "really depressed about what was happening in the world and the country."
After getting the script in February, "suddenly my entire outlook on the future brightened overnight," he said.
"The Post" was shot in June and opens in U.S. movie theaters on Dec. 22.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)