Perhaps fate played a hand in helping Tracey Everett, a Weehawken and Hoboken-based dance instructor with Broadway experience, get a bit part as a dancer in the new Steven Spielberg film, “The Post.”
The film, which opened last month, was an American historical drama and political thriller about journalism. It was directed and produced by Spielberg from a screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. The film stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, and others.
Although seemingly a retelling of the classic investigative film “All the President’s Men” and the investigation of Watergate in the 1970s, “The Post” apparently has a broader scope, depicting journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times who published the Pentagon Papers back then, a trove of leaked documents showing the inside secrets of three administrations related to the Vietnam War.
Critics, both positive and negative, referred to the film’s parallels between President Richard Nixon and President Donald Trump.
One film critic called “The Post” “an unlikely pairing” between Washington Post publisher Kathleen Graham (played by Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (played by Hanks).
Filming started in May
Filming in New York City started in May 2017, and is scheduled for a limited release just before Christmas.
The film has already received advance rave reviews for the performances by Streep, Hanks, and Odenkirk, and has been nominated as best film of 2017 in Golden Globe Awards, with other nominations for Streep and Hanks as well as best screenplay and best original score.
For Everett — a professional ballroom dancer who lives in Hoboken and has also taught in Jersey City and Weehawken — this was a perfect fit, since he is a passionate critic of Trump. He said he was approached for the part while protesting in New York City.
“I dance publically on the street quite often against Trump,” he said.
He has danced in protest in New York near Trump Tower as well as other places in New York as well as Washington D.C.
“I do big movements full of joy of life and at the same time rage against Trump in very clear voluntary movements easy to understand,” said Everett, who has been teaching dance at the Ballroom Dance Studio of Hoboken and Jersey City since the 1960s.
During one of his protest dances in front of Trump Tower earlier this year, he was approached by a casting agent who wanted to know if he wanted to be in movies.
“Many of the Streep and Hanks scenes were inside the ballroom as we danced around them.” – Tracy Everett
On the set with Spielberg, Streep and Hanks
Everett has a host of Broadway credits, including performance in original Broadway productions such as “Bye Bye Birdie,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “West Side Story” and others. He even previously met Spielberg on the set of another film. Everett was once flown into Hollywood to choreograph a show for Judy Garland, and later served as choreographer for Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli in New York. Everett has also appeared on the Conan O’Brian Show.
As it turned out, the role he was to play in “The Post” is of a ballroom dancer and was chosen by Spielberg to dance behind Streep in a ballroom scene filmed at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
“They rented the first few floors of the Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street for the week,” Everett said. “We used all of it.”
The basement and other rooms were used for costume fitting.
While hundreds of people were in the scene, only a handful were actually dancers.
“Many of the Streep and Hanks scenes were inside the ballroom as we danced around them,” Everett said. “The shoot took four days and two of them were 15-hour days. We ended around Thanksgiving.”
Spielberg has previously filmed movies locally, including “War of the Worlds,” which was partly filmed in Bayonne in late 2004.
Extras on his films claim filming with Spielberg was a blast, and Everett agreed.
“It was the greatest time I could have had,” he said, “because first of all, I was dancing all the time, and second, everybody was having fun – every member of the crew and all the performers.”
People joked a lot, including Spielberg, and there was a lot of respect.
“It was like a party,” Everett said. “And I was chosen by his (Spielberg’s) assistant to be set in place at the start up for the camera’s first shots of dancing with the camera zooming in on me from above.”
While Everett said did not have direct interaction with Streep or Hanks, he did get a chance to talk to Spielberg.
“He told me this was an original screenplay and he was very excited about it,” Everett said.
As for the two major stars, Everett mostly watched them perform.
“I just watched them do a hundred takes all day and saw their manner of doing their work. I love professionalism” he said.
The scene he danced in was the famous Black & White Ball in 1966 at The Plaza Hotel hosted by Truman Capote, with the Post’s Katherine Graham as guest of honor, and to which many world famous celebrities were invited.
Everett said he also met Gloria Steinem on the set and she talked about the current administration.
“She was there helping a young actress to portray her at the event,” Everett said. “It is evident and obvious that the purpose of the movie’s being madly rushed to its opening is to back the current staff of The Washington Post’s work.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.