Advertisement

The True Story Behind the New Movie About Watergate and Deep Throat

The True Story Behind the New Movie About Watergate and Deep Throat
From TIME - October 12, 2017

A new cinematic depiction of Mark Felt, the former associate director of the FBI better known as the informant Deep Throat, is ringing true with at least one person closely familiar with the story.

The film, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, details how Felt leaked information about the Watergate scandal that ultimately led President Nixon to resign. And Felt's daughter, Joan Felt, said the movie helped her understand him in a new light. "I was seeing my Dad in a new way and for the first time, really emotionally, feeling and appreciating the pressure that he was under, the strength that he had to call upon in order to handle such a difficult situation," she told TIME, recalling how she grew emotional last year watching actor Liam Neeson film a scene as her father, who died in 2008.

Now 73, she said she learned the truth about her father's role in the Watergate investigation in increments, gathering hints in the early 2000s when he turned away almost every journalist but accepted a visit from Bob Woodward or when he accidentally slipped into the first person while discussing Deep Throat after watching All the President's Men.

But, beyond Neeson's characterization of Felt, how does the rest of the movie compare to the real history? Here's where it sticks to reality and where it took some liberties:

Fact: Mark Felt leaked to reporters other than the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Woodward is briefly featured in the film, which includes a version of the parking-garage meeting made famous by All the President's Men. But the film shows Felt meeting more often with TIME reporter Sandy Smith, who also covered the Watergate investigationand whose reporting also contributed to the story. (For example, when a Senator asked acting attorney general Patrick Gray about allegations the FBI had wiretapped journalists, he cited a report in the March 5, 1973 issue of TIME.)

Mark Felt writer and director Peter Landesman said he made the decision not to focus on the better known reporting work of Woodward and Bernstein so that he could step back from the prevailing Watergate narrative. "Watergate is not the story of two reporters," he told TIME. "Watergate is the story of the system, and when the system broke down, one person had to create a new mechanism."

Fact: Mark Felt and his wife traveled to a commune to find their daughter.

The Watergate investigation was not the only drama going on in Felt's life during the period the film covers. Around the same time, Felt's daughter became involved in a counterculture movement that stood in opposition to the FBI. Though she was not an activist for a group actively monitored by the agency, such as the Weather Underground, Joan Felt confirms that she was a "flower child" and really did move to a commune, where her parents tracked her down after three years of being out of touch.

"That car coming down the road from up above, down the driveway, coming into relief into our world was such a shocking moment," she said, recalling the day her parents arrived while she sat in a field holding her infant son. "Its a moment Ill never forget."

Fiction: ...But the family reunion did not play out exactly the way it's shown on screen

Advertisement

Continue reading at TIME »