Movie Sneaks What ‘Spotlight’ respects about the church-scandal-breaking journalists and the actors who play them

Los Angeles Times

[with video]

Glenn Whipp

The closing credits scroll had ended, the lights were up at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, and “Spotlight” co-writer and director Tom McCarthy was introducing the actors — Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, among them — who brought to life the movie’s story of the Boston Globe’s painstaking investigation into a pedophilia scandal within the Catholic Church. The audience cheered and then rose to its feet when McCarthy brought the real-life journalists on stage, leading to a moment that the filmmaker described later as gratifying but a bit awkward.

“They didn’t know what to do,” McCarthy said of the reporters so used to working behind the scenes. “If they could have pressed a button and dropped through a trap door on stage, they would have done it.”

McCarthy and “Spotlight” co-writer Josh Singer spent 2 1/2 years crafting a film that details the Globe’s reporting, beginning in 2001, that proved Boston archdiocese leaders knew there was widespread sexual abuse among its priests but did little or nothing about it. The finished movie, which opens in limited release Nov. 6, plays as a detective story that also explores the question of why people look the other way when “good” institutions do terrible things.

McCarthy and Singer each grew up avid sports fans and, as they wrote “Spotlight,” they started to think about how the reporting team mirrored championship sports squads. Every member had a specific role, understood their function and performed it at a peak level.

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