"The Day After" with Nicholas Meyer

Season 1, Ep. 28

This week, Shane Harris speaks to filmmaker Nicholas Meyer about the renewed threat of nuclear war amid the conflict in Ukraine. Meyer directed the 1983 film “The Day After,” which remains the most-watched film in television history. The story follows a group of Kansans before, during, and after a full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It shocked hundreds of millions of viewers--including President Ronald Reagan--with its graphic depiction of the ferocious power of nuclear weapons and the poisonous, lingering fallout that made the world effectively uninhabitable. 

Meyer has had a remarkable career as a storyteller. He directed Hollywood blockbusters including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Time After Time. He is an Academy Award nominated screenwriter and an accomplished novelist. He and Shane talked about making The Day After, a film Meyer thought might never make it to air. He felt he had a duty to tell the story as a warning to the world, and hoped it would prevent Reagan from winning reelection. That didn’t happen, but, as Shane and Nick discuss, The Day After did change Reagan’s thinking about the nature of nuclear war, and thus helped alter the course of history. 

The lessons of Meyer’s film resonate loudly again today, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. 

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

Works discussed in this episode include:

Nicholas Meyer’s website: 

Read about The Day After: 

Learn more about Television Event, a documentary about the 1983 film: 

Watch the 1983 ABC News town hall that followed the movie’s premiere:

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