Sounds like a good match: a historical drama from the author ofThe Queen
, but with an American subject in the generational wheelhouse of director Ron Howard. And so Peter Morgan's Tony-winning play morphs into a Hollywood movie under the wing of theApollo 13
guy. Morgan's subject is a curious moment of post-Watergate shakeout: British TV host David Frost's long-form interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon, conducted in 1977. It was a big ratings success at the time, justifying the somewhat controversial decision to cut an enormous check for Nixon's services. The movie adds a mockumentary note to the otherwise straightforward style, having direct-to-camera addresses from various aides to Frost and Nixon (played by the likes of Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Bacon); these basically tell us things we already glean from the rest of the movie, adding unnecessary melodrama and upping the stakes. In this curious scheme, the success of Frost's career, which could bellyflop if he doesn't get something worthwhile out of the cagey, long-winded Nixon, is given somewhat more weight than the actual revelations of the interviews. Even with these questionable storytelling decisions, there's still the spectacle of two actors going at it hammer and tongs, and on that level the movie offers some heat. Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair not only inThe Queen
but also in another Morgan-scripted project,The Deal
, is adept at catching David Frost's blow-dried charm, as well as the determination beneath it. Frank Langella's physical performance as Nixon is superb, and he certainly can be a commanding actor, though veteran Nixon-watchers might find that he misses a certain depth of self-pity in the man. Both actors were retained from the original stage production, a rare thing in Hollywood--and probably Howard's best decision of the project. --Robert Horton Frost/Nixon
A 2008 historical drama film based upon the play of the same name by Peter Morgan, writer of The Queen
, which dramatises the 1977 televised Frost/Nixon interviews
. The film version is directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment and Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films for Universal Pictures
. The film reunites its original two stars from the West End and Broadway productions of the play, Michael Sheen as British television broadcaster David Frost and Frank Langella as former US President Richard Nixon. Filming began on August 27, 2007.
- Frank Langella as Richard Nixon
- Michael Sheen as David Frost
- Patty McCormack as Pat Nixon
- Kevin Bacon as Jack Brennan
- Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick
- Sam Rockwell as James Reston Jr.
- Matthew Macfadyen as John Birt
- Rebecca Hall as Caroline Cushing
- Toby Jones as Swifty Lazar
- Andy Milder as Frank Gannon
- Gene Boyer as himself
Other real-life figures and personalities depicted in the film include Diane Sawyer, Tricia Nixon Cox, Michael York, Hugh Hefner, Raymond Price and Neil Diamond. To prepare for his role as Richard Nixon, Frank Langella visited the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, and interviewed many people who had known the former president.