In summer 1977, the televised David Frost / Richard Nixon
interviews attracted the largest audience for a news program in
the history of American TV. More than 45 million viewers, hungry
for a glimpse into the mind of their former commander in chief,
and anxious for him to acknowledge the investigations that led to
his resignation, sat transfixed as Frost interviewed Nixon in a
riveting verbal sparring over the course of four evenings.
Two men with everything to prove knew only one could come out a winner. Their legendary confrontation would revolutionize the art of the confessional interview, change the face of politics and capture an admission from the former president that startled people all over the world.
Now, Academy Award® winning director RON HOWARD (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Apollo 13) brings to the screen playwright and screenwriter PETER MORGAN’s (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland) electrifying dramatization of the battle between Richard Nixon (FRANK LANGELLA, Good Night, and Good Luck.), the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost (MICHAEL SHEEN, The Queen), a jet-setting newsman with the interview of a lifetime, in the untold story of the historic encounter that changed both, Frost and Nixon.
Re-creating not only the on-air interviews that captivated the nation, but weeks of around the world, behind the scenes maneuvering and negotiations between the men and their opposing camps, the film explores the long untold story that led to the ultimate face off in the court of public opinion.
Of his excitement for the material, Ron Howard explains, ‘While these interviews were watched by millions of people all over the world, the real drama of this event was a dynamic between the two men that very few people understood. It was a battle of wits in which each man was fighting for his professional life and only one could walk away the winner. It came down to the evasive skills of Nixon, versus Frost’s ability to get people to talk to him.’
Mr. Howard continues, ‘The force of these people’s convictions made me think, you know, maybe there is a film in it.’ The director and producers were quite pleased with the results. ‘What Peter Morgan has given us, first in his play and now in his screenplay,’ (that the film is based on) commends Howard, ‘is so rich and dimensional. It’s funny, it’s smart, but ultimately it’s suspenseful and very intense.’
There was no doubt from the filmmakers that Frank Langella and Michael Sheen should remain Richard Nixon and David Frost for the filmed version of Frost / Nixon.‘ It was a given that Michael and Frank would inhabit the roles,’ offers director Howard. ‘It’s impossible to imagine two other actors bringing the kind of research, preparation or chemistry that the two of them offer. For almost two years, they have lived as Frost and Nixon.’
Playing a key role on Nixon’s team is KEVIN BACON (The Woodsman, Mystic River) as his chief of staff, Colonel Jack Brennan, the fierce guardian who guides Nixon through the strategy of the interviews. ‘Nixon was fascinated with the Marine Corps and, when he was in the White House, he wanted a Marine around him,’ says Bacon of his character. ‘When Nixon resigned and retired to San Clemente, he asked Jack to come be his Chief of Staff. So Brennan became his right-hand man.’
For the actor, this film would represent another collaboration with director Howard. ‘This is my second Ron Howard film, and it’s been a lot of years since we did Apollo 13. It was a great experience for all of us, and I was really enthusiastic to come back and work with him again.’ Bacon laughs, ‘He joins a very short list of directors who’ve actually hired me twice.’
Frost/Nixon is directed by Ron Howard. © 2008 Universal Studios.
© 2009, The Hollywood Sentinel ®