Writer Peter Morgan's legendary battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to make, in the story of the historic encounter that changed both their lives. For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans (as well as a $600,000 fee). Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Written by
Max Elliott Slade: Man standing by the camera at around one hour and five minutes. First appearance in a film in over twelve years, though uncredited as the 'Smith crew'. See more »
Around the 1973/4 segment of the film, David Frost is filming in Australia. He watches the resignation speech in colour. Australia did not go to colour TV until 1975. See more »
These men, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, I knew their families, I knew them since they were just kids. But you know, politically the pressure on me to let them go, that became overwhelming. So, I did it. I cut off one arm then I cut off the other and I'm not a good butcher. And I have always mantained what they were doing, what we were all doing was not criminal. Look, when you're in office you gotta do a lot of things sometimes that are not always in the strictest sense of the law, legal, but you do ...
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Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are credited simultaneously before the title. Sheen's name is on a lower level, but further to the left; while Langella's is higher up, but pushed to the right. Therefore, depending on whether you read the card top-to-bottom or left-to-right, either actor can be seen as being credited first. See more »
The Frost/Nixon interviews are fascinating. Not every second of them, especially not when Nixon rambles on and on, avoiding questions by offering anecdotes in place of answers. Yet, they are an invaluable historical document, which allow us the rare privilege of seeing a major politician as a human being and nothing else. As interesting as the interviews themselves is the lead-up to them, the circumstances surrounding them, and the characters involved, particularly Frost and Nixon, of course. One could say that you only need to watch the actual footage, but there's ample room for a great dramatization, but it needed an even-handed approach, and certainly needed no political preaching.
I have a personal dislike for Ron Howard as a director, a result of my sensibilities mainly, I suspect. Howard strikes me as a particularly heavy-handed, didactic director who has wasted many great concepts on mediocre films (out of 18 films I've seen by him, I only genuinely liked "Apollo 13". I was expecting the worst with "Frost/Nixon", but instead was met with one of the most entertaining films in a while, and a remarkably well-acted, even-handed, quality character study. I suppose I should have been prepared for a quality screenplay given the success of this Peter Morgan play in New York and London, but I was hardly expecting something this good. It's glib, funny, well-paced, expertly-structured, clever, observant, and intelligent. It creates a fascinating Nixon, played brilliantly by the great Frank Langella, though this is not quite up there with the likes of Oliver Stone's sadly under-appreciated "Nixon" or Robert Altman's endlessly fascinating "Secret Honor". The film is almost surprisingly well-directed, although there is a bit of the old TV trick of shaking the camera a bit, panning too often, to give the illusion of motion and energy when there's really just people in a room talking. The conversation's interesting enough, there's no need for that. Oh well, I suppose I am nitpicking.
As far as Nixon movies go this is lightweight entertainment with plenty of comic moments largely leading up to two or three scenes of real human vulnerability. Aside from these scenes (which are truly, truly excellent), Peter Morgan conceives the meeting as something of a chess match with the unpredictability of a boxing match. To use J. Hoberman's words 'a prize fight between two comeback-hungry veterans, only one of whom could win'. On paper this could have been very heavy on amateur psychoanalysis and low on entertainment value but Morgan and I suppose Howard as well are clever enough to have some fun with the idea. This is not a criticism at all, the film has moments of surprisingly real depth and intellectualism, but overall the nature of the script works in its favor, makes those scenes more interesting, more ultimately rewarding.
"Frost/Nixon" is an entertaining, exciting film, around as populist as I expected but in a very different way. This is the sort of writing we don't see enough of, particularly not in today's films. It's vaguely reminiscent of a particularly good BBC television drama. The cast is certainly good enough for that. Langella and Michael Sheen are outstanding, both manage to accurately portray the real-life men they are portraying while still adding some characterization and mannerisms of their own. Langella's Tony-award winning performance might be up for Oscar consideration soon, but Sheen's Frost almost upstages him at times. No heavy-handedness, no political 'messages', just a fun, clever script and a great cast in a well-made film.
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