Co-starring Michael Sheen (also reprising his stage role), as Brit celeb talk show host David Frost, Frost/Nixon charts the sparring encounter between a disgraced president, with a legacy to save, and an fallen journalist, with a name to remake.
He watched the David Frost interviews with Nixon.
“One of the major things that happened when I watched the tapes was realizing the extraordinariness of his mind, the sharpness of it, the cleverness of it, the ability to retain facts. He was very well known for memorizing a great deal of material and very quickly, doing a great deal of research and then being able to communicate it. But I also tried to find the chinks in the armor, because that’s what makes a person human and interesting.”
Nixon not a monster?!
“You know, he was the poster boy for the worst in American politics in the 20th century. But in fact, the greatest crime is that he got caught [ironic laugh]. There are a lot of incredibly dirty dealings that have gone on that we’ll never know about or hear about. The unfortunate thing about Nixon is that his persona was so easy to imitate, so easy to vilify, he was the sort of man that was easy to think of as a monster. Nobody is really … I think the man was just a complicated.”
Obsessing over the disgraced Prez.
“It’s very difficult to play someone like Nixon without becoming obsessed. I really wanted to know how far I could get with trying to treat him in an original way, as well as presenting him in what every way we’ve always expected him to be -- whether it be a drunk or a crook or an evil man out to bad. He certainly had a cauldron full of faults … How can I show a dimensional man who has tremendous inner torment along with great strengths and a great aptitude for vindictiveness.”
Talking about obsessions ...
“Once it’s a story it’s a story 24 hours a day. I think it’s fascinating that they feel people will stayed glued to their set to watch the same person walk through the same door, four times, in five minutes. I don’t think that was true 30, 40 years ago. There’s so much air time now to be filmed and so many outlets and everyone is fighting for viewership. The one of a kind Frost/Nixon interviews can’t happen today … it’s just a very different world.”
They actually filmed in Nixon’s seaside retreat!
“We were actually in the house he lived in. I sat next to his pool and walked where he walked and drove down through the same gates he did. All of it, all of it. To be in an actual room, in a little house, doing those interviews was enormous compared to being on a stage set where you are limited to a box. All of it was really extremely helpful.”
Politicians all look like – except one.
“I think maybe because I get olderm but politicians become more and more similar in their appearance -- they all have a lot of hair, they’re all in much better shape, they’re all good looking in a different sort of way. When I was growing up, they had the wonderful idiosyncratic look of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter even and Franklin Roosevelt … they were all very individual … Well, we can’t say that of our wonderful new president [Barack Obama].”
A current news story you’ve found yourself following:
“I have been fascinated and encouraged by watching Mr. Obama’s climb. I found from that the first moment I heard his name and saw him, I’ve been fascinated to watch this particular story unfold and has now ended up in the presidency and I will be interested to watch and hope for the best with his presidency.”