I almost lost it during this film because just as Frost was landing seriously body blows to Nixon in the last day of interviews, an old lady sitting 2 seats away started snoring loud and then louder for about half a minute, and I had to keep my hand over my mouth, else I would have busted out a big *snort* and *chortle*. The audience nearby were also snickering from the lady's less-than-impeccable timing.
I suppose a certain amount of charisma is required to make it as far in life as Nixon did, but to the extent that one can judge this sort of stuff thru 30+ year old TV clips, the real Nixon never striked me exuding anything close to the formidable presence of Langella's portrayal.
It could be the effect of a tarnished legacy. I wasn't yet born when he was in office, and like many, only know him as a disgraced president.
I suspect that's it. I couldn't stand him, but there was something about him that fascinated: the intensity, the drive, the overpowering determination to win. It's hard to believe now, but he was supposed to be all washed up when he lost the election to JFK in 1960. His victory eight years later is one of those great American "second act" stories, with Watergate the tragic third act. (And I mean "tragic" in the classical sense of being brought down by your own failings.)
Plus, he had a formidable intellect. He probably knew as much about foreign affairs as anyone in his own government, including Henry Kissinger. One must give the devil his due.
One of the many great things about Langella's portrayal is how he captures Nixon's unique mixture of awkwardness and charm, which contrasts so beautifully with Frost's easygoing charm. The result is that, when the killer instinct finally emerges from Frost, it's a genuine surprise, even though it's been there all along.
From a CNN article (lost the link, too lazy): I thought the phrase was a fun bit of creative license -- can't believe he actually said that! But the context appears to be different: the script shift what seems the product of desperate awkwardness into a devishly destabilising hit job.
The more I learn about Nixon the person and the more I am intrigued. Is Oliver's Stone's treatment worth seeing?
I only saw the theatrical release, and none of the many director's cuts on video. I remember it being a good film, but next to it, Frost/Nixon demonstrates the virtue of dramatic compression. If a writer finds exactly the right vantage point from which to illuminate a character, it can be done more economically, and the result is more effective.
There must be a reason why Stone kept recutting Nixon, more than any of his other films. I suspect he felt he never quite captured the man. Morgan, Langella and Howard got him the first time.
I know how you feel. When I first heard about the play, my reaction was, "Huh?" But the advance word from London was good, and I'm enough of a theater junkie (and big-time Frank Langella fan) to give it a try. I ended up seeing an early preview on Broadway, and when you looked around at the audience, you could tell that this was a group of people who had come out of interest in the subject matter -- and who proceeded to sit spellbound for the next two hours.
Peter Morgan is a wonderful writer. He has a real talent for finding unexpected drama in places where you thought you knew the whole story.