David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) is a long-time, well respected British journalist and interviewer with many successful current affairs and television talk-show appearances to his name. In 1977, three years after the “Watergate Affair”, where US President Richard Nixon was disgraced, Frost conducted an intense interview with Nixon (by Frank Langella). This movie is the dramatisation of that interview process.
In a nutshell, up to that point David Frost was really only perceived as an entertainment “journalist” who lacked serious kudos and he desperately wanted to prove he had more. Even his support team doubted that he would be up to this task. Frost decided that the way to do it was to get Nixon to admit to his guilt in the Watergate scandal. Nixon selected him to conduct the very lucrative ($600,000) interview because he needed the money, but as Frost was a relative “lightweight” he did not anticipate any risk to his reputation and fully expected to be able to navigate any curly questions that might come his way during the interview. Actually, the interview could accurately be described as a battle of strategy and wits. Alongside both key men, their advisors (by Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell) continue to look for hitches, flaws and strategies to successfully conclude the interveiw without either losing face. As the interview progresses (over several days) the tension builds towards the ultimate unexpected admission by a blind-sided Nixon.
Whilst I am aware of the key players and of the details of the Watergate scandal, I don’t have a memory of this sequence of events. The actual interviews were famously broadcast on television in 1977 and later they were developed into a stageplay by Peter Morgan, then into this marvellous screenplay. Performances in this are very good indeed, Michael Sheen is authentic and totally inhabits David Frost, but Frank Langella really deserves the highest accolades for his excellent portrayal of Richard Nixon.
It’s a good, compelling and fascinating movie.
Made 2008: Directed by Ron Howard.