Frost/Nixon (2008)

R | 122 mins | Drama | 5 December 2008

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Ron Howard

Writer:

Peter Morgan

Production Designer:

Michael Corenblith

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , Imagine Entertainment , Working Title Films
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HISTORY

During the opening credits, as the logos of the production and distribution companies appear on the screen, voice-over comments of President Richard M. Nixon and his colleagues are heard, excerpted from the infamous Watergate secret tapes. The opening credits then present a montage of actual historical news footage featuring prominent television news reporters of the era, shown in chronological order and documenting events related to Nixon’s resignation. The news footage commences with an 18 Jun 1972 news report of the arrest of an employee of Nixon’s re-election committee for wiring surveillance devices in the Watergate Hotel offices of the Democratic National Committee. Also featured in the montage are excerpts from the Watergate hearings, among them, that of ex-White House council John Dean testifying that Nixon knew about the cover-up. News stories report Nixon’s acceptance of the resignations of his closest staff members, Charles Colson, H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman and the Supreme Court’s order that Nixon turn over secret tapes.
       As the crisis builds and Nixon’s impeachment seems imminent, the action of the film begins as the character “Nixon” (Frank Langella) is shown preparing for the historic televised resignation speech. Interspersed throughout the film are dramatized interviews of supporting characters, speaking directly to the audience at an unspecified time in the future. They begin by stating where they were when at the time of Nixon’s 1974 resignation and then comment on events related to the televised interviews between Nixon and “David Frost” (Michael Sheen) that aired in the spring of 1977 (and have since been released on DVD). In his opening dialogue, “James Reston, Jr.” (Sam Rockwell), recalls being angry that Nixon’s resignation contained ... More Less

During the opening credits, as the logos of the production and distribution companies appear on the screen, voice-over comments of President Richard M. Nixon and his colleagues are heard, excerpted from the infamous Watergate secret tapes. The opening credits then present a montage of actual historical news footage featuring prominent television news reporters of the era, shown in chronological order and documenting events related to Nixon’s resignation. The news footage commences with an 18 Jun 1972 news report of the arrest of an employee of Nixon’s re-election committee for wiring surveillance devices in the Watergate Hotel offices of the Democratic National Committee. Also featured in the montage are excerpts from the Watergate hearings, among them, that of ex-White House council John Dean testifying that Nixon knew about the cover-up. News stories report Nixon’s acceptance of the resignations of his closest staff members, Charles Colson, H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman and the Supreme Court’s order that Nixon turn over secret tapes.
       As the crisis builds and Nixon’s impeachment seems imminent, the action of the film begins as the character “Nixon” (Frank Langella) is shown preparing for the historic televised resignation speech. Interspersed throughout the film are dramatized interviews of supporting characters, speaking directly to the audience at an unspecified time in the future. They begin by stating where they were when at the time of Nixon’s 1974 resignation and then comment on events related to the televised interviews between Nixon and “David Frost” (Michael Sheen) that aired in the spring of 1977 (and have since been released on DVD). In his opening dialogue, “James Reston, Jr.” (Sam Rockwell), recalls being angry that Nixon’s resignation contained no apology or admission of guilt. “Bob Zelnick” (Oliver Platt) comments that in 1972 he could not have guessed that he would some day be part of the team that would try to elicit an apology, a team lead by “an unlikely white knight” with “no political conviction” but who had the advantage of understanding the way television works. During these sequences, three different font styles are used to differentiate between the film’s opening cast and crew credits, the identification of actual persons in the historic footage and the introduction of characters in the film. A re-enactment of news footage shows Langella as Nixon leaving the White House and boarding the helicopter.
       Near the end of the film, after the sequence depicting the final taping of Nixon and Frost, Reston explains that Frost succeeded where investigative journalists, state prosecutors, judiciary committees and political enemies had failed. He explains that television “diminishes great complex ideas” and that careers can be reduced to a “single snapshot,” in what he calls “the reductive power of the close-up.” The film ends after a final comment by Reston, who claims that Nixon’s legacy is that his name continues to be associated with corruption and that political wrongdoings are now given the suffix “gate.” The last shot of the film shows Langella, as Nixon, looking sadly toward the ocean. A written statement before the end credits notes that Frost continues to work as a television presenter and news interviewer, hosts an annual summer party that is a major social event in Britain and that the Nixon interviews remain his most successful program to date. A second statement explains that Nixon published his memoirs in 1978 and, although he traveled as a private citizen to Russia and China, he never escaped controversy and remained outside of politics until his death in 1994. The end credits contain acknowledgements to the companies that provided contemporaneous items, stock photos and footage. Acknowledgements also thank the real life counterparts of the characters in the film, as well as to other individuals and companies who assisted in the making of the film, and contains a “special thanks” to James Reston, Jr.
       Richard Nixon (1913—1994) had served as United States vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. After he lost his 1960 presidential bid to John F. Kennedy, many historians partially blamed the fact that he was not as photogenic as his opponent in the new medium of television, which was airing presidential debates for the first time. This issue is mentioned by Nixon in the film. After also losing the 1962 California gubernatorial race, Nixon hired an advertising agency to package him when he ran against Hubert Humphrey in 1968 for president the second time, a process that is described in Joe McGinnis’ 1968 book, The Selling of the President . In 1972, Nixon won a second term; however, prompted by the Jun 1972 arrest of perpetrators in the break-in of the Democratic National Convention office (shown at the beginning of Frost/Nixon ), investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post helped to uncover illegal actions by Nixon and his colleagues that resulted in the Watergate scandal. The investigation is described in Bernstein and Woodward’s 1974 book, All the President’s Men , which, in 1976, was adapted as a film bearing the same name, directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. As depicted at the beginning of Frost/Nixon , Nixon resigned on 9 Aug 1974. Less than a month later, President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office. Though Ford explained that he felt it was the best way for the country to move on, enough people felt it was further evidence of corruption that the pardon may have cost Ford the 1976 election.
       For three years, Nixon lived outside the pale of political activity without making further public comments, but, as shown in the film, was working on his memoirs. As noted in the 5 Aug 2007 LAT article, many reporters sought to interview him. Although networks had policies prohibiting what is now called “checkbook journalism,” Haldeman, who had been Nixon’s chief of staff, had been paid $100,000 in 1975 to appear on the CBS television news show, 60 Minutes , according to the 5 Aug 2007 LAT article. (Some sources state that he was paid $50,000.) Burdened with legal fees, Nixon wanted to be paid for an exclusive interview and, according to the same article, NBC offered Nixon $300,000 (a 23 May 1977 People article stated that it was $400,000) to break his silence. As depicted in the film, Frost (1939--) outbid them with an offer of $600,00 plus twenty percent of the profits, incurring the resentment of network heads who refused to broadcast his programs, thus forcing him to erect a network of one hundred and fifty-five independent stations that eventually carried the four ninety-minute Nixon interviews. He also, as noted in the film, interested Datsun, Weedeater, Greyhound and Alpo in financing the shows through commercials. As stated in the film and several other sources, Frost put at risk his reputation and his own resources before all the financial details were finalized. According to the 1977 People article, the up-front costs ran to $2.5 million.
       In the 5 Aug 2007 LAT article, Zelnick stated that many people did not consider Frost the appropriate person for the role of interviewing Nixon, because of his willingness to pay hugely for the opportunity and because he had a reputation as a celebrity interviewer. The latter idea, which was a recurring theme in the film, was confirmed in a 1977 People article that reported that a contemporaneous NYT news item disdainfully called Frost a “news entertainer.” However, as noted in the HR review of Frost/Nixon , Frost was a Cambridge University graduate who had interviewed major political leaders in his own country and, in the 1960s, had hosted several political satire shows, including British and American versions of That Was the Week That Was . The HR review also stated that the film exaggerated Frost’s playboy image, but, according to Frost’s 2007 book, Frost/Nixon: Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews , Nixon believed that image and really did ask the question, “Did you do any fornicating last night?”
       Although the film shows the meeting of Frost and “Caroline Graham” (Rebecca Hall) on an airplane, they actually had met five years earlier, according to a blog on TheDailyBeast.com, in which Graham confirmed that the birthday party scene was accurate and that Nixon did make the joking suggestion depicted in the film that Frost marry her in order to live tax-free in Monte Carlo. In Frost’s above-mentioned book, which he labeled a sequel to IGave Them a Sword , his 1977 book about the interviews, Frost writes that his friend, current affairs producer and controller of London Weekend TV, John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen), assisted with negotiations with the Nixon team, as did Frost’s colleague Marv Minoff (Keith MacKechnie). Eventually, according to the book, Birt took a three-month leave from LWT to devote himself to the project. A friend referred Reston and Zelnick to Frost, and Zelnick recruited investigative journalist Phil Stanford (who is not portrayed in the film) for the team. According to a 5 Aug 2007 LAT article, Birt, Reston, Zelnick and Stanford worked for several months out of a rented house in Georgetown to gather briefing books on Nixon’s record. It was during this time, not just before the Watergate portion of the interviews as the film indicates, that Reston happened upon a transcript of a conversation in which Nixon discussed a cover-up. The 1977 People article reported that the team (minus Stanford, who had prior commitments, according to Frost’s book) stayed in a suite at the Beverly Hilton for ten weeks, going over materials and conducting mock interviews with Zelnick pretending to be Nixon, as was depicted in the film to comic effect.
       According to a 5 Aug 2007 LAT article, Nixon’s preparation was assisted by former White House speechwriter Ken Khachigian (Gabriel Jarret), former White House aide Diane Sawyer (Kate Jennings Grant) and Frank Gannon (Andy Milder), who had been Nixon’s special assistant in the White House and was now helping him write his memoirs.
       Although the film dramatically portrays a duel between Nixon and Frost that culminates in Nixon’s confession, according to the LAT article, Nixon’s three assistants believed that he needed to express remorse publicly if he ever was to resume a role in politics. Khachigian argued for a limited expression of remorse, but Gannon and Sawyer felt he needed to be more forthcoming. The article stated that Frost allowed Nixon to filibuster during the interviews related to foreign and domestic achievements, alarming his team, but according to his book, Frost had a good feeling overall about those sessions. According to Frost’s book, the Watergate portion of the interviews was shot over two sessions, midway through the filming, not held back dramatically until their final time together. The 5 Aug 2007 LAT article proffered that Frost’s demeanor during the Watergate sessions was prosecutorial, as he quoted the newly found transcript, other excerpts from the White House tapes and Nixon’s own words.
       Both the article and Frost’s book describe a scene different than the one depicted in the film, in which Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) felt Nixon would be more forthcoming with a revelation if Frost backed off. In truth, Brennan held up an off-camera note that stated, “Let him talk,” but Frost misread the note as, “Let us talk,” prompting him, not Brennan, to interrupt the filming, using the excuse that they needed to change tapes. When they resumed, Frost threw aside his signature clipboard, as shown in the film, and told Nixon gently that he would be “haunted” for the rest of his life unless he opened up. Nixon admitted that he had made untrue statements, that a reasonable person would call his actions a cover-up, and that he believed he had failed to meet his responsibilities. The dialogue in the film, “I gave ‘em a sword and they stuck it in…” and the regretful comment that young people would consider government corrupt, were actual statements by Nixon. As in the film, Nixon also claimed that his mistakes were of the heart.
       The 5 Aug 2007 LAT article reported that after the interviews Zelnick stripped to his boxers and ran into the ocean in celebration, a moment that is depicted near the end of the film. After the approximately twenty-eight hours of taping were edited to four, ninety-minute programs, the interviews aired in May 1977. The 5 Aug 2007 LAT article, which reported a landmark record of 45 million viewers, described the broadcasts as marking “the rise of the television confessional genre.”
       About fifteen years later, according to 26 Dec 2007 Var article, young British television writer Peter Morgan saw a British television documentary about Frost and conceived an idea for a play, but set it aside. Among other projects during the following years, he had great success as screenwriter for the films, The Queen (which also starred Sheen) and The Last King of Scotland , both released in 2006 and both semi-documentary dramas exploring the characters of real people. About a decade later, according to a 19 Nov 2008 HR article, Morgan, returning to his idea of a play, met with Frost in London and flew to Washington and New York, where he met Zelnick, former Nixon speechwriter Ray Price (Jim Meskimen), and Reston, who, according to a 23 Apr 2007 New York news item, loaned him his unpublished memoir about the interviews (which he eventually published in 2007). The 19 Nov 2008 HR article stated that Morgan sought the “details of people’s behavior,” rather than a chronology of events. In the HR article, as well as an 8 Dec 2008 Newsweek article, Morgan stated that the participants in the events of 1977 had widely varying views of what had happened. Morgan wrote and revised his script, exploring what he would later describe in a preface to the printed edition of the play as a mix of historical fact and fiction. He has stated that, although the work is based on fact, certain parts of it, in particular, the eleven-o-clock scene in which Nixon calls Frost, are fictitious. According to a 26 Dec 2007 Var article, Morgan expressed his feeling that the film, while not always historically accurate, was truthful.
       The play opened in London’s West End on 10 Nov 2006, starring Langella as Nixon and Sheen as Frost. The play and opened 31 Mar 2007 on Broadway, where it also received critical acclaim. According to a 19 Nov 2008 HR article, around 2004, Morgan had told director Ron Howard that he was working on his first play, which was about Nixon. Two years later, after reading a version of the script, Howard emailed Brian Grazer, his partner at Imagine Entertainment, asking him to read it. As the play had just opened, Howard flew to London to see it and immediately sought the film rights. However, other producers were also interested, among them, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan of Working Title, Martin Scorsese, Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein. According to a 25 Sep 2006 DV article, DreamWorks, Warner Independent, George Clooney, Colin Callender and Universal Pictures, also were interested.
       According to a 19 Nov 2008 HR article, Morgan sought an American director and one reason for his interest in Howard was that he was the only one who approached him in person. A 23 Apr 2007 New York news item reported that Howard paid $2.5 million for the movie rights to Frost/Nixon . According to the 19 Nov 2008 HR article, as both Imagine Entertainment and Working Title have ties to Universal Picture, they partnered at the suggestion of Universal chairman, Marc Shmuger. According to a 25 Sep 2006 DV news item, Howard smoothed out the deal between Morgan and the other companies but the deal was partially held up until the filmmakers agreed to begin shooting after the show’s West End and Broadway runs. At that time, Sam Mendes and Scorsese were discussed as possible directors of the film. According to a 19 Nov 2008 HR article and a 30 Apr 2007 DV news item, Howard wanted to cast Langella in the film’s Nixon role, but agreed to consider known box office performers, among them, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Warren Beatty. In the end, Sheen and Langella, who, as noted in the HR review, wore prosthetics to simulate Nixon’s jowls, both reprised the roles they created in London.
       The 19 Nov 2008 HR article reported that film rehearsals began in New York two weeks before the Broadway run ended, and production began in Los Angeles four days after it closed. Howard agreed to a forty-day shooting schedule, the shortest he had worked on in years and received no up front money. Working with a strict budget of less than $30 million, everyone from actors to producers agreed to take reduced of deferred fees. A 10 Dec 2008 LAT article reported that Howard acknowledged the challenge Langella and Sheen now had to present their characters in a different medium. He tried breaking up the “rhythms” of the play by having them rehearse their dialogue separately and meeting only when the cameras rolled. For more “spontaneity and urgency,” Howard cast actors who could improvise and that many of the interjections made by characters during the interview sequences were extemporaneous. The late night phone call sequence was shot separately, but simultaneously on two soundstages in Culver City that were set up side by side, according to the 19 Nov 2008 HR article.
       A major change between the play and the film was suggested by Howard, who felt that the idea of the play’s two narrators would feel static in the film. According to the 19 Nov 2008 HR article, after considering the idea of only one narrator, or several, he developed the idea of having a series of interviews of supporting players. In the film, Reston and Brennan, who were narrators in the play, became larger characters. According to a 10 Dec 2008 LAT article, another difference between the film and the play is that the film shows more of the mechanics of how Frost got the underwriting for the interviews. Two scenes were added to the film: the first was the scene in which Nixon plays his own composition, added by Howard, who got permission from the Nixon estate. The second was added by Morgan and Howard, who, after learning that Nixon loved the Richard Rodgers piece, Victory at Sea , added a scene in which Nixon jogs in place while listening to the music on his record player.
       According to the studio’s production notes, Howard stated that they tried to recreate the 1970s as authentically as possible, without making a parody of the era, and even used persons in the cast who had connections to the 1977 event. Patrick Terrall, who in 1977 was the celebrity-owner of the trendy restaurant Ma Maison, portrays himself in the film. According to the production notes, the parody of the song, “Love and Marriage” heard during the Ma Maison sequence was actually written on the occasion of Frost’s 1977 birthday party. According to a 19 Nov 2008 HR news article, Nixon’s helicopter, which had been preserved for thirty years by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, was the actual vehicle he rode in 1974. Studio production notes added that the pilot in the film, Lt. Col. Gene Boyer, was the same man who ferried Nixon away after his resignation. The Nixon library’s parking lot was the shooting site for the helicopter sequence, and the library’s replica of the White House’s East Room was also used in the film, according to the production notes. Among the other shooting sites, according to the production notes, were: The Beverly Hilton, Suite 817, which was the penthouse in which Frost often stayed, and the hotel’s banquet hall for the sequence in which Nixon gives the lecture; the Cinerama Dome at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, which was the location of the second premiere of The Slipper and the Rose , the film produced by Frost; Nixon’s home, La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente; Ontario Airport in Riverside, CA, which stood in for Heathrow Airport; and Marina Del Rey, which was used to recreate Sydney Harbor in Australia. The streets of London were recreated on a Universal backlot, and the set of David Frost’s Australian show seen at the beginning of the film was created at The Henson Stage on La Brea Blvd. in Los Angeles. The house used for the filming of the original Frost/Nixon interviews had changed too much to be suitable after thirty years, so a house of a similar age and look was found in Conejo Valley’s Westlake Village in Southern California. The interior of the house was recreated on a sound stage, as were Nixon’s office and Frost’s penthouse, where the last half of filming took place, according to the production notes.
       The 19 Nov 2008 HR article reported that despite a loss of half a day when their Culver City soundstage lost power in the middle of summer, Howard wrapped the production in thirty-eight days. Although the filmmakers discussed opening the film before the 2008 presidential election, it was decided to wait until December, as the film was not about current politics.
       Frost/Nixon received numerous awards and critical praise. In addition to being named one of AFI’s Movies of the Year, the film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture--Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture--Drama (Langella), Best Director--Motion Picture, Best Screenplay--Motion Picture and Best Original Score--Motion Picture (Zimmer). SAG nominated the film for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, and Langella for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. The Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations for Critics Choice Awards include Langella for Best Actor, Howard for Best Director, Morgan for Best Writer and the film for Best Picture. The National Board of Review listed the picture as one of 2008’s ten best films. The PGA nominated Grazer, Howard and Eric Fellner for Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award. Morgan was nominated by the WGA for Best Adapted Screenplay and Howard was nominated by the DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Academy Award nominations include Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Achievement in Editing (Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Langella) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. Among other films about Nixon are Robert Altman’s 1984 production, Secret Honor , starring Philip Baker Hall, and Oliver Stone’s 1995 film, Nixon in which Anthony Hopkins portrayed Nixon. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Sep 2006
pp. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 2007.
---
Daily Variety
3 Sep 2008.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 2008
pp. 1, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 2007.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 2008.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 2008
pp. 12-13.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 2008
pp. 5-7, 16.
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 2007
Section E, pp. 26-27.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 2008.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 2008.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Dec 2008
Section E, pp. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times
10 Dec 2008
pp. S-18, S-20.
New York
23 Apr 2007
p. 85.
New York Times
28 Oct 2007
pp. 13, 15.
New York Times
5 Dec 2008.
---
Newsweek
8 Dec 2008.
---
People
23 May 1977.
---
Screen International
24 Oct 2008.
---
Variety
26 Feb 2007.
---
Variety
16 Oct 2008.
---
Variety
20-26 Oct 2008
pp. 1, 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Brian Grazer / Working Title production; A Ron Howard film
A Brian Grazer; A Ron Howard film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
1st asst dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog/Cam op
Dir of photog, 2d unit
A cam/Steadicam op
1st asst A cam
1st asst B cam
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst A cam
2d asst B cam
Loader
Elec, 2d unit
Elec, 2d unit
Elec, 2d unit
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Best boy elec, 2d unit
Dimmer op
Video assist op
Asst video assist op
Video playback supv
Gaffer
Gaffer, 2d unit
Rigging gaffer
Best boy
Rigging best boy
Key grip
Key grip, 2d unit
Best boy grip
Best boy grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Grip, 2d unit
Key rigging grip
Best boy rigging grip
Rigging grip foreman
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Still photog
Cameras by
ART DIRECTORS
Supv art dir
Supv art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Graphic des
Art dept coord
Art dept prod asst
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Leadman
Gang boss
Gang boss
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On set dresser
On set dresser, 2d unit
Set dec asst
Drapery foreman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Const coord
Const foreman
Const buyer
Head painter
Standby painter
Supv laborer foreman
Laborer foreman
Laborer foreman
Laborer foreman
Laborer foreman
Laborer foreman
Plaster foreman
Greens foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Set supv
Key set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Cost prod asst
MUSIC
Mus comp/Orch
Mus supv
Addl mus/Orch
Mus ed
Score mixed by
Ambient mus des
Featured cellist
Featured drums
Tech mus coord
Tech mus coord
Mus prod services
Mus prod coord
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod sd mixer
Sd mixer, 2d unit
Supv sd ed
Boom op, 2d unit
Cable utility
Cable, 2d unit
Supv dial ed
Dial ed
ADR supv
ADR loop group
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Rec
Dub stage eng
Re-rec services
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff coord
Visual eff
Visual eff supv, Brainstorm Digital
Visual eff prod, Brainstorm Digital
Visual eff prod, Brainstorm Digital
MAKEUP
Makeup dept head
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Prosthetic makeup to Mr. Langella
Prosthetic makeup
Hair dept head
Key hair stylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hair stylist to Mr. Langella
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Extras casting
Casting asst
Casting assoc
Unit prod mgr
Prod supv
2d unit prod supv
Post prod coord
Exec coord, Working Title
Asst prod coord, Working Title
Asst prod coord
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc asst
Loc security
Scr supv, 2d unit
Sr researcher
Archival footage supv
Chief operating officer, Working Title
Exec in charg of prod, Working Title
Head of legal & bus affairs, Working Title
Vice president of legal & bus affairs, Working Tit
Legal & bus affairs exec, Working Title
Legal & bus affairs mgr, Working Title
Finance controller, Working Title
Financial controller
1st asst accountant
Addl 1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Const accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Accounting clerk
Accounting clerk
Prod secy
Unit pub
Transportation coordinator
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Picture car coord
Transportation dispatcher
Inflatable Crowd supv
Key craft service
Catering
Security--Los Angeles
Secret Service advisor
Asset representative
Asst to Tim Bevan, Working Title
Asst to Eric Fellner, Working Title
Asst to Mr. Howard
Asst to Mr. Grazer
Asst to Mr. Grazer
Asst to Mr. Hallowell
Asst to Ms. McGill
Asst to Mr. Langella
Asst to Mr. Bacon
Key prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital intermediate by
Digital col
DI prod
DI ed
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan (London, 10 Aug 2006).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"By George It's David Frost" by George Henry Martin, performed by Atli Örvarsson
"Piano Concerto No. 1" by Richard M. Nixon, performed by Frank Langella
"Victory at Sea" by Richard Rodgers, performed by The RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra and Robert Russell Bennett, conductor, by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
SONGS
"Love and Marriage," music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn
"I Feel Love," music and lyrics by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Peter Bellotte, performed by Donna Summer, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group under license from Universal Music Enterprises.
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 December 2008
Premiere Information:
London Film Festival screening: 15 October 2008
Los Angeles opening: 30 November 2008, New York opening: 2 December 2008
Production Date:
24 August--17 October 2007
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios Productions LLLP
Copyright Date:
5 December 2008
Copyright Number:
PA1613028
Physical Properties:
Sound
DTS; SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound); Dolby Digital in selected theatres
Color
Color by Deluxe
Duration(in mins):
122
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
44159
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Aug 1974, the disgraced President Richard M. Nixon resigns from office in order to avoid impeachment for his alleged role in the Watergate scandal. Meanwhile, in Australia, David Frost, the internationally famous British talk show interviewer and jet-setting playboy, watches the news from the studio where he hosts one of his live talk shows. As Frost watches the television screen, Nixon leaves the White House for the last time and, before boarding the helicopter, turns and looks directly into the camera. Intrigued, Frost arranges to get the figures on the number of viewers watching Nixon-related broadcasts. Two weeks later, in London, Frost tells his friend, producer John Birt, that he has written to Nixon, asking for an interview. Because the witty Frost’s interview style is more often associated with popular entertainers, the surprised Birt warns that the public’s only interest in Nixon is to hear a confession. Ever confident, Frost says that he can get that and tells Birt that 400 million viewers watched Nixon’s farewell speech. As time passes, Frost receives no reply from Nixon, who undergoes emergency medical treatment for phlebitis. Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford, grants Nixon a full and absolute pardon, hoping that the country will move on from the scandal, despite indications from polls that most Americans feel Nixon was responsible for the greatest felony in the country’s political history. Some time later, while Nixon is writing his memoirs, hoping to resurrect his tarnished image and revive his political career, his literary agent, Irving “Swifty” Lazar, suggests that he allow Frost to interview him, as Frost would pay more than a hard news journalist and be easier to manipulate. During negotiations, Frost ... +


In Aug 1974, the disgraced President Richard M. Nixon resigns from office in order to avoid impeachment for his alleged role in the Watergate scandal. Meanwhile, in Australia, David Frost, the internationally famous British talk show interviewer and jet-setting playboy, watches the news from the studio where he hosts one of his live talk shows. As Frost watches the television screen, Nixon leaves the White House for the last time and, before boarding the helicopter, turns and looks directly into the camera. Intrigued, Frost arranges to get the figures on the number of viewers watching Nixon-related broadcasts. Two weeks later, in London, Frost tells his friend, producer John Birt, that he has written to Nixon, asking for an interview. Because the witty Frost’s interview style is more often associated with popular entertainers, the surprised Birt warns that the public’s only interest in Nixon is to hear a confession. Ever confident, Frost says that he can get that and tells Birt that 400 million viewers watched Nixon’s farewell speech. As time passes, Frost receives no reply from Nixon, who undergoes emergency medical treatment for phlebitis. Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford, grants Nixon a full and absolute pardon, hoping that the country will move on from the scandal, despite indications from polls that most Americans feel Nixon was responsible for the greatest felony in the country’s political history. Some time later, while Nixon is writing his memoirs, hoping to resurrect his tarnished image and revive his political career, his literary agent, Irving “Swifty” Lazar, suggests that he allow Frost to interview him, as Frost would pay more than a hard news journalist and be easier to manipulate. During negotiations, Frost agrees to pay an unheard of fee of $600,000, before he has secured backers for the project. Aghast when he learns of the amount, Birt warns that television network heads, whose goodwill is necessary for syndication, resent Frost for having outbid them. Birt argues that Frost’s successful career does not warrant such a risk, but Frost, whose fame in the United States has waned since the cancellation of a previous talk show, confides how he misses the feeling of success in America, which he says is unlike anywhere else. On the flight to California to sign the contract with Nixon, Birt naps, but the gregarious Frost flirts with socialite divorcée Caroline Cushing and impulsively invites her to come along. At Nixon’s home in San Clemente, Frost, Birt and Caroline are greeted as friends by Nixon, who makes deadpan jokes, tells anecdotes and urges Frost to approach their impending interview, which he calls a “duel,” with a “no holds barred” attitude. Before leaving, Frost writes out a check for $200,000, money he has barely raised from wealthy friends and by sale of his own stocks. Later Jack Brennan, Nixon’s loyal chief of staff, speculates that Frost will be unlikely to raise the rest of the fee. To assist them, Frost and Birt interview two Americans for the project: Bob Zelnick, a news reporter at National Public Radio, and James Reston, Jr., an author and college teacher who has criticized Nixon’s tenure as president in his many books. As they talk, Reston is adamant that the interviews be the trial Nixon never had, and expresses anxiety that Frost’s breezy style will instead provide the fallen leader with a means to exonerate himself. Because of Reston's fervent emotion, Birt and Zelnick doubt his suitability as an advisor to the project, but Frost feels that Reston’s ability to challenge him will be useful. In late 1976, Brennan, who is certain the interviews will resuscitate Nixon’s image, informs him that taping has been scheduled to begin in March. In January 1977, Frost’s team moves into the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Birt, Zelnick and Reston research and strategize the questions Frost will ask, although Frost himself is continually absent, as he is still seeking backers. In addition, because all the major U.S. television networks have rejected airing the interviews, he is negotiating with several independent stations. Reston, who believes they need information that will take their adversary by surprise, wants to return to Washington to search for an unpublished transcript of a meeting between Nixon and a colleague that would prove Nixon knew about illegal activities surrounding Watergate earlier than he claims. When Frost refuses to release him, Reston feels uneasy about his lack of concern. According to the contract between Frost and Nixon, a series of four interviews will cover specifically agreed upon areas: Nixon himself; his foreign and domestic policies; Vietnam; and, in the final interview, Watergate. On 22 March 1977, the day before the first scheduled interview, newspapers report on Frost’s team of “crack” investigators, prompting Brennan to attempt to renegotiate the content of the four interviews. However, Frost refuses, and the resulting argument ends in a standoff. To the dismay of his team, Frost spends the evening at the Hollywood premiere of a film he produced. Birt assures Reston and Zelnick that Frost is a “performer of the highest caliber” who can handle multiple responsibilities, but Birt's use of the word “performer” rather than “journalist” heightens their anxieties. During the first interview, Nixon takes the lead by stonewalling with long-winded anecdotes. Reston and Zelnick accuse Frost of being too passive, but Birt, aware that a sponsor has backed out, asks for their indulgence, reminding them that Frost’s reputation and money are on the line. However, Reston and Zelnick feel their careers are also at stake. Before the second interview, the team coaches Frost to avoid generalizations, interrupt long stories and be wary of the politician’s agile use of “mind games.” When Nixon arrives, he condescendingly calls Frost his “Grand Inquisitor” and just before the film rolls, rattles Frost by asking if he did any “fornicating” the previous night. During this session, which is about Nixon’s role in Vietnam, the former president expresses sorrow about the casualties and regret that he could have saved lives if he had been more aggressive. After the taping, Reston and Zelnick angrily criticize Frost for not challenging Nixon’s biased versions of historical events. Emotions peak, as the team members fear that the interviews are providing Nixon the means to accumulate public support. Frost, who seems to be in a daze of denial, says he does not share their concern, then abruptly invites them to celebrate his birthday at the trendy restaurant, Ma Maison. That night, as Reston and Zelnick gawk at the celebrities partying with Frost, Nixon is at home entertaining close friends with a piano piece he has written while Brennan assures Nixon’s wife Pat that the interviews are going well. Some time later, in his hotel room, when Frost learns that his Australian show was dropped and his London show might follow, the enormity of his risks overwhelm him. Alone at his darkest moment, Frost receives an unexpected phone call from an inebriated Nixon, who suggests that they are alike. Nixon points out they both come from modest circumstances, fighting for achievement, while “snobs” withhold their respect. Nixon, who adds that they both are trying to regain the limelight, says to Frost, “We’ll show them,” but Frost reminds him that only one can win. Both realize that, in the end, either Nixon’s career will be curtailed permanently or Frost will be bankrupt, publicly ridiculed and in possession of a series of taped interviews he cannot sell. Before hanging up, Nixon vows to be Frost’s “fiercest adversary,” a challenge that motivates Frost. Throughout the night, he studies the materials his team has amassed and orders Reston to follow up his hunch about the transcript. At the next interview, Frost enters confidently, and just before the cameras roll, mentions the phone call, which unsettles Nixon, as he does not remember making it. Frost assertively asks questions, cuts off long stories and challenges disputed claims. When Frost reveals the transcript Reston has found, Nixon is flustered into stating that actions are not illegal when undertaken by the president. Breaking the shocked silence in the room, Frost asks gently if Nixon was part of a cover-up, but Brennan interrupts filming and calls for a break. Alone with Nixon, Brennan warns him that any admission will devastate his career, but Nixon feels he cannot continue his denials. When filming resumes, Nixon states that he let the American people down, that he made big mistakes, but they were of the heart and not the head. After the taping, Frost’s team celebrates triumphantly, but Frost, more subdued, returns with Caroline to Nixon’s home to say goodbye before leaving California. Bearing no grudge, Nixon tells Frost he was a worthy opponent. After the broadcasts of the interviews, Frost’s career soars, his investors profit, and Nixon never again holds a public office. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.