AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Frost/Nixon
Director: Ron Howard (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Dec 2008
Premiere Information:   London Film Festival screening: 15 Oct 2008; Los Angeles opening: 30 Nov 2008, New York opening: 2 Dec 2008
Production Date:   24 Aug--17 Oct 2007
Duration (in mins):   122
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Cast:   Frank Langella (Richard Nixon)  
    Michael Sheen (David Frost)  
    Sam Rockwell (James Reston, Jr.)  
    Kevin Bacon (Jack Brennan)  
    Matthew Macfadyen (John Birt)  
    Oliver Platt (Bob Zelnick)  
    Rebecca Hall (Caroline Cushing)  
    Toby Jones (Swifty Lazar)  
    Andy Milder (Frank Gannon)  
    Kate Jennings Grant (Diane Sawyer)  
    Gabriel Jarret (Ken Khachigian)  
    Jim Meskimen (Ray Price)  
    Patty McCormack (Pat Nixon)  
    Geoffrey Blake (Interview director)  
    Clint Howard (Lloyd Davis)  
    Rance Howard (Ollie)  
    Gavin Grazer (White House director)  
    Simon James (Frost show director)  
    Eloy Casados (Manolo Sanchez)  
    Jay White (Neil Diamond)  
    Will Albert (Sammy Cahn)  
    Keith MacKechnie (Marv Minoff)  
    Penny Moore (Lady with dachsund)  
    Janneke Arent (Frost's female assistant)  
    David Ross Paterson (Birt TV show presenter)  
    Jennifer Hanley (Makeup woman)  
    Robert Pastoriza (Interview cameraman)  
    Louie Mejia (Interview cameraman)  
    Kevin Kearns (Fan at airport)  
    David Kelsey (Smith house reporter)  
    James Ritz (Smith house reporter)  
    Pete Rockwell (Smith house reporter)  
    Ned Vaughn (Secret serviceman)  
    Simone Kessell (Airport check-in woman)  
    Ben Pauley (Australian stage manager)  
    Noah Craft (Australian stage director)  
    Taylor Singer (Stewardess)  
    Kaine Bennett Charleston (Sydney assistant director)  
    Gregory H. Alpert (White House cinematographer)  
    Kimberly Robin (Ma Maison girl)  
    Michelle Manhart (Disco girl)  
    Steve Kehela (Premiere reporter)  
    Antony H. Acker (Premiere reporter)  
    John Kerry (Man at disco)  
    Jenn Gotzon (Tricia Nixon)  
    Googy Gress (Network executive)  
    Marc McClure (Network executive)  
    Joe Spano (Network executive)  
    Lt. Col. Gene Boyer (Helicopter pilot)  
    Patrick Terrall (Ma Maison host)  

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Universal Pictures (NBC Universal)
  Imagine Entertainment  
  Working Title Films (NBC Universal)
  StudioCanal (Canal+Group)
  Relativity Media  
Production Text: A Brian Grazer / Working Title production; A Ron Howard film
A Brian Grazer; A Ron Howard film
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures (NBC Universal)
Director: Ron Howard (Dir)
  Todd Hallowell (2d unit dir)
  William M. Connor (1st asst dir)
  Scott Schaeffer (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
  Kristen Ploucha (2d asst dir)
  Scott R. Meyers (2d 2d asst dir)
Producer: Brian Grazer (Prod)
  Ron Howard (Prod)
  Tim Bevan (Prod)
  Eric Fellner (Prod)
  Louis Velis (Assoc prod)
  Kathleen McGill (Assoc prod)
  William M. Connor (Assoc prod)
  Peter Morgan (Exec prod)
  Matthew Byam Shaw (Exec prod)
  Karen Kehela Sherwood (Exec prod)
  David Bernardi (Exec prod)
  Debra Hayward (Exec prod)
  Liza Chasin (Exec prod)
  Todd Hallowell (Exec prod)
Writer: Peter Morgan (Scr)
Photography: Salvatore Totino (Dir of photog/Cam op)
  John Barr (Dir of photog, 2d unit)
  Andrew Rowlands (A cam/Steadicam op)
  Dominic Aluisi (1st asst A cam)
  Mark Santoni (1st asst B cam)
  Peter Geraghty (1st asst cam, 2d unit)
  Benn Martenson (2d asst A cam)
  Larissa Supplitt (2d asst B cam)
  Eric Jensch (Loader)
  David Chase (Elec)
  Sal Cocuzza (Elec)
  Marc Bussio (Elec)
  David Alan Kaiser (Elec)
  Corey Foster (Elec)
  Joshua Stern (Elec, 2d unit)
  Stefan Duchaine (Elec, 2d unit)
  Michael J. Berger (Elec, 2d unit)
  Dale Balani (Rigging elec)
  Renzo Bartolopta (Rigging elec)
  Andy Dorowsky (Rigging elec)
  Sandy Sevven (Rigging elec)
  Stewart Kirschner (Rigging elec)
  Kyle Kovacks (Rigging elec)
  Jimi Lyons (Rigging elec)
  Christopher Dorowsky (Rigging elec)
  Corey Foster (Best boy elec, 2d unit)
  Craig Campbell (Dimmer op)
  Richard Scarpone (Video assist op)
  Bryce Shields (Asst video assist op)
  Matt Morrissey (Video playback supv)
  John Barr (Gaffer)
  Tony Bryan (Gaffer, 2d unit)
  Daniel Purinton (Rigging gaffer)
  Tony Bryan (Best boy)
  Casey Dunn (Rigging best boy)
  Alex Klabukov (Key grip)
  Anthony Cady (Key grip, 2d unit)
  Thomas Crawford (Best boy grip)
  Matt Perry (Best boy grip, 2d unit)
  Ralphie Del Castillo (Dolly grip)
  Richard A. Nasworthy (Dolly grip)
  David Winner (Dolly grip, 2d unit)
  Kenny Carceller (Grip)
  Bruce Del Castille (Grip)
  Gregory Fausak (Grip)
  Alexander Gage (Grip)
  Jon Anthony Gargielo (Grip)
  Alec Shepard (Grip)
  David Sirianni (Grip)
  Bodie Hyman (Grip)
  Graham McPherson (Grip, 2d unit)
  Charley Gilleran (Key rigging grip)
  Kevin Fahey (Best boy rigging grip)
  Carlos De Palma (Rigging grip foreman)
  Danny Andres (Rigging grip)
  Clayton Fowler (Rigging grip)
  Jose L. Gonzalez (Rigging grip)
  William Gilleran (Rigging grip)
  Mike Hester (Rigging grip)
  Andy Young (Rigging grip)
  Ralph Nelson (Still photog)
  Chapman/Leonard Studio Equipment, Inc. (Cam dollies by)
  Clairmont (Cameras by)
Art Direction: Michael Corenblith (Prod des)
  Brian O'Hara (Supv art dir)
  Greg Van Horn (Supv art dir)
  Michael E. Goldman (Asst art dir)
  Jay Pelissier (Asst art dir)
  Martin Charles (Graphic des)
  Candice Muriedas (Art dept coord)
  Jennifer Durban (Art dept prod asst)
Film Editor: Mike Hill (Ed)
  Dan Hanley (Ed)
  Robert Komatsu (Ed)
  Carolyn Calvert (Asst ed)
  Jacquelyn Dean (Asst ed)
  Gary Burritt (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Susan Benjamin (Set dec)
  Lorrie Campbell (Set des)
  Joel Prihoda (Leadman)
  Joseph Bergman (Gang boss)
  Greg O'Donohue (Gang boss)
  Rebecca Keeling (Buyer)
  Elizabeth Ragagli (Buyer)
  Caroline Perzan (Buyer)
  Ray Garcia (Set dresser)
  Stephen McCumby (Set dresser)
  Beau Shippee (Set dresser)
  Earl V. Thielen (Set dresser)
  Phillip Thoman (On set dresser)
  Lawson Brown (On set dresser, 2d unit)
  Holiday Landa (Set dec asst)
  Jory Alvarado (Drapery foreman)
  Trish Gallaher Glenn (Prop master)
  Monica Castro (Asst prop master)
  Curtis Corbitt (Prop asst)
  Rachel A. Flores (Prop asst)
  Colin Dennis (Propmaker foreman)
  Jon Kazunga (Propmaker foreman)
  Anthony Syracuse (Propmaker foreman)
  Terry Scott (Const coord)
  Ciro Vuoso (Const foreman)
  Don Cooke (Const buyer)
  Ralph Mock (Head painter)
  Rosemary De Cicco (Standby painter)
  John Barbera (Supv laborer foreman)
  Gary Coelho (Laborer foreman)
  Glenn Braun (Laborer foreman)
  Gary Metzen (Laborer foreman)
  Richard Martinez (Laborer foreman)
  Tony Salazar (Laborer foreman)
  Jeffrey J. Perkins (Plaster foreman)
  Tony Castagnola (Greens foreman)
Costumes: Daniel Orlandi (Cost des)
  Robert Sparkman (Cost supv)
  Andrea Knaub (Key cost)
  Myron Baker (Set supv)
  Bob Moore, Jr. (Key set cost)
  Laurel Frushour (Set cost)
  David Perrione (Set cost)
  Leslie Weir (Cost)
  Monica Haynes Nino (Cost)
  Shawneene Carter (Cost prod asst)
Music: Hans Zimmer (Mus comp/Orch)
  Kathy Nelson (Mus supv)
  Lorne Balfe (Addl mus/Orch)
  Daniel Pinder (Mus ed)
  Alan Meyerson (Score mixed by)
  Mel Wesson (Ambient mus des)
  Martin Tillman (Featured cellist)
  Ryeland Allison (Featured drums)
  Thomas Broderick (Tech mus coord)
  Peter Oso Snell (Tech mus coord)
  Steve Kofsky (Mus prod services)
  Andrew Zack (Mus prod coord)
Sound: Chris Jenkins (Re-rec mixer)
  Frank A. Montaño (Re-rec mixer)
  Peter Devlin (Prod sd mixer)
  George Flores (Sd mixer, 2d unit)
  Chic Ciccolini III (Supv sd ed)
  Michael Piotrowski (Boom op)
  Tim Song Jones (Boom op, 2d unit)
  David Fiske Raymond (Cable utility)
  Dean Thomas (Cable, 2d unit)
  Teri E. Dorman (Supv dial ed)
  David Arnold (Dial ed)
  Deborah Wallach (ADR supv)
  Lynne Redding (ADR loop group)
  Daniel Pagan (Sd eff ed)
  Solange S. Schwalbe (Foley ed)
  Lynn Sable (Asst sd ed)
  Melissa Lytle (Asst sd ed)
  Tim Webb (Rec)
  Dave Bergstrom (Dub stage eng)
  Universal Studios Sound (Re-rec services)
Special Effects: Jeff Miller (Spec eff coord)
  Chad Van Balbergen (Spec eff coord)
  Brainstorm Digital (Visual eff)
  Eric J. Robertson (Visual eff supv, Brainstorm Digital)
  Richard Friedlander (Visual eff prod, Brainstorm Digital)
  Glenn Allen (Visual eff prod, Brainstorm Digital)
Make Up: Edouard Henriques (Makeup dept head)
  Greg Funk (Key makeup artist)
  Robin Beauchesne (Makeup artist)
  Elizabeth Hoel (Makeup artist)
  Sabine Roller Taylor (Makeup artist)
  David Leroy Anderson (Prosthetic makeup to Mr. Langella)
  Lance Anderson (Prosthetic makeup)
  Kim Santantonio (Hair dept head)
  Natasha Allegro (Key hair stylist)
  Karen Houston (Hairstylist)
  Linda Sharp (Hairstylist)
  Colleen Callaghan (Hair stylist to Mr. Langella)
Production Misc: Jane Jenkins (Casting)
  Janet Hirshenson (Casting)
  Bill Dance Casting (Extras casting)
  Jamie Castro (Casting asst)
  Terence Harris (Casting assoc)
  Kathleen McGill (Unit prod mgr)
  Michelle Brattson (Prod supv)
  Gregory H. Alpert (2d unit prod supv)
  Mindy Weissman (Post prod coord)
  Ann Lynch (Exec coord, Working Title)
  Kate Bailey (Asst prod coord, Working Title)
  Justin Haut (Asst prod coord)
  Gregory H. Alpert (Loc mgr)
  Alex Kivlen (Asst loc mgr)
  Jorge Luis Alvarez (Asst loc mgr)
  Mandi Dillin (Asst loc mgr)
  Andrew Miller (Loc asst)
  Richard Lopez (Loc security)
  Sherry Gallarneau (Scr supv)
  Samantha Kirkeby (Scr supv, 2d unit)
  Juliane Crump (Sr researcher)
  Seth Olson (Archival footage supv)
  Angela Morrison (Chief operating officer, Working Title)
  Michelle Wright (Exec in charg of prod, Working Title)
  Sheeraz Shah (Head of legal & bus affairs, Working Title)
  Gráinne McKenna (Vice president of legal & bus affairs, Working Title)
  Lucy Wainwright (Legal & bus affairs exec, Working Title)
  Christina Angeloudes (Legal & bus affairs mgr, Working Title)
  Tim Easthill (Finance controller, Working Title)
  Michael Goosen (Financial controller)
  Jim DeMarco (1st asst accountant)
  Carlo Pratto (Addl 1st asst accountant)
  Lynda Shapiro (2d asst accountant)
  Gregory Metcalf (2d asst accountant)
  Dominique Derrenger (Const accountant)
  Katy Tatian-Genovese (Payroll accountant)
  Missy Eustermann (Post prod accountant)
  Josh Deceuster (Accounting clerk)
  Ashleigh Hall (Accounting clerk)
  Charlotte Rapak (Prod secy)
  Rob Harris (Unit pub)
  Dennis McCarthy (Transportation coordinator)
  John Feinblatt (Transportation capt)
  Greg Wallace (Transportation co-capt)
  Rick Collins (Picture car coord)
  Frank Annunziata (Transportation dispatcher)
  Joe Biggins (Inflatable Crowd supv)
  Laura Bagano (Key craft service)
  Mario Gonzalez (Catering)
  Ferguson Reid M.D. (Medic)
  Karen Crutcher (Medic )
  C.A.S.T. Security Inc. (Security--Los Angeles)
  Clint L. Howard (Secret Service advisor)
  Mark Colbert (Asset representative)
  Chloé Dorigan (Asst to Tim Bevan, Working Title)
  Cara Shine (Asst to Eric Fellner, Working Title)
  Felipe Torres (Asst to Mr. Howard)
  Kimi Armstrong (Asst to Mr. Grazer)
  Danielle Zloto (Asst to Mr. Grazer)
  Taylor Singer (Asst to Mr. Hallowell)
  Mindy Weissman (Asst to Ms. McGill)
  Jonathan A. Mason (Asst to Mr. Langella)
  Susan Mieras (Asst to Mr. Bacon)
  Ben Marks (Key prod office asst)
  Clinton Childress (Prod office asst)
  Sage Grazer (Prod office asst)
  Ricky R. Weaver, II (Prod office asst)
  Jackson Rowe (Set prod asst)
  Matthew Haggerty (Set prod asst)
  Paris P. Pickard (Set prod asst)
  Laura O'Keefe (Set prod asst)
  Dennis Geraghty (Set prod asst)
  Jeremy Scripter (Set prod asst)
Stand In: Brian Avery (Stunts)
  Rick Avery (Stunts)
  Michael Hugghins (Stunts)
Color Personnel: EFILM (Digital intermediate by)
  Steve Bowen (Digital col)
  Michael Kennedy (DI prod)
  Devon Miller (DI ed)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

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.
Composer: Pete Bellotte
  Sammy Cahn
  George Henry Martin
  Giorgio Moroder
  Richard M. Nixon
  Richard Rodgers
  Donna Summer
  James Van Heusen
Source Text: Based on the play Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan (London, 10 Aug 2006).
Authors: Peter Morgan

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal City Studios Productions LLLP 5/12/2008 dd/mm/yyyy PA1613028

PCA NO: 44159
Physical Properties: Sd: DTS; SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound); Dolby Digital in selected theatres
  col: Color by Deluxe

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Political
  Show business
 
Subjects (Major): David Frost
  Interviews
  Richard M. Nixon
  Political corruption
  Reputation
  Rivalry
  Television programs
  United States--History--20th century
  Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
 
Subjects (Minor): Authors
  Beverly Hilton Hotel (Beverly Hills, CA)
  Birthdays
  Celebrities
  Finance--Personal
  Friendship
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Love affairs
  Loyalty
  Ma Maison (Los Angeles, CA)
  Motion picture crews
  Playboys
  Presidents
  San Clemente (CA)
  Surveillance devices
  Television news and information
  Television personalities
  Television producers
  Television sponsors
  Washington (D.C.)
  The White House (Washington, D.C.)

Note: 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   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.

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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.
 
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