Q: Did Peter’s background as a screenwriter help?
A: Of course, and more so than he even knew, because he felt he had
written a play that could never have been adapted to the screen; but
the scenes were so alive. Being such a good screenwriter, I think I had
even more confidence in it than he did. So, we preserved what worked in
the narration, gave it perspective and humor, and also invested in
other characters apart from the main ones because this whole event had
an impact on their lives too. Peter embraced this idea and we worked on
Q: How much improvising actually took place on set?
A: There was a spirit of improvisation that I embraced, and that
immediacy was very important because it broke up the rhythm of the
play. Plays can be a little bit formal, but I felt that if I approached
this project with a more informal view it would lose that quality of
having been theatrical.
Q: And the possibility to actually shoot FROST/NIXON in many of the real locations must have added flavor to the authenticity of the movie.
A: Yes, because we could go to places like the Cinerama Dome or Casa
Pacifica, and we did! And we shot in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in the
real suite they were in! It was great because we didn’t need a lot of
extensive set decoration, but it also meant so much to the actors and
to all of us. It was important to actually be treading on the ground
where this happened.
Q: What did you think of Frank Langella’s portrayal of Nixon and Michael Sheen’s Frost?
A: Both of these characters are such a dichotomy and a paradox, and
they were two or three things all at once! Frank never wanted to do an
impersonation. I think he was doggedly determined to impart to the
audience a whole sense of this man’s psyche and that he understood how
much of an introvert he was. And he felt there was a level of
self-sabotage in Nixon that I don’t believe he was ever conscious of. I
think Frank really found his character, and so did Michael Sheen.
Q: How did you see Sir David Frost?
A: Frost was a social playboy, an aspiring journalist, and a great
television producer and entrepreneur. He didn’t see a problem in
hosting one day the Guinness Book of Records and the next day
interviewing the President of the United States. And as a guy who came
from “Happy Days” and then tried to direct serious movies, I can relate
to that too!
Q: What do you believe motivated Nixon to accept these interviews?
A: I think he was probably motivated by pride and hubris.
Q: And what do you think motivated Sir David Frost then?
A: Who knows what was motivating Frost! I am sure it wasn’t a purely
noble endeavor, because he was investing in a big television event; but
at the end of the day a democracy needs the media to try to obtain the
truth and offer it to the audience, while the media also tries to get
ratings and sell commercials.
Q: Do you think they were both, in a way, attempting to redeem themselves with these interviews?
A: Yes, and I also believe there is an irony in the fact that they were
both using a television show to redeem themselves. It says so much
about our pop culture!
Q: What would you have asked Richard Nixon if you had been in Frost’s shoes?
A: I think Frost did really well and impressed his own research team,
who were in fact very concerned that he wasn’t going to seal the deal.
Which is very true and authentic in our film- because they all admitted
to me that on the crucial day he rearranged the order of the questions
and went at Nixon in a very unexpected way. I have so much respect for
what he achieved. I couldn’t have done a better job.
Q: It seems you like to constantly change the style of your films?
A: In the same way certain actors always want to create a character
from scratch, it is important to me not to impose a style on a film
from the beginning, but discover what is going to service the story and
the audience best. For me, as a storyteller, each movie is a new
Frost/Nixon is at Irish cinemas everywhere now