Kevin Bacon talks about the Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon
Two parts acclaimed character actor, one part kitsch icon, Kevin Bacon returns to our screens in “Frost/Nixon”. Playing Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan, Bacon portrays the man there to moderate the infamous interviews, to limit the access that inquisitor David Frost (Michael Sheen) is given to his quick-tempered boss, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). Here, Mr Six Degrees himself, who recently turned 50, becomes the interviewee, reminiscing over his Hollywood career, his time working with Ron Howard and his latest film “Frost/Nixon”.
Q: How did you get involved in this film?
A: Ron Howard called me up and said he had a part for me. I immediately received the screenplay and, incidentally, had tickets that night for the stage play. So, it was like a perfect storm. Everything happened the same day!
Q: What did you think of Peter Morgan’s script?
A: Peter had a way of taking what could have been a very dry, historical and political film, and making it into something entertaining and exciting; kind of a thrill ride! It felt like boxing or a face off between two great gladiators which, combined with the political landscape of the time, was fascinating.
Q: Did you enjoy the play?
A: I thought it was fantastic and staged in a very interesting way, and the acting was wonderful!
Q: How did your character, Jack Brennan, evolve from the play to the screen?
A: I think Peter was able to give all the supporting roles a little bit more to do. In the film we see the kind of admiration, fondness and almost love that my character had for Nixon – which didn’t come across quite as much in the theatre.
Q: How close were Richard Nixon and Jack Brennan?
A: They were very close, and they traveled and played golf together. But as much as Jack looked up to Nixon, there was also a wall that would come down ultimately which he could never get past. You could only get close to Nixon up to a certain point.
Q: And what did Nixon see in Brennan?
A: Loyalty, above all. Jack was a Marine who had been stationed at the White House. And I believe Nixon was enamored with the Marines and with their strength. Maybe because they were the kind of men that he wasn’t. So, I think Nixon was very fond of Jack, and that’s why he brought him to California.
Q: You have played a Marine before.
A: Not only have I played a Marine before, but I had just come from playing one in another film, so I had the haircut! Understanding to a certain extent what it’s like to walk in that uniform was helpful stepping into this, because they are different than the rest of us. I could never, in a million years, put myself through their boot camp -let alone place myself in harms way and get shot at. That is not for me! So, you have to really figure out what kind of person would do that and try to put yourself in their skin.
Q: Did you meet the real Jack Brennan?
A: Yes and I got to spend some time with him, talk to him, learn about his life and exchange emails. He is a very decent, honest, straightforward man. He is a working-class guy with a deep love for his family. It was important for me to get the essence of his relationship with Nixon right, and one of the things I learned from spending time with him was precisely his loyalty. Brennan is just a very loyal guy. Politics were not the issue for him.
Q: How did you try to portray Jack Brennan on the screen?
A: I didn’t want to play him like a creepy, lurking in the shadows kind of bad guy -that wasn’t interesting to me. I wanted him to have decency and integrity.
Q: This is not a movie with good guys and bad guys.
A: Exactly, it simply has human beings. And if you are going to humanize Nixon, you have to do the same thing with Brennan.
Q: What image did you have of Nixon before shooting this film?
A: I grew up thinking he was the boogieman, but the truth is always more complex than that. One of the things that is a testament to Ron Howard, Peter Morgan and, of course, Frank Langella is that you are able to see Nixon’s vulnerability, awkwardness and the desire in some strange way to do the right thing. And you can also see other qualities in him like his humor or fierce intelligence -all of which they bring to the character and are a strong part of the movie.