Frost/Nixon (film): Wikis


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Theatrical poster
Directed by Ron Howard
Produced by Ron Howard
Brian Grazer
Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring Frank Langella
Michael Sheen
Kevin Bacon
Rebecca Hall
Toby Jones
Matthew Macfadyen
Oliver Platt
Sam Rockwell
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Salvatore Totino
Editing by Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Studio Imagine Entertainment
Working Title Films
Relativity Media
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 15 October 2008
(London Film Festival)
5 December 2008
(Limited US release)
23 January 2009
(Worldwide release)
Running time 123 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget US$25,000,000
Gross revenue US$27,015,079 (worldwide)[1]

Frost/Nixon is a 2008 historical drama film based on the play of the same name by Peter Morgan which dramatizes the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. The film version was directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment and Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films for Universal Pictures.

The film reunites its original two stars from the West End and Broadway productions of the play, Michael Sheen as British television broadcaster David Frost and Frank Langella as former United States President Richard Nixon.



A series of news reports documents the role of Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, prior to his resignation speech. Meanwhile, David Frost has finished recording an episode of his talk show and watches on television as Nixon leaves the White House.

A few weeks later in the London Weekend Television (LWT) central office, Frost discusses with his producer and friend, John Birt, the possibility of an interview. When Frost mentions Nixon as the subject, Birt doubts that Nixon would be willing to talk to Frost. Frost then tells Birt that 400 million people watched President Nixon's resignation on live television.

Nixon is shown recovering from phlebitis at La Casa Pacifica, in San Clemente, California. He is discussing his memoirs with literary agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar, who tells the former president of a request by Frost to conduct an interview with an offer of $500,000, only after Lazar contacts Frost, the offer is increased to $600,000. Lazar contacts Frost to inform him that Nixon is interested, so Frost and Birt fly to California to meet with Nixon. While on the plane, Frost meets Caroline Cushing. At La Casa Pacifica, Frost makes the first partial payment of $200,000. However, Nixon's post-presidential chief of staff Jack Brennan doubts that Frost will be able to pay the entire amount.

Frost is shown trying to sell interviews to the U.S. broadcast networks, but they all turn him down. Frost decides to finance the project with private money, and syndicate the broadcast of four interviews. He hires two investigators, Bob Zelnick and James Reston Jr. to dig for information along with Birt, focusing on the Watergate scandal. During the research process, Reston mentions a lead in the Federal Courthouse in D.C. that he thinks he can lock down with a week of work, but Frost decides against it.

Over the first eleven recording sessions, each two and a half-hours long, Frost is shown struggling to ask planned questions of Nixon. Nixon is able to take up much of the time during the sessions by giving lengthy monologues, preventing Frost from challenging him. The former president fences ably on the Vietnam section and is able to dominate in the area where he had substantial achievements—foreign policy related to Russia and China. Frost's editorial team appears to be breaking apart as Zelnick and Reston express anger that Nixon appears to be exonerating himself, and Reston belittles Frost's abilities as an interviewer.

Four days before the final session on Watergate, Frost is in his hotel room when he receives a phone call. Expecting a call from Caroline, he answers with "I'll have a cheeseburger", but the call is from an inebriated and enraged Nixon. The drunk Nixon tells Frost that they both know the final interview will make or break their careers. If Frost fails to implicate Nixon definitively in the Watergate scandal, then Frost will have allowed Nixon to revive his political career at Frost's own expense, who will have an unsellable series of interviews and be bankrupt.

The conversation spurs Frost into action, as, until now, having spent most of his time selling the show to networks and gaining advertisers, Frost resolves to ensure that the final interview will be successful. He calls Reston and tells him to follow up on the federal courthouse hunch and works relentlessly for three days.

As the final recording begins, Frost is a much sterner adversary, providing damning information about Charles Colson, resulting in Nixon admitting that he did unethical things, but "defending" himself with the statement, "When the President does it, it's not illegal!" Frost is shocked by this statement, and asks if the president took part in a cover-up, at which point Brennan bursts in and stops the recording as Nixon is visibly unable to answer. After Nixon and Brennan confer in a side room, Nixon returns to the interview, admitting that he participated in a cover-up and that he "let the American people down."

Shortly before Frost returns to the UK, he and Caroline visit Nixon in his villa. Frost thanks Nixon for the interviews and gives him a pair of Italian shoes as a gift. Nixon, realizing he has lost, however, does graciously thank Frost in return and wishes him well in future endeavors. Nixon then speaks with Frost privately, asking Frost if he remembered Nixon ever calling his hotel room. Frost answers, "cheeseburgers", and he bids Nixon goodbye.


Other real-life figures and personalities depicted in the film include Diane Sawyer, Tricia Nixon Cox, Michael York, Hugh Hefner, Gene Boyer (helicopter pilot, as himself), Raymond Price, Ken Khachigian, Sue Mengers and Neil Diamond. To prepare for his role as Richard Nixon, Frank Langella visited the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, and interviewed many people who had known the former president.[2] On the set cast and crew addressed Langella as "Mr President".


The film had its world premiere on October 15, 2008 as the opening film of the 52nd annual London Film Festival.[3] It was released in three theaters in the United States on December 5, 2008 before expanding several times over the following weeks.[4] It was released in the United Kingdom and expanded into wide status in the United States on January 23, 2009.[3]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 21, 2009.[5] Special features include deleted scenes, the making of the film, the real interviews between Frost and Nixon, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, and a feature commentary with Ron Howard.[5]

Box office

The film had a limited release at three theaters on December 5, 2008 and grossed $180,708 on its opening weekend, ranking number 22.[6] Opening wide at 1,099 theaters on January 23, 2009, the film grossed $3,022,250 at the box office in the United States and Canada, ranking number 16.[6] The total gross at the American and Canadian box office is $12,231,106, including the international box office the total gross is $14,596,107.[7] The film grossed estimated $420,000 on January 31, 2009.[8] As of February 2, 2009, the film grossed estimated $14,311,000 at the box office and $16,676,001 worldwide.[9] The film grossed an estimated $18,622,031 in the United States and Canada and $8,393,048 in other territories for a total of $27,015,079 worldwide.[10]

Critical reception

Reviews of the film were largely positive. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 92% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 203 reviews, with a weighted average score of 7.8 out of a possible 10.[11] Among Rotten Tomatoes's Top Critics which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall high approval rating of 89%.[12] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 80 out of 100.[13]

Critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, commenting that Langella and Sheen "do not attempt to mimic their characters, but to embody them"[14] while Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3 1/2 stars, saying that Ron Howard "turned Peter Morgan's stage success into a grabber of a movie laced with tension, stinging wit and potent human drama."[15] Writing for Variety, Todd McCarthy praised Langella's performance in particular, stating "by the final scenes, Langella has all but disappeared so as to deliver Nixon himself."[16] Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald, however, gave the film two stars and commented that the picture "pales in comparison to Oliver Stone's Nixon when it comes to humanizing the infamous leader" despite writing that the film "faithfully reenacts the events leading up to the historic 1977 interviews."[17] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said, "stories of lost crowns lend themselves to drama, but not necessarily audience-pleasing entertainments, which may explain why Frost/Nixon registers as such a soothing, agreeably amusing experience, more palliative than purgative."[18]


Noted fiction and inaccuracies

Several historical inaccuracies were noted in the film by multiple sources, including Nixon biographers Jonathan Aitken and Elizabeth Drew. Aitken, one of Nixon's official biographers, spent much time with the former president at La Casa Pacifica and rebukes the film's portrayal of a drunk Nixon and a late night phone call as never having happened and "from start to finish, an artistic invention by the scriptwriter Peter Morgan."[19] Aitken remembers that "Frost did not ambush Nixon during the final interview into a damaging admission of guilt. What the former president 'confessed' about Watergate was carefully pre-planned. It was only with considerable help and advice from his adversary's team that Frost managed to get much more out of Nixon, in the closing sequences, by reining in his fierce attitude and adopting a gentler approach."[19]

David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote that the film overstated the importance of its basis, the Frost interview, stating it "elevates the 1977 interviews Nixon gave (or, rather, sold, for an unheard-of $600,000) to English TV personality David Frost into a momentous event in the history of politics and media."[20] Edelstein also noted that "with selective editing, Morgan makes it seem as if Frost got Nixon to admit more than he actually did."[20] Edelstein wrote that the film "is brisk, well crafted, and enjoyable enough, but the characters seem thinner (Sheen is all frozen smiles and squirms) and the outcome less consequential."[20]

Elizabeth Drew of the Huffington Post and author of Richard M. Nixon noted some inaccuracies, including a misrepresentation of the end of the interview, a lack of mention of the fact that Nixon received 20% of the profits from the interview, and what she purports to be inaccurate representation of some of the characters at hand. Drew points out a critical line in the movie that is particularly deceptive: Nixon admitted he "'...was involved in a 'cover-up,' as you call it.' The ellipsis is of course unknown to the audience, and is crucial: What Nixon actually said was, 'You're wanting to me to say that I participated in an illegal cover-up. No!'"[21] Though generally liked by critic Daniel Eagan, he notes that partisans on both sides have questioned the accuracy of the film's script.[22]

Fred Schwarz, writing for National Review online, said that, "Frost/Nixon is an attempt to use history, assisted by plenty of dramatic license, to retrospectively turn a loss into a win.[23] By all accounts, Frost/Nixon does a fine job of dramatizing the negotiations and preparation that led up to the interviews. And it’s hard to imagine Frank Langella, who plays a Brezhnev-looking Nixon, giving a bad performance. Still, the movie’s fundamental premise is just plain wrong."[23]

Caroline Cushing Graham, in an interview in December 2008, noted that her first travel with Frost was to go with him to the Muhammad Ali fight in Zaire, and that the two had been together more than five years prior to when the film shows the two meeting. She remembered Frost as feeling that did a pretty good job on every interview, whereas the film has him feeling like he did a poor job with the first two interviews. She also said that while in the movie they show Frost driving, in fact they were always chauffeured because Frost was always making notes for the work he was doing.[24]

Diane Sawyer said, in December 2008 that "Jack Brennan is portrayed as a stern military guy," citing both the play and what she’d heard about the film version. "And he’s the funniest guy you ever met in your life, an irreverent, wonderful guy. So there you go. It's the movies."[25]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.[26] Movie City News shows that the film appeared in 72 different top ten lists, out of 286 different critics lists surveyed, the 10th most mentions on a top ten list of the films released in 2008.[27] In addition, the film was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the best ten movies of 2008.[28]

Awards and nominations

Award Show Nominations Result
Golden Globes Best Motion Picture Nominated
Best Actor (Langella) Nominated
Best Director (Howard) Nominated
Best Original Score (Zimmer) Nominated
Best Screenplay (Morgan) Nominated
Vegas Film Society Best Actor (Langella) Won
Best Director Won
Best Editing Won
Best Film Won
Best Screenplay Won
Screen Actors Guild Best Actor (Langella) Nominated
Best Cast (A.K.A. Best Picture) Nominated
Academy Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Actor (Langella) Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Director (Howard) Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Actor Nominated
Best Screenplay-Adapted Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Make up and Hair Nominated


  1. ^ "Frost/Nixon (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  2. ^ McGrath, Charles (December 31, 2008). "So Nixonian That His Nose Seems to Evolve". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  3. ^ a b Staff writer. "The Times BFI London Film Festival". Moving Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  4. ^ "Froxt/Nixon - Daily Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b "Frost/Nixon (2008) – Weenend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  7. ^ "Frost/Nixon (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  8. ^ McClintock, Pamela (January 31, 2009). "Box office crown 'Taken' by Fox". Variety. Retrieved February 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Frost/Nixon (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  10. ^ "Frost/Nixon (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  11. ^ "Frost/Nixon Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  12. ^ "Frost/Nixon Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  13. ^ "Frost/Nixon (2008):Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  14. ^ "Frost/Nixon - Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  15. ^ "Frost/Nixon Review - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stones. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  16. ^ "Frost/Nixon - Todd McCarthy". Variety Magazine. 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  17. ^ "Frost/Nixon Review - History repeats itself -- unnecessarily, it seems". The Miami Herald. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  18. ^ Dargis, Manohla (December 5, 2008). "Movie Review Frost/Nixon (2008)". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28-2009. 
  19. ^ a b Aitken, Jonathan (January 24, 2009). "Nixon v Frost: The true story of what really happened when a British journalist bullied a TV confession out of a disgraced wx-President". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  20. ^ a b c Edelstein, David, Unholy Alliance Frost/Nixon’s iconic TV moment seems quaint after Couric/Palin, New York Magazine, November 30, 2008
  21. ^ "Frost/Nixon: A Dishonorable Distortion of History". Huffington Post. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  22. ^ "Film Review: Frost/Nixon". Film Journal International. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  23. ^ a b "Frost/Nixon’s Self-Congratulatory Revisionism". The National Review Online. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  24. ^ Miriam Datskovsky (December 6, 2008). "Dating David Frost". The Daily Beast. 
  25. ^ Lynn Sherr (December 6, 2008). "Diane Sawyer on Fact vs. Fiction in Frost/Nixon". The Daily Beast. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2009. 
  27. ^ David Poland (2008). "The 2008 Movie City News Top Ten Awards". Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  28. ^ 2008 American Film Institute Awards

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