Video:Ron Howard Interview - Frost/Nixonwith Rebecca Murray
Director Ron Howard saw 'Frost/Nixon' on the stage and knew almost immediately he wanted to direct a film version. At the movie's LA premiere, Howard talked about what makes David Frost's interviews of ex-President Richard Nixon so compelling.See Transcript
Transcript:Ron Howard Interview - Frost/NixonRebecca Murray from About.com Hollywood Movies at the Los Angeles Premiere of Frost/Nixon.
Frost/Nixon Director/Producer Ron HowardWhen you saw this onstage, what made you think you could make it into a movie?
Ron Howard: "Great drama, great characters. And, you know, in fact surprising characters in that kind of conflict is always incredibly cinematic. And when I was watching the play, as much as I was loving it, I was dying to grab a camera and get in there, bore in on these two great actors – Michael Sheen and Frank Langella - and give film audiences a chance to see what they were up to."
And working with writer Peter Morgan – did you two collaborate or were you more hands-off?
Ron Howard: "Well, Peter Morgan wrote The Queen and Last King of Scotland and so many great, great films and television films and he was sort of experimenting and dabbling as a playwright, so he was fantastic with the adaptation. And I had a set of ideas which he, for the most part, agreed with. In fact, I felt the adaptation went very smoothly. It was also fueled by more research and so new ideas for little scenes and insights into the characters were coming to us all the time as we were making the circuit and talking to people who lived through it."
What makes you think this is still relevant today? What is it that grabs audiences about this particular story?
Ron Howard: "It happens to deal with a character who, you know, abused the power of the presidency and there are a lot of people who feel that's what we've had for the last eight years. But that's not front and center. It's not the reason that Peter wanted to write it or I wanted to direct it, but it's certainly a relatable aspect. This is relevant because anytime you have characters as sort of unexpectedly intense as David Frost or Richard Nixon are, it yields great, great drama. I think people are always surprised when they see this film, and I think they were surprised when they saw the play, too, because they think it's going to be a reenactment of interviews but in fact they just had no idea what went on behind the scenes and how suspenseful and funny and emotional all that turned out to be."
You did so much research on this, do you think Nixon actually did feel that as a president it was okay to lie, that nothing was illegal when you're president?
Ron Howard: "I didn't read this, no one said this to me, but I have a theory that at that time as a president in the Cold War – this is not making an apology for Richard Nixon – but I think he felt like he was playing with one hand tied behind his back. He had this damn democracy that he had to worry about but his main opponents – Russia and China – they didn't. I think he felt that there were probably times when an American president just had to have the nerve to stand up and play hardball. And he was wrong. He was wrong, but he was also... You know, intellectually he was brilliant. As a sort of geopolitical visionary he was quite remarkable, but all that said, you know, his personal character defects not only brought him down and brought him to shame, but it also really harmed our nation. You can admire him for certain reasons but he can't be forgiven."
After watching the film it was strange for me because I was sympathetic toward him, and I've never felt that way before. Have you experienced that?
Ron Howard: "Well, you know, in trying to present a balanced drama you want to humanize the characters and make them as relatable as possible. And so in doing that I hope it does create empathy for him, not necessarily sympathy but understanding. That's what Shakespeare did better than anyone ever has or will is to sort of shine a light on even craziness."