This is going to be long.

Rachel called the other day with the offer of a fun time-- tickets to a screening of Ron Howard's new movie Frost/Nixon and the ensuing question and answer session. So naturally I signed up. Sadly, Rachel was forced to hold auditions at the same time so she didn't even get to go, but She graciously suggested that I still go, so I did. (I'm a little ashamed at that, but we did already have tickets!) The movie is going to be fabulous. It hasn't had the final edit yet, so not all the music is final, and some of the scenes may be tweaked a little, and there were some obvious sound problems, but the script was spectacular. It comes from a play written by the Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen, and stars many of the original Broadway cast. I did find it interesting that Ron Howard said it didn't have stars (meaning the Broadway cast-members), but many of the people in those roles were recognizable from British TV or film, even if not huge stars.

The subject matter sounds incredibly weak, but it was a fascinating movie. It's about the David Frost interview with Richard Nixon (Frost is played by Michael Sheen, who was Tony Blair in The Queen. It was the first interview he did after he left the presidency, and he chose Frost because he thought that a British talk show host wouldn't ask the right questions or be able to manage his answers, so Nixon would be able to come off as a good guy. The movie deals with Frost's effort to get the interview, to pay for the interview, and to get the interview screened as well as with the actual interview, portrayed as a battle between the two men. The interesting thing is the movie's portrayal of Nixon. He was unlikable, sexist, racist, violent, a control freak and unquestionably did the illegal things he was accused of. But you also saw his sadness and regret and all of the humanity and weakness of the man, and that was fascinating. You felt, just for a moment, sorry for him, without ever forgetting that he deserved what he got. I can't go into much detail without spoilers, because just as with any 'historical' movie the facts and the movie are not always the same, but I definitely recommend.

Ron Howard was also very interesting-- the man is clearly very smart, which made it a little sad that he started off by saying the only way he could get to Stanford was to make a movie that got screened there.

**He was asked about the message of the film, and he said that he remembers how the country felt just before and during Watergate and he thinks the country feels very similar today, so he thought it was very timely to deal with the way human failings lead to horrific abuses of power.

**He was asked about the process of taking actors who had been working on the same roles in a theater setting and transitioning them to film, which is a fascinating question. He said that sometimes he would have to 'whittle' them down from a theatrical portrayal, and other times they would have lots of different things that they had considered and even tried that were too subtle for the stage. He also talked about how he then worked with the film actors who joined the cast on spontaneity and naturalism and really getting them to integrate that with the original theatrical cast's extreme familiarity with their characters to create more entertaining and realistic portrayals. He said there was a seven minute long improvised scene that they did in character as the researchers arguing about what to ask about and how Nixon might respond that is so good he's putting it on the DVD.

**He was asked about how he (and the writer) had chosen what events to keep strictly real and what events to fictionalize, and he said that they had tried to keep the emotional truth of the characters and the events, even if toying with the actual events.

**He was asked a couple of questions about camera style. Much of the film was almost documentary in film, and he said that for some scenes they planned that out very carefully and in others he just didn't rehearse with the cameramen first, but told them to do it documentary style. It's interesting because while I could tell for some scenes which they were, I couldn't for others.

He talked about his choice to use 'interviews' with the characters as though the movie were an actual documentary. It took me out of the movie a little at the beginning as I tried to figure out if these interviews (at the time interspersed with original news footage) were real or acted, but it made sense at the end

He asked us a bunch of questions too- he said we were a very responsive audience so he wanted to know what we felt. He asked if we liked the epilogue cards, and if those who didn't hadn't liked the idea or the specific writing. He asked if we had liked the music choice in the transition into the final scene, and he asked if we thought one of the characters seemed too important at the beginning. It was interesting to me that the only real female character was completely pointless to the story. I felt like she was thrown in just to make there be a female character in what was, after all, at the time a completely male-dominated event.

And after it all ended, he stayed around to answer questions for a good half an hour. I didn't say much since there were tons of people, but I got to shake his hand and everything! He's shorter than I expected.

From: (Anonymous)


Thanks for your analysis. Do you know if it will be playing again a Stanford or if he will be previewing it at UC Berkeley?

From: [identity profile] redaly.livejournal.com


It was a one off at Stanford, and I don't think they were screening it anywhere else in the area. PolySci brought him, and I think they were the only sponsors.
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