A James Bond and tricky Dickie in the boxing ring.
The Watergate scandal in 1972 led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon. It was the first time in history that an American president had to leave office. James Reston sr. told his son to turn the telly on. We hear Gerald Ford declare that Nixon will not be prosecuted. At that same moment David Frost is in Australia for a show. He watches the telly too and with an open mouth he sees Nixon telling he is resigning.
Two weeks later in the London Weekend TV-studios Frost tells his producer John Birt that he wants to interview Richard Nixon, who is in the hospital at that moment. Three months later Nixons literary agent Swifty Lazar talks with Nixon in San Clemente, Ca. about the interview. At that moment Nixon is writing his memoirs with the assistance of some textwriters. The interview could purify his name and produce even more money than with the memoirs.
Frost is on his way to the U.S. to talk about the interview. In the plane he meets the beautiful Caroline Cushing from Monte Carlo and ask her to come with him. In the U.S. he tries to interest the networks in broadcasting the interview, but no one is interested. In La Casa Pacifica Nixon tells David and Caroline about his talks with Breznjev. He says they both had a sad youth, he lost two brothers on tuberculosis. Frost decides to do the interview anyway.
In The Plaza Hotel in New York City Frost and Reston disagree about the goal. Reston wants Nixon to have a trial. Frost tells his producer Birt that it is a good thing to be out of the comfortzone sometimes.In Houston Nixon hates talking to a dinnerparty. Jack Brennan says Nixon can have Frost. Nixon jokes to let the CIA find out about the strategy of Frost.
In L.A. Frost prepares the interview with Reston jr. and Bob Zelnick. They talk about wiretapping. Jack Brennan doesn’t want them to talk about Watergate too much. Nixon sees Frost on television, being interviewed in front of a movietheatre.
On the first day of the interview, on March 23 1977, in the house of a local businessman, Nixon arrives in a convoy of cars. Frost says he is delighted that Mrs. Nixon is recovering well. Nixon wants his handkerchief close by, because moisture on his upperlip did cost him his presidency once (against Jack Kennedy). Nixon asks Frost about his Italian shoes: are they not too feminine?
Frost opens the interview by asking why Nixon didn’t burn the Watergate tapes. Nixon answers that he is surprised by this question because they would cover Watergate in the last session, but he doesn’t want to disappoint the viewers and says that the tape system was an idea of Johnson. Frost doesn’t know how to react. The next question, about the moment that Nixon knew he was going to resign, is neither very painful for Nixon. who rambles on about his daughters and leaves as a conqueror.
Frost is disappointed and tries to raise money, which is not easy. On the second day Nixon looks with lust at Caroline who is just walking away. Frost starts about Vietnam and shows terrible pictures, but Nixon says it was not his war and triumphs again. On the third day, March 28, Reston and Zelnick are angry. Reston calls Frost a talkshowhost. Frost asks him to leave if he thinks that he fails but Reston stays. Frost invites them at his birthday party.
At night Frost hears about a re-evalution of the interview and is puzzled. Caroline tells him to stay in the hotelroom and goes out to get food. In the meanwhile Nixon phones. Frost thinks it is Caroline and says he wants a cheeseburger. Nixon suggests that a bachelor must have a good time on a Fridaynight in a hotel with a cute girlfriend, but Frost says he is prepraring for the final session. Nixon says he hardly got to know Frost and starts about Davids education in Cambridge, the tradegy that people looked down on him, but that they work hard for a place under the sun and that they are going to show the motherfuckers that they are not losers. Frost says only one of them both can win. Nixon agrees. He says he had some drinks, but that he is ready for the battle.
Frost starts to work hard, helped by Reston. On the final day, April 22th, Frost starts about the obstruction of justice by Nixon. Nixon says he did not have a corrupt motive. Frost asks why the conversation with Haldeman was erased from the tapes and that his falsehood can be proven in talks to Charles Colson and John Dean. ‘Why didn’t you call the police?’ Frost asks.
‘I did it in the interest of the nation,’ Nixon answers. ‘Then it is not illegal.’ ‘But no one shares that opinion,’ Frost answers. ‘So you were part of the cover up and you did break the law?’
Jack Brennan decides to have a break in the interview and asks Nixon if he knows what his unplanned emotional disclosures can cause. ‘I carry on denying it all,’ Nixon decides.
Frost takes up the boxing-glove again and repeats his question. ‘What would you like me to say?’ Nixon asks. ‘That is was a crime and that he apologizes for the American people,’ Frost insists. Nixon answers he made mistakes, but it was a difficult time. He regrets. ‘No one knows what it is to have to resign as a president. I’m not going on my knees. I brougt myself down and they stuck a sword in me.’
‘How about the American people? Frost asks. ‘I let them down.’ Nixon leaves the house as a dog with his tail between his legs.
In a comment Reston says that television simplifies. There is this reductive power of the close up of a beaten Nixon. Frost enjoyed his success. On his way back to England he went by Nixon with Caroline. Nixon gratulated him. Frost says he is sorry. Nixon answers that Frost was a worthy opponent. He never liked his job, he would rather communicate with people like Frost does. Frost bought Nixon a box with Italian shoes. Nixon holds the box in his hands and asks David what they talked about on the phone that night. ‘Cheeseburgers,’ David says and leaves. Nixon opens the box and sees feminine shoes.
In subtitles we see that this interview was the most succesful one in the career of David Frost, a most charming role by Michael Sheen. Nixon, played very well by Frank Langella, died in 1994 by a stroke.
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