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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 journalist/comedian David Frost and Frank Langella as former United States President Richard Nixon.
This film provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Nixon is pretty witty throughout.
- Age Lift: Swifty Lazaar was six years older than Richard Nixon but Toby Jones, who plays Swifty, is nearly thirty years younger than Frank Langella, who plays Nixon.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: Discussed. Frost is known for starting his broadcasts by saying "Hello, good evening and welcome," but, according to Frost, "I don't actually say that." In broadcasts shown within the film, he says "Hello. Good Evening." and "Good evening and welcome," but never says all three at once.
- Berserk Button: Nixon does not like being questioned about Watergate.
- Chekhov's Gun: Reston wants to check out some transcripts at the federal courthouse. No, waste of time, everyone assures him.
- Big Fancy House: La Casa Pacifica.
- Enforced Method Acting: To keep up the persona, All the other cast members called Frank Langella "Mr President" and he chose to refrain from his usual onset activities such as playing cards with cast and crew. He later commented that "None of Them got to meet the real Frank Langella on set".
- Expecting Someone Taller: Inverted. Upon seeing Nixon in person, Reston declares he's taller than he'd imagined. This is because Frank Langella, who plays Nixon, is about five inches taller than the President.
- Fake American: English Toby Jones as Swifty Lazaar.
- Golden Snitch: Due to the necessity of creating more tension for the dramatization. Unlike what happened in real life, Nixon is in control for three of the four interviews, but Frost's success with the last one determines the whole outcome. There is Lampshade Hanging of this done by the Narrator.
- Hannibal Lecture: Richard Nixon attempts to do this to Frost with a late night phone call, but as his drunken ramblings progress, all his Not So Different lines only end up revealing how broken and full of self-loathing he is. Frost doesn't even need to say Shut UP, Hannibal- he now knows that all he needs to do is corner Nixon and the man will destroy himself.
- Hard Work Montage: Frost after the drunk phone call.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Jack Brennan as played by Kevin Bacon is a humourless military man devoted to Nixon, who threatens to ruin Frost if he makes Nixon look bad. In Real Life, Brennan, a former Marine, is known for his kind and friendly personality with Diane Sawyer noting him as "The funniest guy you'll ever meet". David Frost called him a "delightful man" and had such praise for him and the rest of the Nixon team that he once said if they were his White House staff, the whole Watergate scandal might have been averted because they could have talked Nixon out of it.
- Honor Before Reason: Nixon claims this as his reason for not informing authorities of his men's actions, noting he had known them since they were children. He later calls his mistakes "Mistakes of the heart, not of the head".
- Hypocritical Humor: The researcher who despises Nixon swears he'll never shake hands with him; he does so moments later, stunned by being face-to-face with an ex-President of the United States.
- It Has Been an Honor: Nixon's drunk phone call.
- It's All About Me: Nixon can be like this at times. When answering questions about Vietnam, he frames answers by playing up his own moral strength and turning his decision into a noble self-sacrifice, casting himself as an undeserving victim. Snidely lampshaded by Jim who responds to Nixon's claims of "Being the last casualty of the Vietnam War" with a bitter "Tell that to the amputees".
- Mind Screw: Nixon is a master at this, including a Crowning Moment of Funny when he asks Frost if he'd spent the night fornicating moments before the cameras start rolling. Subverted when Nixon rings up Frost in the middle of his Heroic BSOD; at first it appears he's trying to further damage Frost's morale, but Nixon is actually drunk. When Frost realises just before his final interview that Nixon can't remember the conversation, it's our first sign that the advantage has passed to Frost.
- Money, Dear Boy: Nixon's reason for agreeing to be interviewed in the first place.
- Never My Fault: Nixon refuses to accept any responsibility for Watergate, which is partly why Frost and Co. want to do the interview: They want Him to finally confess and admit his own guilt.
- Nice to the Waiter: Nixon is portrayed as being quite a pleasant man in this film, his relationship with Jack Brennan being almost fatherly. Wheter it averts or sticks to the rule of this trope depends on Your view.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Nixon's late night phone call motivates a demoralised Frost to get off his butt and start prepping for the crucial Watergate interview.
- Not So Different: The phone call about self-made men strugging against the "snobs".
- Old Shame: Director Ron Howard admitted that He voted for Nixon in the 1972 election.
- Papa Wolf: Inverted. Jack Brennan is extremely protective of Nixon, who serves as a father figure, and threatens to ruin Frost if he damages his image.
- Pet the Dog: After the last interview, Nixon plays this completely straight.
- Precision F-Strike: The usually elegant Nixon going on an enraged rant ending with "We are gonna make the motherfuckers choke!"
- Rule of Drama: The two had considerably less riding on the outcome of the interviews then it is implied.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Jack Brennan is actually quite funny and not all that stern, Nixon got 20% of the ad revenue from the interviews enticing him to want to get more people to watch it, there was no midnight call about "Cheeseburgers," and Frost thought he did a great job on the first three interviews.
- Where Are They Now? Epilogue: A very short one reminding the viewers that Nixon's corrupt actions as President haunted him until his death in 1994 and that what he is most remembered for now is creating the -gate suffix to any political scandal. It also has information about Frost as well.
- Worthy Opponent: Nixon calls Frost this during the phone call.