Saturday, November 10, 2007

Frost/Nixon; Morgan/Howard

Tiny whimper.

I've just learned -- having apparently blocked it out when looking on the imdb page in the past -- that Ron Howard is directing the film version of Frost/Nixon. Directed, rather, since it has gone into post-production (shooting started right after the Broadway run ended).

Some of you know that I was stark raving mad about this play in August, and still am really. I saw it on Broadway twice, the first time from quite high up and the second time just two days before the end of the run, from front row center. Both times were fantastic for totally different reasons; from high up, I could appreciate the blocking and lighting and get a better sense of the audience reaction, while in the front row I could see beads of sweat and also see through the blackouts to watch the actors setting themselves up for the next reveal, which was technically fascinating. It is a great play about David Frost, the TV journalist, and Nixon coming together to do an interview post-Watergate and post-resignation. The play's tension revolves around the fact that both men see this as one last chance at the spotlight, with Frost's career in disarray and Nixon's quite obviously on the rocks. No need to tell you who wins.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that it was an intensely gripping 100+ minutes (no intermission). Nixon's summation of their divergent personalities, playboy and pigheaded fighter, is devastating in its simplicity: "You don't know how fortunate that makes you." Beautifully written and some of the greatest stage acting I've certainly ever seen. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen are reprising their roles. The lesser roles will be taken by Hollywood fodder rather than the stage players, which is to be expected. Sam Rockwell takes the narrator's role, which the first time I saw it was played by Remy Auberjonois, son of Rene Auberjonois from one or the the other of the Star Treks, but who I'm embarrassed to say I know chiefly as Frasier Crane's professor.

Right. Whimpering. The reason I'm whimpering just a little, and very quietly, is that Peter Morgan wrote this play (you might know him best from writing The Queen). I must have asininely assumed that Stephen Frears would be directing. But from what I've just googled, that apparently was never even an option; there was a lot of jockeying, Howard was very keen on doing it and doing it now, and Morgan wanted it made and out before the Bush administration leaves. Now, not having seen the Da Vinci Code, I feel no fear when I hear that Howard is directing a film. Actually, I figure that it will be solidly entertaining, well knit, dramatically gripping. But I never expect true greatness. And for me, Frost/Nixon was one of those experiences -- twice -- in which the entire world around you disappears. I was kind of hoping to have it on DVD.

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