Michael Sheen (left) as David Frost and Frank Langella, as Richard Nixon, star in the new Broadway production.
Michael Sheen (left) as David Frost and Frank Langella, as Richard Nixon, star in the new Broadway production. Johan Persson
David Paradine Productions
David Frost (left) spoke to former President Nixon for more than 28 hours over a 12-day period in 1977.
Video of the play courtesy of the Broadway production of Frost/Nixon; original interview video from Frost Nixon: Watergate, David Paradine Productions.
When Richard Nixon went on television to speak with David Frost in 1977, it was the first time the former president had given an interview since his resignation following the Watergate scandal.
The story of how those historic interviews came about, and how they played out, is dramatized in the play Frost/Nixon, opening on Broadway this Sunday.
Steve Inskeep talked to the man who plays David Frost and the writer who re-created the interviews for the stage.
Peter Morgan writes political dramas, though he doesn't like to consider them political. He wrote last year's film The Last King of Scotland about Uganda's dictator Idi Amin. He also wrote The Queen about Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen. Sheen now plays Frost in the new play.
Morgan says politics is not what attracted him to these stories.
"I'm drawn to these relationships," Morgan says. "I would not have written about Richard Nixon without David Frost and I wouldn't have written about Tony Blair without the queen. It's the combination of elements... "
"Relationships really interest me and in this particular case, there was a very dramatic context of how these two men were going into a sort of verbal head-to-head. It felt like a boxing match, but where words were the weapons," the writer says.
Sheen notes that both Frost and Nixon had a lot at stake going into the interviews. Both of their reputations were at stake and Frost put a lot of his own money into financing the interviews' production.
"They're in similar situations in that they both have to win this," Sheen says.
In writing the play, Morgan reordered much of the material from the interviews — and not all of the stage dialogue came from those conversations.
"So Nixon (played by Frank Langella) would sometimes say things that he actually said somewhere completely different.... But I felt at all times — and I'm pretty rigorous with myself — that what I was doing was not irresponsible," Morgan says.