by Bill Newcott, AARP The Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2009
Like many Americans, actor-director Ron Howard had very mixed feelings about Richard Nixon in the 1970s—and directing Frost/Nixon, the new film about the disgraced president’s series of TV interviews with British talk show host David Frost, hasn’t clarified things for him much.
“On one hand, back in 1977 I was of draft age, and Nixon had suspended the draft, so I liked him for that,” says Howard. “On the other hand, I felt he probably prolonged our time [in Vietnam]. I questioned him on social issues, and of course I felt utterly betrayed by Watergate.”
The interviews first focused on Nixon’s triumphs, including relations with China, and Howard recalls that Nixon “acquitted himself so brilliantly—I was struck by how knowledgeable a statesman he was. And I started to shift into a mode of acceptance.” Then came the segment in which Nixon acknowledged at least some responsibility for the Watergate cover-up. “I remember feeling that a man can be two things,” says Howard. “He can be talented and effective, and he can also be a betrayer of your trust. And one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”
Fresh from directing the adventure thriller The Da Vinci Code, Oscar-winner Howard—and, yes, it’s still okay to remember him as Opie on TV’s The Andy Griffith Show—took on a decidedly more focused project in Frost/Nixon. Based on the 2007 Broadway play by Peter Morgan, it stars Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost. At first the dialogue-heavy, action-light concept didn’t seem like the ideal movie, but Howard drew from two of his most successful films: Apollo 13 and the boxing biopic Cinderella Man.
“I put to use the intensity generated in tight corners in Apollo 13 and the flat-out combat of Cinderella Man,” he says. “When I saw the play on Broadway I was caught off-guard by the intensity of the experience. That night I told my agent, ‘I will commit to making this my next movie.’”
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save $65-$200 on round-trip tickets purchased online.
Members save 10% at Park Ride Fly USA's off-airport parking locations nationwide.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at