Great Scene: “Frost/Nixon”

A late night phone call from a drunk ex-President to his interviewer.

A few weeks back, I put the call out on Twitter for some suggestions for the Great Scene series. Got a LOT of responses including this one:

Movie: Frost/Nixon (2008), screenplay by Peter Morgan based on his play

IMDb plot summary: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.

Scene Setup: It is the night before the last interview segment. Watch the scene below:

Check out the text dialogue from the script:

Richard Nixon: That's our tragedy, you and I Mr. Frost. No matter how high we get, they still look down at us.

David Frost: I really don't know what you're talking about.

Richard Nixon: Yes you do. Now come on. No matter how many awards or column inches are written about you, or how high the elected office is, it's still not enough. We still feel like the little man. The loser. They told us we were a hundred times, the smart asses in college, the high ups. The well-born. The people who's respect we really wanted. Really craved. And isn't that why we work so hard now, why we fight for every inch? Scrambling our way up in undignified fashion. If we're honest for a minute, if we reflect privately, just for a moment, if we allow ourselves a glimpse into that shadowy place we call our soul, isn't that why we're here? Now? The two of us. Looking for a way back into the sun. Into the limelight. Back onto the winner's podium. Because we can feel it slipping away. We were headed, both of us, for the dirt. The place the snobs always told us that we'd end up. Face in the dust, humiliated all the more for having tried. So pi tifully hard. Well, to hell with that! We're not going to let that happen, either of us. We're going to show those bums, we're going to make 'em choke on our continued success. Our continued headlines! Our continued awards! And power! And glory! We are gonna make those mother fuckers choke!

Now THAT is a monologue. But of course, it's penned by Peter Morgan, so we should expect no less.

A couple of points of interest about this scene:

  • The phone conversation at midnight between Frost and Nixon never actually happened. Screenwriter Peter Morgan got the inspiration from well-known phone calls at midnight, that Nixon did to some government members during the Watergate scandal.
  • The pivotal scene where a drunken Nixon telephones Frost in the middle of the night was filmed in two adjacent sets with both actors on stage at the same time in order to bring a real sense of spontaneity to such a key scene.

This is a terrific movie, one director Ron Howard describes as a "thinking man's Rocky".

If you have a suggestion for a Great Scene, don't be shy, let me hear from you.

For more in the Great Scene series, go here.


Great Scene: "Frost/Nixon" was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story - Medium

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