Macfadyen/Platt Interview for Frost/Nixon

Exclusive - Macfadyen and Platt talk Frost/Nixon

Though its awards charge was much overshadowed by the Slumdog sensation, Frost/Nixon's five Oscar nominations were richly deserved, with Ron Howard converting Peter Morgan's acclaimed play into a taut, dark tale of a battle of wills, dominated by two outstanding performances from Michael Sheen and Frank Langella.

While Frost's (Sheen) quest to make Nixon (Langella) accountable for his role in the mire of the Watergate scandal was motivated in no small part by Frost's desire to prove himself as a serious interviewer, his attack strategy was built on the exhaustive research carried out by James Reston (Sam Rockwell), Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen).

In this exclusive interview ahead of the DVD and Blu-ray release of the Oscar-nominated Frost/Nixon, Matthew Macfadyen and Oliver Platt discuss stepping into the shoes of the real Zelnick and Birt, skinny dipping and a reassessment of one of the most fascinating residents of the White House.

What research did you do since you play real people in Frost/Nixon?

OLIVER PLATT: The good thing about working for Ron Howard is that he does his homework, so as soon as you sign on the dotted line, they back a truck up to your house, filled with video tapes and clippings; all the stuff you would have gone out and got anyway, but it made it very clear how important it was to dig down into these people and the events. For me, just as importantly, once you do all that work, you have to cherry pick from it and forget a lot of it because you have to remember you are serving another master, which is to create a compelling narrative.

MATTHEW MACFADYEN: You take what is useful and discard what isn't.

Did you meet John Birt whom you portray in Frost/Nixon?

MATTHEW MACFADYEN: I did, he took me for lunch. He was great, very generous, and very sweet.

Did he actually peel off and run naked into the sea too?

MATTHEW MACFADYEN: He might have done. It would have been something that he could have done. I asked him about that. He was sort of hazy but he said it was something he could imagine himself having done. It was a wild, spur of the moment kind of thing. But actually he would have had to get into the car and drive down to the beach and then dramatically, spontaneously run into the sea.

OLIVER PLATT: In real life it was Zelnick who did it but he has a much nicer bottom. 

Did your views on Richard Nixon change during the course of making Frost/Nixon?

OLIVER PLATT: Absolutely, and that is one of the things that is so beautiful about the movie I think. We have been handily villainising Nixon for almost four decades now and my view is that there are very few real heroes or real villains, there are people who do heroic things and there are people that make mistakes and I would put Nixon in the latter category. He made horrendous mistakes and he was definitely a flawed individual, but when you see him confessing and you see how low he was, it is very difficult not to feel for him.

Had you seen the stage play?

MATTHEW MACFADYEN: I did, I caught up with it towards the end of its run in New York. I enjoyed it very much - the depiction of John Birt in the play was very different to the screenplay.

Do you reckon that the humour in Frost/Nixon makes the drama even more potent?

OLIVER PLATT: There are intentional laughs and then there are the unintentional ones and there was a certain amount of those! (laughs) It was important to make sure that that sort of stuff was organic. We had a really good time making the movie and we had to make sure that when the humour spilled over on to the screen that it was appropriate.