Langella, Sheen reprise stage roles for Howard

Universal Pictures

Release date: Dec. 5

On Broadway, Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon” seemed to be a play waiting to be fully realized on the bigscreen. Its reliance on many narrators to get out all the continent-jumping exposition has been minimized, if not entirely eliminated, for its screen adaptation. Although the core of “Frost/Nixon,” both onstage and onscreen, remains the TV confrontation between British talkshow host David Frost and the deposed U.S. President Richard Nixon, it is a far-flung story, set in many locales, that has as much to do with one politician’s tragedy as it does with one celeb’s financial and career gamble. Here is one play that never needed to be “opened up.”

Any film that comes to the screen courtesy of Oscar winners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard is a contender, in both the picture and director categories. Scribe Morgan also is no stranger to the Academy. His original script for “The Queen” was nominated two seasons ago.

But “Frost/Nixon’s” best shots may be for the work of two actors who have heretofore been passed over by Oscar, despite high-profile work in high-profile films. Michael Sheen, sitting in for Frost, was ignored by the Acad for his spot-on Tony Blair portrayal in “The Queen.” Likewise, Frank Langella, now giving us a definitive impersonation of Nixon, scored with crix, but not Acad voters, for his Bill Paley in 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” and in 2006’s “Starting Out in the Evening.”

When confronted with two same-sex stars, Academy campaigns like to throw one of the thesps into the supporting category, as was the case with Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain” and Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal.” That trick is unlikely to work with Sheen and Langella, since their respective characters share the title. The result could be a double win — or loss.

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