Ron Howard unspools ‘Frost/Nixon’

Director marks milestone at <i>Variety</i> screening

What: Variety screening of “Frost/Nixon”

Where: ArcLight Cinema, Hollywood

Who: Director Ron Howard

The ArcLight audience recognized Ron Howard’s 50th year in showbiz with a rousing ovation following the Variety screening of the director’s new film, “Frost/Nixon,” on Saturday night.

After the pic the crowd was rewarded with an engaging Q&A session moderated by Variety’s Ted Johnson, who covered topics ranging from the challenges of adapting Peter Morgan’s theatrical production, to the decision on whether to release the movie before or after this year’s presidential election given the inevitable comparisons to the current departing administration.

“The thing that I really liked about the writing is that it’s not pushing a political agenda. It’s really utilizing these two characters to create great drama,” Howard explained. “Yes, one of them was a political figure and we delve into the politics of his resignation, but it doesn’t really have an axe to grind beyond the ultimate idea that in a democracy we need the truth and we need the media to help get the truth. It’s more than just a good idea, it’s something worth fighting for.”

At first Howard pushed for the idea of releasing the film during the just concluded presidential campaign, but the studios were against that strategy and eventually the helmer changed his mind. 

“I’m glad that it’s not in a position to be characterized as a political movie trying to make a point pre-election,” he said.

“Frost/Nixon” is the dramatic retelling of the summer 1977 televised interviews between British TV personality David Frost and the 37th president in which a record 45 million viewers tuned in to see the president discuss his involvement in the Watergate conspiracy.

And would soon-to-be former President George W. Bush sit down for a similar interview?

“Fat chance,” said Howard. “I don’t think it would be allowed. Nixon needed the money. He had this hubris to believe that he could beat television and I think he thought there would be great irony in somehow redeeming himself through the medium that had caused him some pain over the years.

“I do believe he thought that he could probably control things and have his best chance with Frost, but I don’t think another president would sit for hours.”

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