With an eclectic list of directorial triumphs -- 'Parenthood,' 'Apollo 13' and 'The Da Vinci Code,' to name just a few -- on his resume and a pair of Academy Awards for 2001's 'A Beautiful Mind' adorning his mantel, Ron Howard is back in the running for a couple more statues with his movie adaptation of Peter Morgan's acclaimed play 'Frost/Nixon.'
Moviefone chatted with the accomplished director about the film, which chronicles the behind-the-scenes pyrotechnics surrounding the 1977 interviews between playboy TV host David Frost and disgraced ex-President Richard Nixon; about (finally!) bringing the beloved sitcom 'Arrested Development' to the big screen; and about reprising the iconic role of Richie Cunningham.
'Parenthood,' 'Apollo 13' and 'The Da Vinci Code,' to name just a few -- on his resume and a pair of Academy Awards for 2001's 'A Beautiful Mind' adorning his mantel, Ron Howard is back in the running for a couple more statues with his movie adaptation of Peter Morgan's acclaimed play 'Frost/Nixon.'
Moviefone chatted with the accomplished director about the film, which chronicles the behind-the-scenes pyrotechnics surrounding the 1977 interviews between playboy TV host David Frost and disgraced ex-President Richard Nixon; about (finally!) bringing the beloved sitcom 'Arrested Development' to the big screen; and about returning to his acting roots to reprise the iconic role of Richie Cunningham.
1. What compelled you to adapt 'Frost/Nixon'? Was there something you felt a film would bring to the table that the stage version did not?
Well, I saw what they discovered with the play was something that was so surprisingly entertaining and engrossing -- that it was one of those situations where you think you might know what happened but behind the scenes it's just so much more entertaining and involving than you'd ever imagined. And I felt that it was also a pretty cool era to evoke onscreen. And in a lot of ways, David Frost sort of embodied that -- his spirit, his energy, the whole globetrotting, freewheeling playboy celebrity that he was, among other things, during that time. I thought he was a really fresh character to center on and put into conflict with Richard Nixon.
2. With a film that's anchored in fact but also incorporates some elements of fiction, there are bound to be some who say that you're taking liberties with history. What's your response to that? Is it all in the name of entertainment?
Well, entertainment and insight. It's one of those things where the facts may not all be correct, but the truth is getting told. And I think, you know, it's an interpretation. It's mine. It's Peter Morgan, the writer's. It's the actors' interpretation of what we've come to understand about the events and the people surrounding those events. But even where there's creative license that has been taken, it's really been trying to make the story cohesive and engrossing and fun to watch, and also allowing the audience to understand a little bit better what really seemed to make these guys tick.
3. What was the coolest part about filming?
The actual filming of the interviews was pretty intense because I was, as a director, trying to make it as immediate as possible so it's almost as if the audience is right there with these guys in the room and all those dramatic fireworks are going off. And these two actors [Frank Langella and Michael Sheen] were just, take after take, extraordinary. People would gather around the monitors where I'd be sitting watching the cameras and their jaws would drop. The work that these guys were doing -- what they understood about these characters -- was riveting. It was also very cool to shoot at the real Casa Pacifica, Nixon's Western White House. When you're in situations like that, it's almost like you're a kid that's snuck into the locker room at Yankee Stadium or something. You realize all the history, all the individuals -- individuals that you are depicting -- really lived, breathed and sorted out all their problems in that space in which you're filming now. It adds to the sense of responsibility. You also gain a lot of insight because around those environments are the people who knew the individuals that you're trying to dramatically depict. We picked up all kinds of great details that we could offer back to the audience.
4. What's the latest scoop on the 'Arrested Development' movie?
There's no script. There's no start date. But I feel like there's this unified intention to do it and a real creative appetite to do it. I'm excited about it. And I know they've got a narrator standing by, that's for sure [laughs]. I'd [also] be one of the producers of the film. Mitch Hurwitz would write and direct and produce as well. I think it would be a happy reunion for the cast, who just loved the show and missed it from the moment it ended -- and a real great challenge for Mitch, who I think is going to wind up being a real great filmmaker. This is a great way to get him started.
5. You recently "reprised" your iconic roles as Richie Cunningham and Opie for a FunnyorDie clip encouraging people to vote. What was that like? Did it make you miss acting at all?
[Laughs.] It reminded me that acting is hard work -- even doing that satirical, tongue-in-cheek Obama endorsement. It's a high-wire act whenever you get in front of the camera. It's one of the reasons I think I get along so well with actors -- they know that I really empathize with what they're trying to accomplish.