‘Frost/Nixon’ the movie: anatomy of a face-off

The Ron Howard film goes behind the scenes of the high-stakes televised gamble that pitted a disgraced Richard Nixon against a diminished David Frost in a quest for salvation.

They eyed each other like boxers at a weigh-in. Richard Nixon ( Frank Langella) peeked through the curtains of the Western White House to size up his interviewer. David Frost (Michael Sheen) walked up to Nixon, cautiously appraising the former president before they battled in their landmark televised interviews.

Ron Howard may already have made a big fisticuffs film -- 2005's " Cinderella Man" -- but the boxing metaphors abound in Dec. 5's "Frost/Nixon," the director's adaptation of Peter Morgan's celebrated play about the 1977 conversations between the British talk show host and the exiled president.

In Howard and Morgan's telling, Nixon and Frost both have their corner men: advisors to prepare them for and coach them through the contentious interviews. Nixon says it will be a "no-holds-barred" fight and describes the showdown as a "duel." Frost agrees. "Only one of us can win," he says. The only thing missing is a ring announcer.

"There's a connection between these two. They don't hate each other. But they have to beat each other," Howard said during a break in “Frost/Nixon’s” filming in September 2007, when the production enjoyed unprecedented access to Nixon's former coastal beachfront hideaway, also known as Casa Pacifica, in San Clemente

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