Frost/Nixon star Frank Langella's skills with outsiders lead to presidential role; at age 70, Oscar talk





Frank Langella has an affinity for playing outsiders and flawed individuals, he says. On Broadway, he's getting into trouble with King Henry VIII every night as Sir Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons"; onscreen, he played a sexy, memorable "Dracula" in 1979, and his latest cinematic outlier is President Nixon in "Frost/Nixon." This adaptation of Peter Morgan's play revolves around the 1977 interviews between the disgraced former president and British talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen). Directed by Ron Howard ("The Da Vinci Code"), the film opens in limited release Dec. 5, and Oscar talk for Mr. Langella, 70 years old, has begun.

WSJ: You first played Nixon when "Frost/Nixon" opened in London in August 2006 and reprised the role on Broadway and for the film in 2007. Was it hard letting go of the character?

Mr. Langella: No -- I liked Richard Nixon and I liked playing him. I don't think he'll ever be gone from me, because something about the man is just very powerful. His pain, and the obviousness of his pain, stays with you. It's not a sentiment that's new to any of us -- you could see it on him at all times, his discomfort in public -- but I discovered he could be equally funny and charming. He just wasn't a relaxed man, and was forever churning away, trying to achieve greatness. But I'm deeply involved with playing Sir Thomas More now. Once something's over, you hang up the suit and move on.

Given his discomfort, he would not have done well in today's 24/7 news cycle.

Yes, there was at that point a certain amount of distance between the public and press but now, the ubiquitousness of the president, of all politicians, is remarkable to me -- they turn up on every show; I don't know how they have lives of any kind. The business of getting work done must be very difficult. Nixon wasn't required to appear that often....


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