“From the moment he steps onstage, with his hunched walk and lumbering step, Frank Langella has avoided the obvious route of Rich Little-style impersonation of one of the most impersonated figures in history. What he delivers instead is an interpretation that, without imitation, still captures and exaggerates Richard Nixon‘s essential public traits: the buttered-gravel voice, the scowling smile, the joviality that seemed to contain an implicit threat.
“The friend with whom I saw the play asked me afterward if I had noticed how much better Langella’s Nixon impersonation became as the show progressed. Langella’s performance had not changed, but by evening’s end it had eclipsed the familiar photographic image of the real man. Like Helen Mirren‘s understated Elizabeth II in The Queen, this overstated Nixon seems destined forever to blend into and enrich the perceptions of its prototype for anyone who sees it.” — from Ben Brantley‘s review of Frost/Nixon in the 4.23 edition of the N.Y. Times.
And yet Ron Howard, fearful of moviegoers who may be not be innately aroused by Langella’s talent, wants to cast a “name” guy to play Nixon for his movie version, which starts shooting in August. Note to Ron: cast the best man and the hell with marquee value. Make the best film you can and make your next bundle from Angels and Demons. The Frost/Nixon film isn’t going to break records no matter who plays Nixon. Forget the Wild Hogs crowd, the airport-fiction readers, the Da Vinci Code mouth-breathers…forget ’em all.