: Frost/nixon (9780230531147) : David Frost : Books
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by David Frost
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Product Details

  • Publisher: MacMillan
  • Publishing date: 09/2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780230531147
  • ISBN: 0230531148


Following the resounding success of the eponymous West End and Broadway hit play, Frost/Nixon tells the extraordinary story of how Sir David Frost pursued and landed the biggest fish of his career--and how the series drew larger audiences than any news interview ever had in the United States, before being shown all over the world.

This is Frost's absorbing story of his pursuit of Richard Nixon, and is no less revealing of his own toughness and pertinacity than of the ex-President's elusiveness. Frost's encounters with such figures as Swifty Lazar, Ron Ziegler, potential sponsors, and Nixon as negotiator are nothing short of hilarious, and his insight into the taping of the programs themselves is fascinating.

Frost/Nixon provides the authoritative account of the only public trial that Nixon would ever have, and a revelation of the man's character as it appeared in the stress of eleven grueling sessions before the cameras. Including historical perspective and transcripts of the edited interviews, this is the story of Sir David Frost's quest to produce one of the most dramatic pieces of television ever broadcast, described by commentators at the time as "a catharsis" for the American people.

Questions for Sir David Frost It must have been an extraordinary experience when you went to see Frost/Nixon the play for the first time. How did it feel?

Frost: It was indeed a unique experience. But after about 20 minutes, I stopped thinking of Michael Sheen as "me" and more as "the Frost character." That was because I know and care about the underlying material so much and was concerned to see how that was depicted.

When I interviewed Michael in December 2006, shortly after the Broadway production and the film had been announced, Michael said, "Do you realise? I'm going to be playing David Frost for the next year?" "That's a coincidence," I said, "so am I!" When the producers of Frost/Nixon came to you for permission to adapt these events from your life into a play, they asked for complete editorial control over the story, which you say you hesitated before granting. That same control, of course, was one of the crucial agreements with Richard Nixon that gave your interviews such drama and importance. What was it like to grant the producers the same open-ended permission that Nixon had once given you?

Frost: You are quite right--the editorial control that we had during the Nixon Interviews was absolutely essential. Essential for ensuring that the most important material was all included, and essential for the credibility of the interviews. As I describe in the book, the moment that Nixon's agent, Swifty Lazar, told me that his client had no problem with my having editorial control, that was a great relief, and indeed an extremely pleasant surprise. Swifty Lazar explained that Nixon was also aware of the need for the interviews to have complete credibility. Indeed during the interviews he went further and said that he regarded himself to be speaking under oath throughout the interviews.

I suppose that the editorial control that I granted to Peter Morgan and Matthew Byam-Shaw for the play was somewhat different. I was in a sense giving them the right to fictionalise certain scenes--hopefully as few as possible--in the course of producing the play. There could never be any fictionalising in editing the Nixon Interviews because we were dealing solely with Nixon's own words, spoken by him. Why do you think Nixon thought it was in his interest to participate in a public interrogation he had little control over?

Frost: Richard Nixon often referred to "the power of television." When Jimmy Carter, who was President at the time the interviews were being taped, announced a fireside chat from the Oval Office, Nixon approved and said, "It's the tube. That's what matters. It's the tube." I think he hoped in this case that "the tube" would, in some way, exonerate him.

The fact that I had not been on the nightly news every night of his Watergate ordeal may have made him think that I would be more independent or open-minded, and he may not have been wholly aware of some of the heavyweight interviews I had conducted in America and the UK.

I think he was also in a state of some financial insecurity, not knowing for example how many of the people who were serving prison sentences for following his instructions might sue him when they were released. Much of the drama of the interviews comes from this strange relationship at the heart of it: on one hand, you and Nixon were partners in producing this piece of televised theater, on the other you were adversaries, nearly prosecutor and defendant at times. Can you describe what it was like to negotiate that relationship in real time, once the interviews began?

Frost: The tone of the relationship was affected by whatever the current topic of that day’s interview. On the first day of Watergate, we were indeed prosecutor and defendant, but when we were discussing the breakthrough to China, we were more like Johnson and Boswell. Once the arrangements were made and the interviews were underway, the arrangements faded into the background. What role do you think the interviews played in America's experience of Nixon and Watergate? Americans like trials--was it the trial of the president that we never had?

Frost: Yes, I think it was. Many commentators wrote that they felt the interviews--and particularly Watergate--were the catharsis that Americans needed after the traumatic events of 1973 and 1974.

A few months after the interviews, Richard Nixon would probably have said that he regretted undertaking them because he admitted so much more in his mea culpa than he had planned to. However, even for Nixon, there was probably a longer term benefit, namely that he could not have returned to New York and "polite society" if he had never faced up to these issues in a forum which he did not control. You've interviewed President Bush, as you have every president since Nixon. Could you imagine that he (and Vice President Cheney) would consider sitting down for such a series of retrospective interviews once they are out of office? If they sat down with you, what questions would you most want to ask them?

Frost: I made a firm point with Nixon that he would not know any of the questions in advance, so I’m scarcely likely to reveal the questions I would ask President Bush and Vice President Cheney more than a year ahead! Is there one moment over any others that you particularly recall from the interviews?

Frost:On the first day of the Watergate interviews, Nixon had admitted nothing--not even mistakes. That session was a disaster for him. On the second day, we made progress and he admitted to mistakes. However, he had to go a lot further. I said to him, "Coming to the sheer substance--would you go further than 'mistakes'? The word that seems not enough for people to understand."

"Well, what word would you express?"

It was the most heart-stopping response I have ever had in my life. I had spent hours cross-examining Richard Nixon. Now he wanted me to testify for him as well. Yet, unless I was able to frame with precision what it was we wanted to hear form him, the moment would be lost, never to be recaptured. As a symbolic gesture, I picked up my clipboard from my lap, and tossed it onto the floor beside my chair...

As I tell in the book, I made my ad-lib statement of the three things that I felt the American people needed to hear, and the ensuing 20 minutes were the most intense I can ever remember as he addressed all three points in turn.

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  • Better than the Film, the Film was Misleading
    From Amazon

    This book is the actual transcript of the Frost interviews, unlike the deceptive film that Ron Howard directed. Nixon did not say what Howard says he said, in the context that Howard claims. It is outrageous that Nixon has been treated so unfairly in this respect. President Nixon was one of the great Presidents. Yes, he was wrong on Watergate. But his legacy should not be overshadowed by this one event.

  • Fun and timely
    From Amazon

    Interesting behind-the-scenes of an interesting bunch of interviews. Frost comes across as much more informed than I would have figured before he did the interviews. So I have heard, Nixon thought the same thing. The transcripts at the end of the book were fascinating. Amazingly I found Nixon's defense of the Chile stuff to be the most convincing (not a very high bar to get over). And his discussions of Watergate left him looking like a whiny defense lawyer instead of the chief law enforcer of the US. If I remember correctly, he recognized that too. Oh well. If you're a fan of the movie this is worth reading.

  • "I Gave My Enemies A Sword & They Stuck It In Me..."
    From Amazon

    These words uttered by Nixon during the Frost interview not only goes directly to the heart of Nixon's psyche but also to the book itself. As the title of the book implies this is a book based on the March 1977 televised interviews of Nixon by David Frost. In many ways this is a remarkable book that puts not only Watergate into historical perspective but also that of the Presidency and legacy of President Nixon. Frost makes several attempts at being even-handed by repeatedly making statements like "very few Presidents of the past century came close to Nixon's skill in foreign affairs or his ability to emphasize with the ordinary people." However, the book continually gets bogged down with irrelevant minutia and a tendency of the author to revert to a mentality of "Team Frost vs. Team Nixon"... who really won? This is no more evident than when it was noted in the book where Zelnick (who at the time of the Frost/Nixon interviews was a member of "Team Frost" and who currently is co-author of the this book) had implored Frost from the monitoring booth to "move in, tear the SOB (Nixon) to pieces". Certainly, this is not objective journalism. The reader is left with the thought "is this an interview or a debate?" Unfortunately, the "I got him" theme undercuts what should have been a fascinating look into the historically important Frost/Nixon interviews. Ironically, the strength of the book lies in how Nixon overcame the stigma of Watergate; how he rose to the level of a respected elder statesman who achieved "peace with honor in Vietnam", a meaningful arms control agreement with one menacing Superpower (USSR) and normalization of relations with another emerging Superpower (The People's Republic of China). In the end this is a book about thinly veiled contradictions-- praising, but mostly damning Nixon. Like this review, the book is a bit too verbose. But one walks away from this book thinking " Nixon gave Frost and Zelnick the sword... and while they may have not have stuck it in him they certainly drew blood".

  • Great companion book to the movie
    From Amazon

    I recently saw the "Frost/Nixon" movie (more on that later), which caused me to seek out this book. This book is quite a curiosity in a way, in the sense that David Frost wrote this in 2007, after the "Frost/Nixon" play had become a hit on stage in London's West End and on Broadway, and that the play was being made into a high-profile movie. "Frost/Nixon: Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews" (384 pages) is really two books into one. The first half of the book is a memoir and reflection of Frost on how he was able to get the interviews with Nixon (money helped, a lot), how the interviews went, and the aftermath of the interviews. As Frost notes: "The week our first program aired, Newsweek, TV Guide and Time all featured the sessions on their covers. ... I never did ask Nixon if he had watched the show. My guess is that he did, although I'm quite sure he would've denied it". How true! The second half of the book contains a transcript of all of the interviews. I read the one covering Watergate from start to finish, and it simply remains an amazing thing to revisit now more than 30 years later. In all, this book reads easily, and even though I already knew how things would play out, I was still interested in getting David Frost's further insights and personal comments on the entire thing. As to the movie, I was absolutely charmed and mesmerized from start to finish, and would greatly recommend this to anyone. I'm not even that much of a Ron Howard fan, but this time he did more than good. As an aside note, my college-attending daughter also went to see the movie and she told me that as a political science major, this really gave her new perspective on the events of that era.

  • Mysterious Man
    From Amazon

    What are the words that describe this man? Mysterious. Illusive. Battling demons beyond scope. Criminal? No, we're not talking about forty three here, but a predecessor from the same political party that managed nearly to destroy the Presidency by creating one of the greatest Constitutional crises in our current history. Richard M. Nixon, much vilified, rarely understood, now almost a caricature of himself; a president that won convincing victories, that almost no one knew. Much has been written about him to attempt to penetrate the personality of this enigma, without much success. Along comes veteran reporter David Frost, offering to interview the president after his disgraceful resignation from office, giving him a chance to air his opinions on the scandal that brought him ruin. The aired interviews created a sensation, with the former president making rash statements that the president is above the law with any action, and showing some (albeit somewhat feigned remorse) for Watergate. This book is a behind the scenes peek at the process that went on to get Nixon to speak; the rationale for the interviews, the negotiating and bargaining that went on to ensure Frost would have access to ask the hard questions, and Frost's own assessment of the Nixon presidency. Having read it before seeing the movie is probably a good thing. Frost is an engaging writer, who doesn't dwell in small, irrelevant details, but paints broadly his impression of Nixon, with sometimes surprising conclusions. His accounting of the interviews was very insightful -- his decision to open the interview with the question, "Why didn't you burn the tapes?", to his consistent pressing of Watergate points, as if he were a prosecuting attorney. In fact, Frost and America viewed this interview as the now pardoned Nixon's trial, to see what the man would have said should he come under judicial review. That is purely fascinating. Frost's closing assessment of the Nixon presidency offers points to argue, but it's a fresh assessment, separated from Watergate, which is usually all anyone remembers of Nixon anymore. Nixon wasn't a domestic president, but his record on civil rights and the environment was very forward thinking (Frost thinks Nixon would appease anyone to get support for his Vietnam strategy). In fact, Nixon seriously considered universal health care at one point (HMO's eventually won). This book was a quick, insightful easy read. The end of the book contains over a hundred pages of transcripts from the interview. In fact, you can now purchase a DVD of some of the interview, out today -- Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews. Personally, Nixon fascinates me in a way that you can't help but looking at a car wreck. I was but four or five when the man resigned office, and I thought for awhile that Watergate was a scandal because someone left the sprinklers on at the White House and things got flooded. I don't think we are done with our inspection of the man, his presidency, and the scandal that nearly brought our country to its knees.

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