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Ron Howard On Nixon's Fall From Grace

Ron Howard has been part of the Hollywood scene for 50 years.

He rose to fame in the 1960's as Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" and later as Ritchie Cunningham on "Happy Days."

He is now an Oscar winning-director with a new film out called "Frost/Nixon," based on the post-Watergate TV interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.

In what some thought was an impossible task, Howard manages to take this jewel from the stage and make it into something that would work on the big screen.

"Well, thank you. It was a challenge, sure. But a really exciting one. And, you know among all of the cinematic aspects and opening it up and developing the story further and all of those things that were fun for me as a director, working with the actors is probably the most exciting thing and a great cast. Michael Sheen is spectacular at Frost but Frank Langella, what he does in creating Richard Nixon is probably the single most challenging thing I've ever seen an actor tackle," Howard told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

Langella is not doing an imitation of Nixon per se, instead he adds his own spin to his character.

"There is no part of Frank Langella's personality has anything to do with Richard Nixon whatsoever. He is not only making us believe and understand and relate to somebody we think we kind of know, but it has nothing to do with his personality. It's complete emerging."

Smith pointed out that Nixon "takes up so much space in our national psyche."

Although he was initially undecided, Howard admitted to voting for Nixon in 1972.

"I did. That was my first opportunity to vote. He had been the president that sort of made it possible for people under 21 to vote and I went back and forth. And, ultimately, decided to vote for the incumbent, which I think made the fall from grace even all the more devastating for me in a lot of ways," he said.

Considering there are so many layers to the Watergate scandal and Nixon's complexity, there was one story that Howard wanted to tell the most in the movie.

"Well, I think it's using the event of television in a surprising and really entertaining way to go behind the scenes and say you think you know what went on, you think you know something about what it was to be around Richard Nixon, and but you just don't. The way Peter Morgan, who wrote the play and also wrote 'The Queen,' you know what he did with the screenplay, it surprises every audience who ever sees this because they just have no idea what is involved and that is the way I felt the first time I saw it and that is what I wanted to do."

With the latest scandal involving Illinois Gov. Ron Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell president-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat in the headlines, political corruption remains a common theme.

"You know, look. Democracy is a fragile thing. The other sort of big idea that I love is that whatever was motivating David Frost, very colorful guy, very entrepreneurial, maybe he wanted the limelight," Howard said. "But he did the thing the media needs to do and he got at the truth. We needed him in democracy."