By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Let's Go To The VideotapeIn 1977, the ex-president agreed to sit with Frost to tape interviews for television about his controversial time in office. Both sides were playing for high stakes: Nixon was seeking to revive his public image after resigning over the Watergate scandal, and Frost wanted stronger journalistic street cred than his image as a TV presenter of light news and comedy afforded him.
The 37th PresidentAdapted by Peter Morgan from his stage play, the film goes behind the scenes of the negotiations to arrange the interviews. But problems over money -- no network would buy the interview, forcing Frost and his team to seek a syndication deal while funding Nixon's $600,000 fee out of pocket -- are overcome by a weightier issue: How much would Nixon reveal about the criminality of Watergate?
GoodbyeThe film opens with Nixon's resignation from office, watched by aide Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), who later becomes convinced that the Frost interview would help Nixon rebuild his reputation: "Nothing to worry about. It's not as if there will be any revelations." But eventually, Brennan tries to pull the plug, fearing Nixon might damage his image even further.
The ChallengerAt first Frost seems unequal to the task (at least in the eyes of more liberal members of his research team who are looking for an on-air "conviction" of Nixon). The interviewee looks presidential, deflecting journalistic queries like a boxer avoiding his opponent's errant swings.
The AdversaryOne of the inventions of the play and film was a phone conversation between Nixon and Frost on the evening before their interview discussing the Watergate break-in. In it Nixon seems to chide Frost for being (like himself) a product of disadvantaged circumstances who struggles for acceptance: "That's our tragedy, isn't it, Mr. Frost? No matter how high we get, they still look down at us."
DuelFROST: Wait a minute ... did I hear right? Are you really saying that there are certain situations where the President can decide whether it's in the best interests of the nation and do something illegal?
NIXON: I'm saying that when the president does it, that means it's not illegal.