Frost/Nixon (is it the only film with a slash in the middle of it?) is a play made into a film. That much everyone knows. But as part of this transition, the film took the central cast from the play and put them on screen. And we are used to Michael Sheen somehow parleying his cheap impressionist act into major screen roles by now: he is the Alastair MacGowan of the big screen. And Frank Langella, whilst always being Frank Langella is just another in a long line of actors to get their rubbery chops around Nixon. Though not as rubbery as the attempt in Watchmen which assumes that Nixon in the eighties would turn into Pinnochio, or indeed one of the bank robbers in Point Break. The high point for British viewers though perhaps comes with Matthew MacFadyen’s surprisingly dynamic John Birt (I wasn’t expecting a Private Eye dalek, but something close).
But let’s say they had not have brought Sheen/Langella over. Who else, would have been on the table? With Nixon I would be very tempted to go back to someone who had already played him, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, my favourite depiction of Nixon is in the slightly irreverent Watergate factual drama Dick. Dan Hedaya plays Nixon as a bully, a stumblebum and more than a little perplexed at other people: all of which seem more than credible in the role. And he growls better than Langella too.
So for Frost. And oddly with Frost the answer came to me instantly. David Frost is another Steve Coogan character, one for whom the world hasn’t started to fall apart. So its a successful Alan Partridge, a Tony Wilson whose schemes normally come off, and therefore the tiptoeing line of disaster here would fit. And of course it would play perfectly in the continuum of Coogan’s characters being a commentary on his actual self. And of course Coogan is just a jumped up impressionist anyway.
It’d be a different film, perhaps played more for laughs, but we can wonder.