You would think it would be impossible to play a character as solidified in the memory of the public as disgraced former President Richard Nixon without falling short of expectations or slipping into caricature. You would be wrong.
Frank Langella, long a giant amongst actors in the theatre (he’s played won three Tony Awards, the most recent for Nixon in the play “Frost/Nixon”), has starred in 43 flicks, including the critically acclaimed Good Night and Good Luck. His stint in the play no doubt prepped him for a role in the movie of the same name that could have easily lapsed into a cartoonish portrayal. Yet he manages to make us forget that he really looks nothing like Nixon and that he’s actually an Italian American from New Jersey.
J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, wrote: “Frost/Nixon’s main attraction is neither its topicality nor its historical value, but Langella’s re-creation of his Tony-winning performance. He doesn’t shake his jowls or attempt Nixon’s sickly smile. Ice-cold and physically imposing, the actor is a naturally menacing presence; his stooped, shambling, eye-rolling Nixon is like a prehistoric beast at bay.”
As the Wall Street Journal wrote of Langella, “Mimicry gives way to dark majesty.”