Frost, Nixon and Me

Author James Reston Jr. discovers firsthand what is gained and lost when history is turned into entertainment

David Frost (Michael Sheen) interviews Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in "Frost/Nixon." (Ralph Nelson / © 2008 Universal Studios)
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In the end it is not about Nixon or Watergate at all. It's about human behavior, and it rises upon such tran­scendent themes as guilt and innocence, resistance and enlightenment, confession and redemption. These are themes that straight history can rarely crystallize. In the presence of the playwright's achievement, the historian—or a participant—can only stand in the wings and applaud.

James Reston Jr. is the author of The Conviction of Richard Nixon and 12 other books.

"Frost/Nixon" is based on journalist David Frost's 1977 interview with former president Richard Nixon. Frost obtained exclusive rights to interview Nixon and on May 4, 1977, forty-five million Americans tuned in. (John Bryson / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images)
The interview made both political and broadcast history, but was all but forgotten until two years ago, when the Nixon interviews were radically transformed into a piece of entertainment, first as the play Frost/Nixon, and now as a Hollywood film of the same title. (Ralph Nelson / © 2008 Universal Studios)
Former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) faces off against TV personality David Frost (Michael Sheen) in the new drama from director Ron Howard. (Ralph Nelson / © 2008 Universal Studios)
Actor Sam Rockwell plays James Reston Jr. in the film Frost/Nixon. (Ralph Nelson / © 2008 Universal Studios)
The author (at right with Nixon in 1977) guided Frost's questioning on Watergate. (Collection of James Reston Jr.)

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