Best Actor nominee Frank Langella tells us he is quite grounded when he comes to a post Oscar spike in his career. “I don’t think they’ll be much of a change,â€ Langella says. “This is a wonderful highpoint. But it is a highpoint and not the only one.”
Frank Langella is Richard Nixon
Would you expect any other sentiment from a man who has made a mark in the entertainment business by portraying characters on both sides of the morality scale? From Superman Returns to George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck, Frank Langella gets lost in his characters. “I’ve been at this for over four decades and the privilege of being nominated for an Oscar is really extraordinary. But I don’t think suddenly I’m going to turn into one of those actors who gets millions and millions of dollars for holding a gun (laughs). I think I’ll continue to do the work I’m doing and very lucky that I can work on the stage, honestly.”
Langella is at the Beverly Hills Hilton for the Oscar nominee luncheon. He spoke to SheKnows about how he, as star of the Frost/Nixon Broadway production from which the Ron Howard film eminated, was set free of his Nixon stage patterns by his Oscar-winning director. With Howard’s help, Frank Langella achieved the Oscar-nominated performance that have many calling it iconic. “Ron was adamant that we break the pattern of the stage performance. I was too. Somehow to find a way to do,” Langella stops to ask the people around him to quiet a bit.
“I want to be a director,” he says, smiles and continues. “We found a way to break the rhythms apart, when you do a play on stage 350 times as honest as you are every night. You want the audience out by a certain time. Actors expect a certain familiarity in their rhythm,” Langella says.
“On the first day, Ron just said ‘take as much time as you want.’ I’ll cut around it. I’ll cut into it. Just relate to each actor in each moment as freely as you can. What he did was free me from any of the cobwebs of my stage performance. I actually think the film is better because of the reason that we went deeper and darker – – much more moment to moment because we didn’t have the pressure of keeping the audience interested in the scene.”
Blocking out Nixon history
How does an actor ignore the judgment of history and effectively portray a Richard Nixon – the only president to resign from office?
“You have to learn to love every character you play if he is a disgraced president or a serial killer, I suppose love is the wrong word, you have to be so deep inside that character that whatever that person is feeling, whether they misunderstood, misguided, my mother was bad to me when I was little, that’s why I kill, everybody has a rationalization for why they do what they do. You have to be fully and completely inside the worst of the person to capture it,” Langella says.
Who Langella lionizes
As a child, Langella idolized two forms of acting superstars, both stage and screen. “Growing up, I loved Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and actors who have a particular kind of magic, a special-ness that didn’t translate into the greatest acting in the world. But they were the greatest personas in the world. I grew up in the ’40s and I loved going to the movie houses in New Jersey. Those are the actors I most adored. Then when I got a little older and started to go to the theater, I began to see the best actors in America who were exceptional like George C. Scott, Jason Roberts, Anne Bancroft. Those were the actors who were great theaters stars in the ’60s when I came to New York. I hope the combination of those theatrically trains actors and those wonderful movie stars, was great fodder for me so I could work in the theater and then surprisingly work in movies — which I never thought I would do.”
And now he is an Oscar nominee for Best Actor.
The Nixon family reaction
It is easy to wonder what the Nixon family thinks of Frost/Nixon and whether President Nixon himself would approve of Langella’s performance. “I suppose, and I would hope, and then doubt, that he might see something in what I tried to do for him. But, I doubt it because I don’t think any of us can necessarily do that,” Langella said. “I hope that he might see that I tried to portray him with some compassion, a certain amount of understand of his demos. Even though you can’t agree with what he did, you can understand where he came from.”
Family members did come forward the Nixon family and let Langella know their feelings. “The grandchildren were very moved by it because they didn’t know him well. They only knew what history had said about him. That he was an evil man,” Langella says. “One of his granddaughters said, ‘you made my Grandpa a human being.'”