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|Screening Room Mar/Apr - Page 2|
Growing up, I especially admired the guys who were so tough and independent they didn't need approval and direction from anyone. I wanted to be my own man, but I knew I wasn't, and could only dream of ever becoming one. With the advent of the screen rebels of the 1950s, however, I found a new breed of hero to show me the way. I was in awe of Marlon Brando and James Dean and the other brooding, riveting outsiders who began to populate movie screens. However moody and miserable, I'd never seen characters on screen quite like the ones they portrayed. They seemed so completely themselves, without a need for the constant social approval I desperately hungered for. I tried to walk and talk like they did. I even had the strange notion that once I'd perfected my swaggering, outsider routine, a woman as knock-'em-dead gorgeous as Liz Taylor would fall in love with me.
Fifty years later, waves and waves of cultural and cinematic fashions have come and gone. We've been through the 1960s, the Vietnam wars, the Me Generation, and, now, George W. Bush. We're certainly less enthralled with the daring and the narcissism of the classic 1950s movie rebel, and we've learned that society isn't always wrong, and rebels aren't always right. But beyond that, as society has become more head-spinningly fluid, we're much less sure who exactly the outsiders and insiders are, from moment to moment. And what's more, as two recent movies have shown, outsiders needn't be charismatic or even particularly appealing to capture the attention of today's psychologically minded movie audiences trying to discover clues to their own sense of social exclusion up on the screen.
British screenwriter Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and now Frost/Nixon, specializes in exposing the most private (and most complex) of the public figures of our time. Frost/Nixon is based on interviews videotaped in 1977 between disgraced, unapologetic ex-President Richard M. Nixon and deceptively lightweight British TV talk-show host David Frost, accustomed to interviewing the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Muhammad Ali, who sets out to expose the tortured psyche of the most loathed of American presidents—at least at that time.
A grinning Frost paid Nixon $1,000,000 of his own money for 30 hours of on-camera knee-to-knee sparring between himself and the former president. Each thought he had something to gain out of the encounter: Nixon hoped for a big payday and the chance to redeem himself before the country; Frost hoped to pull off a journalistic coup that would get the world to take him seriously.