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FROST/NIXON

Design And Camerawork
The art department had to work on both a large and small scale to create what the stage play merely needed to suggest. In the play, the interviews between Frost and Nixon took place on a nearly bare stage, with two chairs and a couple of television cameras. Close-ups of the two men were projected on a large screen. However, what made believable theater would not make credible film.

"Since we were inevitably going to be compared to the real (televised) Frost/Nixon interviews, we took great pains to make anything that had been seen by an audience in 1977 as perfect as we knew how, down to the slightest detail,” says production designer Corenblith. "The tiniest brick, the tiniest piece of set dressing, the shape of a leaf on the houseplants on the table—we paid attention to everything that was in the interview corner of that room. At the same time, I took liberties with other aspects of the house to give it a certain character when we did reverses.”

Following the footsteps of these two icons of the era was a trick of visual artistry and of retracing history. "While there'll be viewers who were born in 1977, there are many others who were working professionals in 1977 and all range of ages in between,” explains Corenblith. "There's a strong sense of period memory to which we have to try to remain faithful. We're also dealing with a documented event we felt we had an obligation to present accurately. On the other hand, the '70s have been replicated so often we had to be careful about not falling into cliché. We wanted to make it a character without it becoming caricature.

"We didn't want to undercut the real emotions and the real drama of what was going on by having audiences distracted by all the garnish of lapels and sideburns and paisley. So, it was a question of how to craft something that was true to the period but not an exaggeration of the period, which was a tremendously difficult task at the end of the day.”

Costuming was also a challenge. Dressing 100 extras in haute couture from the period was a task that costume designer Daniel Orlandi relished. "Ma Maison in 1977 was the hottest restaurant in town, where all the stars went,” he explains. "It was really fun putting together this highly romantic time and place. We dressed all kinds of people, from old Hollywood elite to the up-and-comers…to a couple of high-class hookers. And David Frost, of course, fits right into this with his beautiful tuxedo and Caroline Cushing on his arm in a matte jersey dress inspired by Halston.”

As for the camerawork, cinematographer Sal Totino kept his equipment in constant motion for most of the scenes, providing a documentary feeling to much of what transpires. He also brought details into play that provided period authenticity. "You just try to find moments that are intense,” Totino explains. "Little details that help build the drama in the scene—we might stay tight on raindrops using the reflection on cars. I tried to approach this film with longer lenses that just made it feel a little bit more intimate.”

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