Frost/Nixon is a historical drama based on the real-life interviews between British media personality David Frost and disgraced former American President Richard M. Nixon. Written by first-time playwright Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon mixes the real words of the two figures with fictionalized dialogue among the men and their respective teams. Within the structure of the play, the interviews are presented as a kind of boxing match—a crucial turning point in both of their careers in which only one of them can emerge victorious.
The play opens with the first of two narrators, Jim Reston, introducing the first of the two titular characters: Richard M. Nixon. As Nixon prepares to give his resignation address to the country in 1974, Reston recounts the scope of the once-popular president’s downfall. Reston, as is revealed later in the play for those unfamiliar with the interviews, would eventually become an integral member of David Frost’s team as the British tele-journalist prepared for what was arguably the biggest “get” of his career. In an attempt to present a balanced portrait, Morgan utilizes Jack Brennan as the play’s second narrator. Brennan, Nixon’s chief of staff, then presents Frost as a featherweight entertainment personality struggling to maintain talk shows on several continents. Following these introductions, Frost recruits John Birt to help him nab an interview with former President Nixon. With the help of famous dealmaker Swifty Lazar, Nixon’s team agrees to the Frost interviews for the hefty price of $600,000.
The play then presents the interviews as a kind of training ground for Frost. In the initial sessions, Nixon’s preparedness and fondness for pontification eat up much of the agreed-upon interview time. The pivotal turning point is Frost’s preparation for the final interview, in which newly unearthed information allows him to take Nixon off guard. The ex-President ultimately admits that he may have done things that were illegal, and let the country down in the process. The play ends with Frost a victorious pioneer in the blurring of lines between politics and pop-culture. In contrast, Nixon retreats in defeat, never to hold public office again.