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Actor Frank Langella portrayed Richard Nixon in the Broadway and film version of Frost/Nixon. He won a Tony Award and an Oscar nomination.
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One of his most notable roles was as one of the most famous fictional sleuths of all time. Serving as a producer, Langella helped bring 1987’s Sherlock’s Last Case to the stage. He starred as the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes with Donal Donnelly playing his faithful friend Doctor Watson.
On the big screen,
Langella experienced a series of missteps. He played a villain in the critically maligned Masters of the Universe (1987) and a politician in Robert Valim’s 1988 remake of his own film And God Created Woman, which failed to attract much of an audience.
Langella’s film career received a boost from his scheming supporting role in the presidential comedy Dave (1993). In the movie, he played a White House chief of staff who tries to seize power after the president (Kevin Kline) has a stroke. Langella’s character brings in a presidential lookalike to pretend to be the commander in chief. This political satire enjoyed both critical and commercial success. He went to a supporting role in another popular comedy, Junior (1994), which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.
Back on Broadway, Langella earned raves for his performance in the 1996 revival of August Strindberg’s The Father. He starred in another revival later that year—this time tackling the popular Noel Coward comedy Present Laughter. While his theatrical career thrived, Langella’s film work varied during this period, with him often playing dark and sinister characters.
In 2002, Langella starred opposite Alan Bates in a revival of Ivan Turgenev’s Fortune’s Fool on Broadway. Both actors took home Tony Awards for their work on the production. Langella also attracted favorable reviews for 2004’s Match, which also starred Ray Liotta and Jane Adams.
Back on the big screen, Langella impressed audiences and critics alike with his portrayal of CBS president William Paley in Good Night and Good Luck (2005). George Clooney directed this drama, which explored television journalist Edward R. Murrow’s battle against Senator Joseph McCarthy. The following year Langella played a famous fictional journalist—Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet—in the summer blockbuster Superman Returns (2006). That same year, Langella went to London to star in the West End production Frost/Nixon—a career changing move.
Frost/Nixon is based on the 1977 interviews done by journalist David Frost with former president Richard M. Nixon. Langella threw himself into researching for the role of Nixon, watching footage of the former president and visiting his childhood home. When it came time for Langella to take the stage, he said “I sort of put all the factual information away and allowed the visceral to take over,” he told The New York Times. He won raves for his nuanced and convincing performance as the disgraced commander in chief, which netted him his third Tony Award after the production to Broadway in 2007. Michael Sheen played journalist David Frost in both productions.
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