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Capone puts Oliver Platt in the hot seat about FROST/NIXON!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Here's the thing about Oliver Platt: Any movie or TV show that he's in, even the worst piece of crap under the sun, is going to be good for at least the stretches of time that Platt is on screen. I don't want to oversell the guy, but he has never put forward a bad performance in anything. Just seeing his face on screen makes me smile, and when he opens his mouth, he makes me laugh. Let's admire his highlights reel, shall we? His first high profile role was FLATLINERS. Then he went on to INDECENT PROPOSAL, BENNY & JOON, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, the wonderful FUNNY BONES, A TIME TO KILL, his stellar turn in BULWORTH, SIMON BIRCH, the memorable (ahem) LAKE PLACID, PIECES OF APRIL, KINSEY, THE ICE HARVEST, and CASANOVA. One of my absolute favorite things he's done in his career was his take as the substance-abusing lawyer in the Showtime series "Huff." The guy seems to be in every third movie I see, and I'll never get tired of him. In Ron Howard's FROST/NIXON, Platt plays Bob Zelnick, one of two journalists [along with James Reston Jr., played by Sam Rockwell] brought in by David Frost's producers to research President Nixon's misdeeds while in the White House and give him the trial he never got thanks to a pardon by Gerald Ford. Zelnick and Reston provided Frost his questions but briefed him on what Nixon would be like as an interview subject. Platt and Rockwell are perfection together--part comedy team, part polar opposites that complement each other and form the perfect Grand Inquisitor. Here's the charming and funny Oliver Platt!
Oliver Platt: Where are you, man? Capone: I'm in Chicago. OP: Now are you guys all scattered all over the globe so you can penetrate screenings surreptitiously and penetrate the cordon of the secret police? Capone: I think the days of penetrating screening is done for me. OP: Now they're begging you to come, right? Capone: That's a little bit closer to the way it is, yeah. OP: That is so funny. "Will you please come and penetrate this screening?" Capone: We are part of the machine. OP: That's terrible, isn't it? So you have to resist that in a way. Capone: I sometimes miss the underground years when no one new my name or face. OP: In a way, I guess hey assume you're going to calls them likes you sees them still. Capone: That does not compromised. We're as much of a roll of the dice for studios as anybody else. But the upside is that it puts me on the phone with people like you. OP: Oh, you're very kind. Capone: It's kind of remarkable how many people aren't even aware that these interviews took place. And if they do know about them, they probably don't know everything that went into making them happen and who Bob Zelnick and James Reston are. Does that take some of the pressure off you to try and nail who Bob Zelnick really was. OP: Oh totally. Ron [Howard] and I talked about it. It would be a lot of wasted effort to "nail" Bob Zelnick, because he was not a known personality or journalist, nor did he aspire to be. He was a serious reporter who was a TV reporter. I remember him from ABC news; he was very well respected journalist and foreign correspondent. Our job was to serve the narrative and bring to life the story. Ron wanted to have some improvised stuff and those research montages. So the really fun thing--not that I'm some sort of method actor--was to do the research that they did to prepare for those scenes. That's what was fun about the movie. I've grown up with Watergate; I'm a little bit older than you, but I think I was 12 when Nixon resigned. But I grew up with the specter and the aura of it. But in drilling down in the research, I realized there was so much I didn't know about it, even though I've seen ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN about 90 times. Ron wanted us to be ready to ask those questions. Another good thing about working with Ron is that the minute you say yes, your doorbell rings and they're backing a truck up to your door with all kinds of videos and manuscripts and clips. And the other cool thing is that Zelnick actually co-wrote or ghost wrote Frost's memoir of the event, a book called "I Gave Them A Sword." So reading that was incredibly efficient because it was shot through with Zelnick's perspective, and Zelnick himself does have a dry sense of humor, probably even more dry than I gave him in the movie. But that was invaluable on zeroing in on the essence of the guy. Capone: When I heard Zelnick's name in the movie, I wondered if it was the same guy that was a biographer for Al Gore. And it is. OP: Well Zelnick later became quite conservative. But now he's teaching journalism at Boston University. Capone: Had you seen the play? OP: You know, Ron asked me to do the film before the play came to town, so I avoided the play. I didn't want to see the play once I knew I was doing the movie. It was totally on my list, because I'd heard such cool things about it from London. But I avoided it for obvious reasons--I didn't want to see what the other guy was doing. I wanted to bring my own fresh sensibility to the endeavor [laughs]. Capone: You said about Zelnick's sense of humor.… OP: Definitely drier than his sense of humor in the movie. But the truth is, Zelnick really did play Nixon when they were doing the prep stuff, which is really the only time he got a little feisty. Capone: Those are some glorious scenes in the movie. OP: Oh, that's nice of you to say. But wry and dry, I would not ascribe those descriptions to them. Capone: You almost can't help put a little humor--or a lot--into everything you do. I wasn't sure how much of that was Zelnick and how much was you. OP: No, that was definitely Ron and Peter saying, "We need this here." And I think they saw in the interplay between Sam [Rockwell] and me, they needed something to spice up the proceedings here for obvious reasons--because it's entertainment. But the fun thing was, you want to try and lace it in in an appropriate way tonally. Capone: I spoke with Sam recently when he was in town promoting CHOKE, but the FROST/NIXON trailer had just come out. And the scene they show in the trailer that really stuck with me, and is one of my favorites in the movie, is when Sam's belligerent James Reston meets Nixon for the first time after swearing the give the guy a piece of his mind. And what you say after Reston is polite and cordial to Nixon: "He'll never get over that." OP: I think that was actually in the script. But that makes me feel good that I can actually be an actor every now and then. [laughs] Capone: Since nearly all of your scenes are with Sam, did you two hang out together or plot out how you would establish that chemistry? OP: What we did was we really needed to sound like smart guys, so we really did do a lot of homework. Ron wanted us to come up with lists of moments. We were complementary yet adversarial dynamic. Reston and Zelnick definitely had different ideas about how to go about this task, which is why they were hired. They were hired for their different perspectives. Zelnick was a trained lawyer, but he was also a journalist. He wanted to tease it out of Nixon in a legal way. Whereas Reston was this insane commie--that's how Zelnick would describe him. And Zelnick loved him; they got along really well. They played tennis all the time. They were very fond of each other. So we wanted to try and bring out our different perspectives. In that little scene in the hallway where Reston is practically blowing the whole thing before we even get the job, where I'm like, "What are you doing?" All that stuff was important. Most of it was in that montage, where Ron wanted us to bring out our contrasting sensibilities. He said, "Pick questions. Go through the stuff and pick questions." Capone: I can't even imagine the amount of pressure on the heads of those two men. David Frost certainly had a lot riding on these interviews as well, but Reston and Zelnick had reputations on the line. They are giving Nixon a trial. OP: They are the two Americans, you know what I mean? They felt and extraordinary responsibility. Who would have thought that a British talk show host would be the one to get this interview? The movie definitely really shines a light on that, but the truth is Frost had interviewed a lot of heavy hitters. He hadn't interviewed Richard Nixon, and that was an incredible scoop. But Nixon's people definitely chose him because they thought it would be a puffball, like getting Dick Cavett to do it, as opposed to Mike Wallace. So Zelnick and Reston felt a huge responsibility to get question asked to this guy that people frankly thought a prosecutor should have been asking. The truth is that it was Zelnick who came up with the phrase, "The Trial of Richard Nixon." Capone: And with Zelnick and Reston as "The People," as in "The People vs. Richard Nixon." OP: In that respect, those two were very much on the same team. Capone: Are there certain roles you've played in the past or films you've been in that people still ask you about that you can't believe people even remember? OP: You know why I feel fortunate and it kind of speaks to something we were talking about earlier is that it happens to me with a lot of different movies. People are obsessed with FUNNY BONES. Obviously, it depends on who you're talking to. And it's not some master plan with me. I really just do what interests me, and I consider myself very lucky that I can count on one hand the number of movies I've done because I've needed a job. I'm incredibly lucky. There's always been something that I've thought would be fun. But obviously it's a wide pallet in there. People are obsessed with BULWORTH, SIMON BIRCH. I hear about LAKE PLACID a lot. I hear about INDECENT PROPOSAL for god's sake. But then I also hear about PIECES OF APRIL. But to answer your question, there isn't one thing. Although, I hear about "The West Wing" all the frickin' time. Capone: One more question about two things you have coming up. Tell me a little bit about your role in THE YEAR ONE, and also, I just saw a teaser trailer for 2012, which you're also in. Who do you play in that one? OP: Oh, how is it? Capone: It's mildly scary…in different ways. OP: Oh good. Check this out: it took me literally until yesterday to put together that--and I'm still shooting 2012, by the way--that in the same year I've done, sequentially, a movie about the beginning of time and the end of time. THE YEAR ONE was an absolute gas, with Michael Cera and Jack Black and [director and co-writer] Harold Ramis, who I absolutely adore and have worked with before. I'm the high priest of Sodom, and that's all I'm going to give you on that. I had an absolute ball; Harold runs a very relaxed set and we had a delightful cast. Jack and Michael are delightful. The film was co-written by Harold and two guys from "The Office" [Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg]. It's a very clever, dry, silly script. It's a road movie through ancient times. And 2012, what can I say? It's Roland Emmerich, all guns blazing. But the really interesting thing about 2012, for an apocalyptic narrative, for my story, I'm kind of the antagonist of the White House story. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the antagonist. He's the young scientist who brings the information. We know what's going to happen: the world is going to end in four years and that's a really interesting moral question. Who do you tell? Who do you save? What do you do? And that's the stuff we've been really trying to bring out in the story, and it's been a lot of fun to shoot. It's really easy to be dismissive of those movies as being big brush movies, but I've been incredibly impressed with Roland and [co-screenwriter] Harold Closer and everyone who's working on the movie and having a really good time. There's a tremendous attention to detail in the script, and it's been fun. What happens in the teaser? Does the White House get taken out or something like that? Capone: They don't even show that much. There's a scene that looks like it takes place in the mountains of Tibet… OP: Oh Tibet, the scene with the gong. Yeah, yeah. Roland was actually telling me about it the other day. Right. Capone: Oliver, good luck with FROST/NIXON and all of these other endeavors. OP: Alright man. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Hope to talk to you again soon. Bye. -- Capone

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