All writers, however retiring by nature, have to ‘do publicity’ these days (well, maybe not the likes of Harper Lee or the recently deceased J.D. Salinger, but it’s true for the rest of us) and sometimes handling interviews can be tricky. I’ve included a TV interview of myself on my website, but I don’t for a moment claim that I handled it that well. It’s always interesting to seize the chance to learn more, and sometimes the source of instruction can be unexpected.
I have in mind the interviews which are at the heart of Ron Howard’s excellent movie Frost/Nixon. This dramatises the famous confrontation between David Frost (now Sir David) and former President Richard M. Nixon. Of course, the script embellishes the reality, but it’s still very thought-provoking. You see the importance of preparation – both Frost and Nixon, and their respective teams, did plenty of prep – but you also see what happens to the best laid plans…
I really enjoyed the film. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella perform superbly in the title roles, and Rebecca Hall (daughter of Sir Peter) is stunningly glamorous as Frost’s then girlfriend (the film, it seems, invented a new version of the story of their initial meeting.) It’s unwise to treat a film like this as history, but it does cast a fascinating light on an unforgettable episode in our past.
I’ll never be interviewed by Sir David, but I do think this film offers, among many good things, a reminder of one of the golden rules of interviews. It’s a privilege to be interviewed, and it’s absolutely essential to treat the interviewer with the utmost respect. Interviewing is a real skill, and some of those who have quizzed me over the years have been highly expert practitioners.