December 4, 2008 / 11:11 AM / 11 years ago

Michael Sheen finds career in real people roles

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Michael Sheen has played former British Prime Minister Tony Blair twice — in “The Deal” and “The Queen” — but he described his latest film role portraying television host Sir David Frost as liberating.

British actor Michael Sheen poses at the British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA) 17th Annual Britannia Awards in Los Angeles, California November 6, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The film, “Frost/Nixon,” is about Frost’s 1977 interview with former U.S. President Richard Nixon, three years after Nixon was forced to resign over the Watergate scandal. The interview gripped viewers around the world as Nixon admitted for the first time he made mistakes and had let the American people down.

Director Ron Howard’s film is based on Peter Morgan’s Tony Award-winning play of the same name and stars Sheen and Frank Langella, as Nixon, in the roles they played on stage in London and New York.

Sheen spoke about playing Frost in the film which debuts in major U.S. cities on Friday and nationally and globally in the coming months.

Q: What was it like to play the character of David Frost for the movie after performing the role on stage?

A: “It was kind of liberating I suppose to do it in front of a camera after about 16 months altogether of doing it on stage.

“After doing it for that long you build up such depth, if you are lucky. We were very fortunate, me and Frank, in the production that we both kept each other honest, in a way, on stage in that we both bounced off each other and both kept each other in it, rather than it becoming a little stale as it can over a long period of time.

“Being able to go from (the play) to the (the film) was quite a challenge but having a new cast helped.”

Q: How does playing a role for so long affect you?

A: “I found myself finding it very difficult to not talk like Frost. I started to find I was able to enjoy life more as Frost than as Michael. I found myself doing Frost things.

“After doing it so long on stage it just become second nature ... I had to do some public speaking and I found myself doing it as Frost, not as myself but as a watered down version of Frost. So that was quite scary.”

Q: Have you met Frost or Blair?

A: “I’ve never met Blair, at least I’ve met Frost a few times, but I’ve never met Blair. So I have no idea what he’s like as a man.

“Anything I say about these people is about the character not the people. It is strange because if I hear Blair on the TV or the radio, or if I see Frost, my ears prick up, it’s like a member of my family, it’s this weird relationship ... I relate to them like they’re family, it’s peculiar.

“When we were rehearsing for the play Peter (Morgan) said ‘I don’t think you should go and meet him.’

“This is the one time out of all the real people I have played, this is the one who is still alive and wants to speak to me ... But he’s so charming and he’s so engaging ... Maybe I would have resisted going down certain areas of the character if I had got to know him earlier.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Patricia Reaney

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