White House tapes turned into comedy

Harry Shearer to play Richard Nixon

The Simpsons star Harry Shearer is to play Richard Nixon in a new comedy-drama based on genuine recordings from the White House.

Shearer also co-wrote the 30-minute film Nixon’s The One, drawn from more than 2,000 hours of audio tapes secretly recorded by the disgraced president.

The footage has been public since the Eighites through the US National Archives.

Shearer said: ‘Having grown up in LA, I'd had Nixon in my brain my whole life and it recently struck me that the current portrayals of the man were leaving out the wonderland of his emotional complexity.

‘To me, the key point of the comedy was that these conversations were being held, usually during working hours, by what was then usually described as the most powerful man in the world.’

The tapes reveal Nixon’s struggle with growing public unrest over his waning popularity and key decisions made by his Cabinet. In installing the secret taping system, Nixon felt he was protecting his presidential record for historical accuracy – although they only reinforced the idea his term was characterised by an obsession with subterfuge and recordings. Nixon’s The One – which also stars Henry Goodman as Henry Kissinger – will air on Sky Arts in the spring.

Jimmy Mulville, executive producer for programme-makers Hat Trick said: ‘Recreating the Oval Office at Sky Studios and populating it with Harry Shearer’s Nixon and then watching the recreations of just a few of the thousands of hours of conversations with Kissinger, Haldeman and Ehrlichman, was a unique and wonderful experience.

‘I think that the Sky Arts audience will be genuinely shocked and hopefully amused by some of the opinions expressed by the Nixon White House. It’s a genuinely funny show and a startling historical document.’

Published: 26 Aug 2011

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