With his Oscar winning turn as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon still reasonably fresh in our memories, Frank Langella is heading back for another slice of US political drama in Mike Newell's Reykjavik. This time though, he won't be playing the president, but Paul Nitze, one of the chief architects of US policy towards the Soviet Union for more than forty years. Michael Douglas is playing Ronald Reagan, with Christoph Waltz as Mikhail Gorbachev.
Nitze's first job in politics was during World War II in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He was awarded the Legion of Merit by subsequent president Harry S. Truman, for his role as Vice Chairman of the Strategic Bombing Survey, which assessed the effects of the Anglo-American strategic bombing of Nazi Germany, and of the atomic bombing of Imperial Japan. His experience visiting Japan in the aftermath of the bomb understandably informed many of his later opinions about arms control.
President Kennedy made Nitze Assitant Secretary of Defence For International Security Affairs in 1961, and he was Secretary of the Navy from 1963 until 1967. IN the '70s under the Carter administration, he co-founded a think-tank that challenged CIA intel about the extent of Russia's arms programme. His findings suggested - erroneously it seems now - that the Soviets were stockpiling WMDs with aggressive intent, and that information was the basis of America's own amassing of arms during the Reagan administration.
Newell's film comes in at the end of that drama, with the peace talks between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986. "It's a story about human contact being established in a desert where it shouldn't exist", Newell told Empire a couple of months ago, "and against all the odds it does. It's a triumph of the human spirit." He describes it as "an origin story for the end of the Cold War".
Langella, of course, is no stranger to playing men of considerable power (Nixon, Dracula, er, Skeletor) so will no doubt bring plenty of dark gravitas to a political hawk who stalked the corridors of Washington for decades. Shooting starts in Iceland in March.
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