Kevin Spacey plays Nixon in new film

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By REUTERS in New York

The most re­quested photo in the US Na­tional Archives is not the first moon land­ing or the burn­ing twin tow­ers af­ter the at­tacks of Sept 11, 2001.

It is ac­tu­ally a pic­ture of Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon shak­ing hands with Elvis Pres­ley in the Oval Of­fice in De­cem­ber 1970 af­ter the meet­ing be­tween two piv­otal fig­ures in 20th-cen­tury Amer­ica.

Elvis & Nixon, a com­edy movie that re-imag­ines their un­likely White­House en­counter, opens in US the­aters on Fri­day af­ter pre­mier­ing at New York’s Tribeca film fes­ti­val. It is dis­trib­uted by Ama­zon Stu­dios.

Kevin Spacey (Nixon) knows a thing or two about play­ing a pres­i­dent af­ter years as the schem­ing Frank Un­der­wood on the TV se­ries House of Cards. But Michael Shan­non, who plays Pres­ley, was just 3 years old when the singer died in 1977.

“We weren’t, ei­ther of us, try­ing to do car­i­ca­tures,” Spacey, who spent hours lis­ten­ing to tapes of Nixon and watch­ing video of the pres­i­dent, says.

There are no records of what ex­actly hap­pened on the day when Pres­ley re­quested a meet­ing with Nixon in a bid to be­come an un­der­cover fed­eral agent-at-large, and found a bond with the pres­i­dent over a shared dis­like of the coun­ter­cul­ture.

Nixon had not be­gun his se­cret Oval Of­fice record­ings, so the screen­writ­ers re­lied largely on first­hand ac­counts from Pres­ley con­fi­dant Jerry Schilling and Nixon aide Bud Krogh.

Shan­non, whose Pres­ley is quiet, lonely and re­flec­tive, never imag­ined him­self play­ing the “king of rock ’n’ roll”.

“I didn’t go into it be­ing a huge Elvis fan. I didn’t have his records or any­thing,” the Ken­tucky-born ac­tor says. “But I am­re­ally happy I had a rea­son to in­ves­ti­gate Elvis be­cause there is no­body else like him, not just in terms of the scope of his fame but in the unique con­struct of his life. I think he was al­ways try­ing to fig­ure out, ‘Why me?’”

Shan­non lis­tened to in­ter­views and vis­ited the tiny apart­ment in Mem­phis where Pres­ley spent his teenage years. He also learned karate for a scene in which Pres­ley demon­strated his black belt moves for an as­ton­ished Nixon.

Spacey rel­ished the chance to play a very dif­fer­ent kind of pres­i­dent, and to present a rarely seen side of Nixon.

“I just hoped that if I was able to cre­ate a Nixon who had enough of the qual­i­ties about who he par­tic­u­larly was, that peo­ple wouldn’t think about Frank Un­der­wood, even though I amon an Oval Of­fice set.”


The US com­edy Elvis&Nixon stars Kevin Spacey (left) and Michael Shan­non in the lead roles.

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