Just like with “JFK,” Oliver Stone curated a who’s who of A-list actors to play the various historical figures who come and go in “Nixon.” With Anthony Hopkins at the helm as the disgraced former president, Stone rounds out its expansive cast of Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, EG Marshall, Bai Ling, David Paymer, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Sorvino, Mary Steenburgen, JT Walsh and James Woods.
At 192 minutes, it’s a sprawling biopic that uses the Watergate scandal as a framework to explore the complicated life of Richard Nixon (Hopkins). Through Nixon’s infamous tapes, we get a glimpse of his entire life, from his upbringing with a domineering Quaker mother, Hannah Nixon (Steenburgen), to his marriage to Pat Nixon (Allen), to his career in politics ending in shame and resignation ended . Harris plays the integral role of E. Howard Hunt, the mysterious CIA agent who was instrumental in the Bay of Pigs and served as the White House “plumber” during the Watergate investigation.
The film received almost unanimous praise from critics, who were surprised by its sensitive treatment of its controversial subject. “Tragedy requires the fall of a hero,” wrote Roger Ebert, “and one of the achievements of ‘Nixon’ is to show that greatness was within its reach.” Oscar voters gave him four nominations: Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Supporting Actress for Allen, Best Original Screenplay for Stone, Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson, and Best Original Score for John Williams.