The improbable upward career of the improbable hit Frost/Nixon continues.  The film, which will open in theaters on December 5th, premiered in New York last night at the Ziegfeld Theater.  If you believe Fox News’ super savvy entertainment reporter Roger Friedman, this year’s Oscar for Best Actor will go to Richard Nixon Frank Langella.
The R-rated (!) film was reviewed in Variety last week:

Frost/Nixon” is an effective, straightforward bigscreen version of Peter Morgan’s shrewd stage drama about the historic 1977 TV interview in which Richard Nixon brought himself down once again. Like the other election year release about a modern Republican president, “W.,” this one isn’t out to “get” its much vilified subject as much as it tries to cast him as something of a tragic victim of his own limitations and foibles–tragic for the perpetrator and his country alike. Frank Langella’s meticulous performance will generate the sort of attention that will attract serious filmgoers, assuring good biz in upscale markets, but luring the under-40 public will pose a significant marketing challenge. Universal release preemed Wednesday night as the opener of the London Film Festival in advance of Dec. 5 Stateside bow.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s review generally agreed:

Nevertheless, it will be political junkies, Nixon antagonists, history buffs and perhaps students of television that will be drawn to “Frost/Nixon.” Universal’s plan to release the Ron Howard-directed film in December, a month after the current election, probably is not long enough for it not to suffer from presidential fatigue on the part of the American public.

The celebrity turnout at the Four Seasons party following the premiere was upscale and decidedly not under-40.

Here’s the Friedman report from the opening and more:

It looks like Ron Howard’s film adaptation of the hit play, “Frost/Nixon,” is headed to the Academy Awards in some form.

Last night’s big premiere at the Ziegfeld showed the Universal Pictures release to be a smash, with stars Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, respectively picking up their original roles asRichard Nixon and David Frost, simply wowing the crowd.

Among the fans: FOX News’s own Bill O’Reilly, who couldn’t say enough nice things about the towering performances. I must concur. In addition to the leads, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall, and Oliver Platt are all tremendous.

For Ron Howard, this marks his best film since “A Brilliant Mind.” He and playwright Peter Morgan have managed to open up “Frost/Nixon” from the stage and make it simply spellbinding.

And this was one premiere that brought out all the principals, to the screening and then to the famed Four Seasons restaurant for a smashing after party. Among the guests not in the movie:Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Brett Ratner, Christine Baranski, Tovah Felshuh, James Toback, Gay Talese, Liz Smith and advertising genius Peter Rogers, Mort Zuckerman, Tom Freston, Bill McCuddy, lit agent Mary Evans, Time magazine’s John Huey and Richard Zoglin, and NBC’s Brian Williams and Jeff Zucker, reprising their roles from the “Billy Elliot” opening last week.

Speaking of “Billy Elliot,” the Broadway smash shares producers with “Frost/Nixon” in Eric Fellnerand Tim Bevan. Fellner brought along beautiful “Billy” star Haydn Gwynne (Mrs. Wilkinson). Because of the show’s first week schedule, she’s had two days off in a row. “It’s my last night off,” she laughed. “Ever!”

The real David Frost had a great chance encounter in the Four Seasons men’s room with “60 Minutes” journalist Steve Kroft.

The latter was being congratulated by everyone for his Sunday night interview with the Barack and Michelle Obama. When he and Frost — interviewer of this other president –met, the compliments were mutual. Neat.

Not so much on “The View” yesterday when Barbara Walters snapped at Frost: “You paid Nixon $600,000 for an interview. He did it with me for free a couple of years later.” So there!

Frost says about 15% of the movie was invented for dramatic purposes, but by and large the Nixon stuff is all true. We shall see shortly: the Watergate interview Frost did with Nixon will be released in a couple of weeks on DVD by a company called Liberation.

There are a couple of little gossipy problems with “Frost/Nixon.” The two main actors give outstanding performances. The studio would like Sheen to go for the Oscar in the supporting category so he might win. Sheen, who’s on screen just as much as Langella, wants to go for lead even if he doesn’t win. He feels it establishes him as a lead actor.

If Sheen goes into Supporting, he’s in good company: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Bill Irwin(Rachel Getting Married), Javier Bardem (Vicki Cristina Barcelona), Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), and Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) are already strong contenders, along with Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight.

The fact is, Langella, who won the Tony for playing Nixon, will probably win the Oscar. He is just sensational. It’s one of the few times that a theater performance has translated to screen like this. Langella is mesmerizing as Nixon, It’s a tour de force embodiment, not an impersonation.

Does he want the Oscar? “You bet I do!” he responded when the screening was done. Well, he should get it. And Sheen? His work just gets better and better. And he did confirm that he will star in a kind of sequel to “The Queen” as Tony Blair again, written also by Morgan. This time, the story will be about his friendship with Bill Clinton.

So Universal’s Ron Meyer and Brian Grazer toss their hats into the Oscar pool, joining “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Rachel Getting Married,” and “Doubt” so far as serious Best Picture contenders. Stay tuned for just a couple more titles to be added to this list.