Willa Fitzgerald Talks Watergate Scandal Inspired Comedy 18½

In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from office due to the Watergate scandal. In 2022, a comedy inspired by the scandal is set to release on May 27, following a fictional White House transcriber who has exclusively received a devastating 18 minutes and 30 seconds of missing Nixon tapes. She contacts a Times reporter with the intent to leak the tapes to the public and reveal the truth. They decide it’s best that they listen to the tapes in the safety of an isolated area. As they attempt to do so, they face numerous obstacles including technical problems, a hippy cult, and swingers who want them to stay for dinner. It seems like everything stands in the way of them doing what is best for the public interest.


18½ stars Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Gina Kreiezmar, Mariha Juliette Abney, Richard Kind, and Vondie Curtis-Hall. It’s directed by Dan Mirvish, co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, who co-wrote the script with Daniel Moya. Fitzgerald plays Connie in the film, and Magaro plays Paul, the Times reporter.

Ahead of its release, Fitzgerald joined Movieweb to chat about the film.

The World of 18½

“I think it a great character [Connie]. And I love a film that’s kind of contained. It’s only six characters and one location, basically. That is always a really fun experience, especially in the indie film world. It feels like a play that you’re doing on camera. ”

Fitzgerald continued, recalling working with Magaro on the film to be a fantastic experience. “He’s such a good actor. One of the most fun parts about our job is that we are constantly meeting new people and working with them. It’s always great when you have chemistry right off the bat, and that makes your job easier as an actor. ” She explained, then expanding on working with Mirvish. “Then is great as well. He has been doing this for a long time and has really interesting ideas about how to shoot indies. ”

Related: Exclusive 18½ Clip: Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro Strategize Leaking Nixon Tapes

Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in this indie is, without giving too much away, a fight towards the end of the film where less is more. “So much of it is not on camera,” said Fitzgerald. “I love that… Dan was so clever at having the majority of it not being on screen and instead… seeing it in bits and pieces… it works so well as a device, both for building suspense and for leaving it up to the imagination. ”

18½ certainly does that well with the addition of subtle but good jokes in the dialogue. In one scene, a member of the hippy cult that the protagonists encounter spiritually professes, “You can not spell vitamin without Vietnam.” Yet in other scenes, viewers can experience entirely different tones.

“This movie, in particular, is interesting because there’s a tone of dissonance between what’s happening and the various moments in the movie. It creates a sense of off-kilter… almost Alice in Wonderland sort of experience for Connie. It’s a fun world. John and I, we had a lot of our stuff in the first week and a half of shooting, and then we had Vondi and Kathy come in, and we had to readjust like we were in a different movie for the change in dynamic… And so that was fun, to have those art meets life situations. ”

Combining Fiction and Non-Fiction

The Watergate scandal is a very real moment in American historyhowever 18½ blends that with fiction in order to draw it’s story. Nonetheless, the film provides a level of commentary to America today. “It’s something that is such a part of American history. And I think, especially in recent political events, that it’s a natural look back… and that was part of the fun of making the movie, which is thinking about the things that are particularly salient in the current political world that we live in. ”

Fitzgerald continued, speaking to themes of distrust while drawing parallels between the ’70s and today, “The Watergate scandal made a lot of people very uncomfortable about the power of the presidency and the lies that were being perpetuated by people in high offices… and it created a lot of problems in our entire system. ” Which is a large motivator in the film, of course.

As for Connie, Fitzgerald noted that she experiences those levels of distrust and that a large development point is in her character finding difficulty in squaring what she initially believes in with what she has seen and heard, and becoming untangled with any preconceived notions.

Willa Fitzgerald can be recognized for various other roles including Roscoe Conklin in Reacher and Emma Duval in Scream: The TV Series. 18½ is a production of 101 Films International, Bugeater Films, Kyyba films, and is associated with Syncopated Daydreams and Terry Keefe Media.

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