You ask the questions: Sir David Frost

(Such as: Sir David Frost, you have been accused of sycophancy towards your celebrity guests. How do you plead?)
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Sir David Frost was born in 1939 in Suffolk, the son of a vicar. He made his mark with the satirical programme That Was The Week That Was in the 1960s. He has since hosted talk shows including Through the Keyhole, and conducted the groundbreaking Nixon interviews. He was knighted in 1993. He produced the film Rogue Trader, about the disgraced banker Nick Leeson, which is released this week. He lives in Chelsea with his wife, Lady Carina Frost. They have three sons.

When did you first meet Nick Leeson? What were your impressions of him and what were the prison conditions like?

Jenny Giles, Clerkenwell, London

I met Nick Leeson even before I started researching the film - indeed, even before I had the idea of making a movie of his story. Nick Leeson was detained in Frankfurt while it was decided whether he would be extradited to Britain or Singapore. When the co-author of his autobiography, Ed Whitley, got permission to go and interview Nick, I thought we might be able to use the same legal permission for a TV interview. Luckily, that worked, and the interview was screened in September 1995. I realised the Nick Leeson story had the makings of a really good film, so I acquired the rights to his book and his story.

I thought Nick was a likeable guy and that he was genuinely sorry for the havoc he had caused. Even in prison, it was possible to sense what a brilliant salesman he must have been - after all, he seemed to have persuaded Barings to send pounds 350,000,000 to Singapore with scarcely a petty cash voucher!

Is Nick Leeson a criminal - or was he just doing his job?

Jamie Brown, Brighton

I prefer the description that Kenneth Clarke gave in the House of Commons when he described Nick Leeson as a "rogue trader". It is incidentally, I believe, the first time that a Chancellor of the Exchequer has devised the title for a movie.

What's your favourite film?

JG Bramley (by e-mail)

The film I have seen more times than any other is High Noon with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. It is, I think, the perfect Western.

Who are the most difficult or irritating guests you've ever interviewed - Jerry Rubin and the Yippies?

Jules Robbins, Islington, London

You are quite right that the night when Jerry Rubin and 25 Yippies (that he had infiltrated into the audience) invaded the set was a moment I am never likely to forget.

Interviews with interpreters on both sides can be fraught - by the time you have got the answer, you have forgotten the question.

Neither difficult nor irritating, I remember an interview with Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic candidate for president in 1988, in which he paused before answering one question for 26 seconds. If you time 26 seconds on your watch, you will realise what an eternity that was.

You have been accused of sycophancy towards your celebrity guests. How do you plead?

Jeff Bellows, Birmingham

Not guilty! In an interview it is imperative to set people at their ease, to relax them, to open them up, rather than shut them up. It is possible to ask testing questions in a conversational style, rather than a hectoring style. Indeed, the best way to judge a question is by the quality of the answer it produces.

The interviewer is a catalyst, though if facts are really being done a disservice, then you do have to step in more strongly as a principal. You have to adapt your tone and technique to the subject. In the Nixon interviews, we were prosecution and defence on the subject of Watergate. Later on, as his defence wilted, I became almost a Father Confessor and, when he was talking about his experiences in opening the path to China, I was Boswell to his Johnson. The late John Smith said to me: "You have a way of asking beguiling questions with potentially lethal consequences." I'd be happy to have that on my tombstone.

Is it true that Edwina Currie bashed you on the nose after an interview on your Sunday show?

Sarah Collier, Hove, Sussex

That is a wonderful example of a joke turning into a myth! Edwina Currie was reviewing the newspapers on Breakfast with Frost when suddenly I had a nosebleed. I said later as a throwaway remark that it was not the result of Edwina's uppercut. Indeed on the tape she can be seen handing me a handkerchief.

You used to be a formidable satirist and scourge of the establishment. Now you seem to have joined them. How did that happen?

TC Coleman, Blackpool

I do not think I have joined the establishment - maybe they have joined me! - because I do not really believe that there is an establishment anymore. But I have changed my mind after my experiences with the Nick Leeson story. I believe that if he had been called Nicholas Fotheringham Leeson, he would have been extradited to the UK and spent a couple of years at the Ernest Saunders Memorial Suite at Ford open prison, rather than ending up in Chagi Jail in Singapore.

How did you vote at the last election? Have you switched over the years?

John East, Helmsley, Yorks

I have never voted in an election, though I do not think anybody should follow my example, because I had a special reason for that. By the time I was able to vote for the first time in 1964, I knew that my career was going to be inextricably intermingled with political commentary and, in those circumstances, I thought it was better not to vote than to have people saying: "He may say he's independent, but I happen to know he's a secret Tory voter or a secret socialist voter." I am reminded of the commentator who said: "I never vote - it only encourages them."

Worst TV moment?

Polly Ronnins, Oxford

On one occasion I was introducing Simon Wiesenthal, the man who had dedicated his life to tracking down Hitler's war criminals, and I found myself saying, "Will you welcome Adolf Wiesenthal." And I once asked a guest in an education debate, "Do you think there is a case for the return of capital punishment in schools?" My guest said that he felt that was perhaps a trifle harsh.

Next Week

Cynthia Lennon followed by Mary Quant

SEND questions for Cynthia Lennon, former wife of John Lennon, and designer Mary Quant to: You Ask the Questions, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL (fax 0171-293 2182, or e-mail them to yourquestions@ independent.co. uk), by noon on Friday 25 June

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