The interview took about two hours, with a focus primarily on John's work and his mental health.Mike asked John about the alleged anti-Semitic rantings in the 1960s, and John admitted that, because of his illness, "I did have strange ideas during certain periods of time." He went on to explain he also ranted about aliens. The interview was going on well, and then Mike asked about the alleged affair with his male classmate.At the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists.
There were suggestions that John had anti-Semitic leanings in his youth and that he had abandoned an out-of-wedlock child.
The implication was that this film was about a nasty guy, and the filmmakers covered it up, so it was not worthy of the coveted Best Picture Oscar.
But producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard saw something in the story, and with writer Akiva Goldsman, they turned John's life story into a gripping film that, in 2002, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
In the months leading up to the Oscars, a whisper campaign started, suggesting that John was not the heroic figure that was portrayed by actor Russell Crowe.
I remember John turned slightly, as if to look to me for help. Of course, the exchange never made it into the piece, since it was not germane to the story.
He paused, collected his thoughts and answered matter-of-factly. We did address the alleged anti-Semitism and the abandoned son, but by the time our story aired, Academy votes were in, so the studio's efforts to use this profile to boost their chances of an Oscar were foiled.
In the fall of 2002, we both welcomed the Nash story as a break from our national security reporting in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
After chasing intelligence agents and terrorists, this was going to be an easy one. Negotiating with a genius suffering from schizophrenia is simply not easy.
Having struggled with his own mental health demons, Mike thought he could connect with this man who achieved greatness, despite his challenges.
Mike and I also saw it as an opportunity to help address the ongoing stigma around mental illness.