How Vice got inside Dick Cheney's head — and earned 8 Oscar nominations
On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at EW.com this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.
Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams
Total nominations: 8
How do you make a movie about Dick Cheney, the polarizing former vice president who helped irrevocably shape early 21st-century America? If you’re writer-director Adam McKay, you make it a fourth-wall-breaking, genre-hopping black comedy, peppered with pop culture references and faux-Shakespearean dialogue. Led by an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale, Vice traces Cheney’s evolution from hard-partying Yale dropout to White House puppet master, with Amy Adams as wife Lynne and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush. It’s an incisive portrait of a notoriously secretive man, peeling back Cheney’s layers for an American story that’s both hilarious and horrifying. (It also scored eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.)
“He presents as this very boring, bureaucratic guy, and everything he did was so that no one would make this movie,” McKay says with a laugh. “But we did it anyway.”
McKay first started probing Dick Cheney’s psyche almost 20 years ago, as a writer for Saturday Night Live. But with Vice, he takes a deeper dive into the former vice president’s mind. “His story was just really remarkable to me,” McKay explains. “What excited me about it wasn’t just the level of craftiness and control he exerted when he was in the White House. It was how his story kind of tracked with America’s story over the last 40 or 50 years and how much he was always there for all these crucial moments throughout history.”
McKay maps that history in his signature frenetic style, recounting Cheney’s life through genre changes, stock footage, and a brilliantly unexpected choice of narrator. The result is a dazzling testament to Cheney’s influence — and how his White House decisions continue to affect the planet.
“I kind of wish it wasn’t so relevant to the world we live in [today],” McKay jokes. “We’d probably be a little more relaxed.”