Vice: What Drew Director Adam McKay to Dick Cheney

The writer and director of The Big Short turns his satiric eye toward the most powerful vice president in U.S. history in Vice.

Adam McKay got his first big break as a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1995 and eventually became a movie director and producer, teaming with fellow SNL alumnus Will Ferrell on hit comedies like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. In 2015, McKay turned toward real-life-based political satire with the Oscar-nominated The Big Short, about the lead-up to the financial crash of 2008, and now he sets his eye on former Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice.

As played by Christian Bale, Dick Cheney is focused on one thing: grabbing hold of the levers of power and calculating the best way to manipulate them for the results he wants — without stopping to wonder if those results are good for anyone else or the country. From his earliest days in Wyoming to his stint in the Nixon White House to the Bush years, Cheney operates on his own wavelength.

Considered to this day to be the real power in the administration of President George W. Bush, Cheney is both ripe for sober examination and humorous sniping. McKay does both in Vice, often showing the collateral damage of Cheney’s policies while going off on bizarre asides like an entire scene between Cheney and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) spoken like a play by Shakespeare.

“The idea that there is power that’s between the cracks, there are powers that are in the shadows, really kind of drew me to Cheney,” says McKay in our interview below. “I mean, I think we certainly knew that Cheney had influence, but when I picked up a book about him, I was shocked at the level and the nuance of degree to which he took control when he was in that White House, and how much really this kind of uncharismatic guy changed the course of world history.”

If you thought The Big Short did a grimly funny job of slicing and dicing the scoundrels who brought the global economy to its knees, then you might find that Vice does the same for one of the most polarizing figures in modern politics.

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In addition to Bale and Adams, Vice also stars Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell. The film opens on Christmas Day.

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye