Vice: Interview with Christian Bale, Frontrunner for Best Actor Oscar Nod as Dick Cheney

Interview with Oscar winner Christian Bale, frontrunner for yet another Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role as Dick Cheney on Adam McKay’s satirical biopic, Vice.

Dick Cheney as Operator

Well no, if the current Government understood the machine of Government the way Dick Cheney did, it would be way more dangerous.  Cheney knew every lever and button to push and who to call 17 places down that actually got it done.

What Surprised You?

CB: No matter how much I tried for months of obsessing about it, just the impossibility of really understanding that level of power, of waking up each day and genuinely having that power day after day after day and the burden and the responsibility of that, but just the ability to wield that and for me, that would be something I would run from, but the difference of someone who embraces it fully.  This didn’t surprise me, what I do think is really nice in this film, is that there’s often a tendency to make people into either saints or villains as if they can never do anything good if they are all bad, and just to recognize that you know, whether you consider him a monster or not, many people do, but monsters don’t generally arrive looking like Manson with a swastika carved into their heads, many of them arrive in Polo shirts and khakis, etc.  But also just, hardly anybody who has ever experienced that kind of power, what I find really fascinating about this film is to consider yourself and what you would do with that power if when you imagine that level of power, is the first thing you imagine putting smiles on people’s faces and uplifting them and improving the world and life, or is the first thing that you imagine getting revenge, because finally you can for wrongs done and all that.  Because I do think that there are many Cheney’s walking around us and there’s probably quite a few Cheney’s right in this room.  (laughter) It’s just that the opportunity has never arisen to show your true self.

Method of Cheney’s Madness

I didn’t have any interest in just looking at him as a villain, because I think that would have been absolutely predictable and a bunch of bloody Hollywood liberals just doing their slog and vilifying somebody who I had the opportunity to just bump into people who then revealed that they knew him, who would say to me hey please, he’s not a demon, don’t do that.  Other people who would say give it to him, he’s a war criminal, he should be locked up, he brings out really strong reactions in people.  And it just felt, the only interesting way to approach this, is that Adam is a very strong minded, politically open gentleman, you have met him, and he doesn’t make any attempt to restrain himself and he is not reticent about his political views.  But you got a look at me on the screen, so if I am open about my political views, it’s going to ruin the performance and it’s going to ruin the film.  So I don’t want you thinking about that. So I said to Adam, well the only way this is going to work, is if I truly, truly, really try to get into his mindset, understand it.

Capturing Cheney’s Manner and Mannerism

CB: I watched him endlessly, there’s just so much Dick Cheney on this phone.  (laughter) It’s ridiculous.  And I have confusion about him as well because I did enjoy playing him so much and the environment that there’s a certain part of me, I see his face and I go aw, there’s my Dick.  (laughter) So that to me was the only interesting thing, was that if Adam allowed me to really counter him and Adam was really up for that and he really enjoyed it, he loved hearing my thoughts on why what Adam disagreed with was actually good, a sort of real world approach.  And I think that really makes for the poignancy in the film, because I don’t know about your guys experience of watching it, but for me, it was such a run in the gamut of emotions for me watching this film, which I didn’t even, having made it, think that that was going to be possible.  I was bawling my eyes out at moments because there are such relatable moments with his family and when he was a bloody good dad.  And then aw man, the tragedy of what happens later in the film when the one daughter kind of has throw the other daughter under the bus.  And that was very public and I didn’t feel like we were being invasive on their personal side there, because it was a public feud.  And all of that being so moving and then also I was referring to many more Cheney’s than people would think in the world, considering yourself, what would you do in that situation?  If it was actually you watching those towers coming down and you felt it’s on me, it’s all on me about how we respond right now, what would you truly do with that just terrible burden on you?  So that to me made it really fascinating, countering Adam, and that has made it not only into a hilarious and entertaining film because of just how ridiculous the nature of politics is, but how beautifully poignant it is and what it speaks to about who we are as a nation.  And for myself as a dad, I look at it and think who am I as a dad when I am seeing how he behaves and I truly think it’s an absolute masterpiece.  And I have had weeks to reconsider this statement and still believe it.  I was blown away by this film and as moved by it in every emotion as much as any film that I have ever seen in my life.  It’s absolutely staggering to me.

 

Relevancy of Cheney’s Story Today

CB: First off, the most consequential Vice President ever, he changed the political landscape clearly and obviously in the Middle East and we are dealing with his policies there now.  He was a part of this shift within the political parties to being ultra-partisan in this real divide.  And he was there throughout all of that and one of the strongest figures, not solely responsible of course, that’s impossible, but highly charged and powerful and influential and absolutely strong minded beyond belief and unrepentant about anything he did. A genuine belief that what he did was for the best and anybody who criticizes him hasn’t had to walk in his shoes and truly have the job of deciding what to do and those tough decisions have to be made by tough men.  And he is one of those tough men.  His import in where we are today cannot be overstated.  And he did all of that in ultimate secrecy.  He’s not somebody who, he tried to see if he could run for President, he obviously was the sole representative in Wyoming, but he wasn’t great at retail politics, he doesn’t kiss the babies well.  He doesn’t do that, and so found amazingly the ultimate power position in being this particular President’s VP who was far more experienced, and also the mentality of somebody who had left politics, and I think that’s very crucial as well, he was finished.  And he finished highly successfully as Secretary of Defense in the first Gulf War where there had been that coalition.  And then moved on and left all of that behind.  So it’s a very different attitude when you are coming into politics because people are begging you to return.  Well in that respect, there’s a liberty that you feel, they begged me to be here.  It’s my way or the highway now in that case, I didn’t ask to be here and that’s highly important.

Role of Cheney’s Wife

CB:  Dick Cheney should be on the cover of romance novels, not Fabio right?  Because it was his absolute, undying love and desire to win approval of a woman.  And the carnage that happened is the dark side of one man’s love for a woman.  His family were all Democrats, he idolized John Colter and Hugh Glass and all these tough American frontiersmen, having a good honest fight and punch up, being a line man, he was well suited to that.  But then through his love for Lynne he said, ‘I will change and he morphed. He had a few different phases in his life where he had messed up at Yale, that hadn’t worked, but then did learn to be able to talk in the world of academia and then through his journeys with Rumsfeld learned all about power.  And then I think in my amateur psychologist way, I think when he returned as VP with all of the knowledge of exactly how Government works, more so than most, down to the simplest of things and as soon as him and Bush got into power, he just stopped the presses from running because all of Bill Clinton’s last orders, if they don’t actually get printed, they don’t happen.  And it sounds incredibly simple but many people don’t know that. So his first order was to stop the presses right this second so those orders don’t get enacted.  And simple stuff, but most people don’t know that because he grew up with this meteoric rise to power as the youngest chief of staff after being in the drunk tank.  But none of that would have happened without Lynn and if it had been this era, she would have done it all by herself and she says, and he agrees that whoever she married, would have become VP.  And he says that too, he says that openly.

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