Adam McKay Explains the ‘Vice’ Musical Number He Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Adam McKay’s “Vice” has clearly divided critics, with some calling it a bold and daring analysis of one of the most pivotal figures in American politics, and others mincing no words in labeling it, full stop, the worst film of the year. (Truly, in the year of a Dinesh D’Souza movie, people are grandstanding with that.) But, as a filmmaker friend confides, “Divisive is always better. Otherwise, you go gently into that good night.”

Both fan and hater alike can at least agree that McKay at times breaks form in drastic fashion with the film. Shakespearean pillow talk from Christian Bale and Amy Adams might not work for you, but you sure as hell weren’t expecting it in a Dick Cheney biopic.

One outrageous sequence (which actor Steve Carell mentioned earlier today) was left behind on the cutting room floor, and it had achieved a level of lore even before the film first started screening over a month ago. “Is the musical number still in there,” those familiar would ask. Alas, no, it’s not, but McKay and company tried their damnedest.

“I couldn’t get that one to work,” McKay admits. “It was kind of when Rumsfeld is teaching Cheney about Washington D.C. and how to get ahead. It’s sort of like ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ he’s kind of giving him that speech. But the speech is about, ‘Who cares about anything? You’ve got to just get ahead of people, making your moves.’ I think there was a line in it, ‘The means justify the ends,’ which I always loved.”

Oscar-nominated composer Nicholas Britell wrote the song, which featured Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard “just wailing on it,” McKay says. Not only that, but the production tapped “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler for the sequence.

“It’s breathtaking. It’s incredible. And it just didn’t work,” McKay says. “You didn’t need it. It was too long in that area of the movie. We tried 15 versions of it. We moved it here, we moved it there. We played it really short. We played it way longer and put scenes in the middle of it. We tried every single thing you could do. The only reason it doesn’t pain me at this moment is because I know we tried everything we could do. You’re in the editing room and you’re like, ‘This is amazing. This is going to work.’ And you just forget the movie tells you what it wants.”

The only other major element McKay wanted to include but had to jettison was material featuring the young Cheneys. Test screenings made it clear all of that was holding the movie back. “The audience just did not care about 15-year-old, 16, 17-year-old Dick Cheney,” McKay says.

But fear not. The director says he hopes to put the deleted material on the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Stay tuned for more from McKay on the film in an upcoming episode of Variety‘s “Playback” podcast. “Vice” opens Christmas Day.

RELATED VIDEO:

More Music

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

  • Deborah Dugan arrives for the 20th

    Deborah Dugan's Recording Academy Ouster Follows Multiple Tussles With Board

    “Change is afoot,” Deborah Dugan said more than once during interviews with Variety in the weeks before her shocking removal from her post as president/CEO of the Recording Academy after just five months on the job. During those conversations, Dugan spoke of changes she planned to make in the Academy’s staffing organization, its Board of [...]

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    Beyoncé Signs With Sony/ATV Music Publishing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Beyoncé has signed with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Variety has learned. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have worked closely for much of their careers with Jon Platt, who took the reins at the Sony Music company as chairman and CEO in 2019. Platt already brought Rihanna over to his new home last fall, after moving to Sony/ATV from [...]

  • Wu Tang An American Saga Dollface

    Hulu Renews 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' and 'Dollface' for Season 2

    Hulu has renewed “Wu Tang: An American Saga” and “Dollface,” each for a second season. The former, created and written by Alex Tse and the RZA, is based on the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan. The first season explored the hip-hop group’s history and daily struggles of balancing its rising music career on the backdrop [...]

  • Lucian Grainge

    Universal Music Chief Lucian Grainge to Receive Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

    Lucian Grainge — chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company — will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next Thursday (Jan. 23). Fittingly, the ceremony will take place in front of the historic Capitol Records building; Capitol is one of the several Universal-owned labels under Grainge’s domain. Universal, recently [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content