×

Adam McKay Says ‘Vice’ Inspires ‘Most Extreme Reaction of Anything I’ve Ever Worked On’

In “Vice,” writer-director Adam McKay swings for the fences, mixing styles, tone, and techniques for a funny, devastating, and important look at American politics in the 21st century.

“The underlying premise of the movie is, ‘The world right now is uniquely, and potentially catastrophically, in trouble,’” McKay says. “That is never a cool message. Humans always try to maintain a healthy remove, we try to remember that, as shocking as things appear in the moment, we always move on. The underlying statement of this movie is, ‘No, this is uniquely bad.’ I think that offends some sensibilities; some people are like ‘Calm down!’” he laughs.

“I’m trying to do movies that are a conversation with the audience; I’m not making snow-globe movies that are pretty and relaxing to look at.”

The movie examines Dick Cheney, from 1963 to the present. “Vice” is nominated for eight Academy Awards, including three for McKay, as writer, director, and producer. It’s also nominated for a trio of acting performances, makeup, and the complex editing of Hank Corwin.

In the first five minutes, the film covers Cheney’s early years in Wyoming and 9/11 in the White House, cross-cut with images ranging from the Iraq War to head-bangers at a rock concert to blue-collar workers. The film uses intense drama, faux-Shakespearean verse, sitcom moments, still photos, freeze-frames, voiceovers, and other techniques. The audience learns about multiple subjects, including White House protocol, medical procedures, and an explanation of the unitary executive theory.

“There are parts where you’re being deluged with information, then parts where you break form, where you shifts styles and tones,” says McKay. “Some people seem to think the style and act-structure are a mistake. We spent a long time working on those! Life is too short to make a traditional political biopic. It’s more about the time we live in now.”

Editor Corwin adds: “It was a blast to work on, but scary as well, to get the right colors. You would careen from era to era, emotion to emotion, creating hard emotional juxtapositions. It’s the opposite of smooth editing. Flashy editing for its own sake is a terrible thing, but this felt natural — to figure out culturally where we were and where we are.”

McKay praises all his collaborators, including Corwin and DP Greig Fraser, “who really dove into the idea of using a lot of different looks. That includes creating our own ‘stock footage.’ A lot of people wonder how we found some of it, but we always thought, ‘No, we’re going to create our own,’ so we did.”

Cheney was a secretive person, withholding info from his family, co-workers, and the public.

“With this film, it was about trying to relate to the unrelatable,” Corwin says. “You never know what lurks inside of people, even those you’re close to. So we tried to find moments of humanity.”

McKay adds that the film has inspired “the most extreme reaction of anything I’ve ever worked on. People gush, ‘I love it! This is what we need!’ or else, ‘I hate this more than any movie I’ve ever seen.’”

He sums up: “The film is basically saying, ‘Maybe what we’re doing isn’t the right path. Let’s look at things from a different angle.’ We’re living in a crazy time. I think our movie broke the glass and pulled the emergency handle. I’ve been told, ‘Something about this movie makes people mad.’ And it should!”

More Film

  • Azania Muendane

    Locations Africa Expo Sends Message in Durban: ‘Africa is Ready’

    DURBAN–The first edition of the Locations Africa Expo and Conference was held this week during the Durban FilmMart, with an eye toward identifying and growing the opportunities to lure incoming productions to the continent. “Locations Africa is trying to service a need on the continent to discuss the physical production…on the ground, highlighting film commissions, [...]

  • The Lion King

    China Box Office: 'Looking Up' is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of 'Lion King'

    Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences, delivering a surprise number one hit in “Looking Up.” It scored $38.6 million in its opening weekend, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its previous perch. “Looking Up” is a family comedy about a father’s [...]

  • Unathi Malonga

    Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

    DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence. That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content