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‘Vice’ Star Christian Bale on How Dick Cheney Was His Wife’s ‘Avatar’

Presenting the Oscar-nominated “Vice” at the Berlin Film Festival on Monday, actor Christian Bale said Dick Cheney’s transformation into one of the most notorious U.S. leaders of the past century had much to do with his wife Lynne, played by Amy Adams in the film.

“Lynne really gave him the ambition. In many ways he was her avatar. They joke that anyone who married Lynne would have been president or vice president. There weren’t many opportunities for women at the time. She couldn’t go to Harvard. If he hadn’t married her he probably would have been happy being a lineman in Wyoming. He probably would have been a Democrat. His whole family had always been Democrat. We would not have had the Iraq war.”

Discussing his portrayal of Cheney as both a monstrous political tactician responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and a kind, loving father, Bale said: “By many accounts he was a very devoted father and husband. At the same time he has said he has no regrets, that he would do everything again in a minute. … It didn’t matter to him that no one found WMDs [weapons of mass destruction].…

“He is endlessly fascinating. I kept asking myself whether the demons come to him at night. He says no, but is that really possible? I don’t know. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. He was a big comforting figure who presented a sense of control with his reassuring voice. There are endless questions that I would have for him. He’s a conundrum. … It’s a far more terrifying role than any other I’ve played.”

Also taking part in the press conference ahead of the film’s German premiere, writer-director Adam McKay said he looked at the film first and foremost as a character portrait, noting that Cheney had been a critical operator in U.S. politics for the last 50 years, “either in a Zelig-like way or being more directly involved hands-on.”

Comparing Cheney to Donald Trump, McKay said the current president was more the result of those 50 years of politics that followed the Reagan revolution, the politics shaped by the likes of Cheney.

Cheney was “always terrible at retail politics, Trump loves it,” McKay noted. “Cheney worked in silence, he knew that true power was in the shadows. He liked working that way.”

Asked about the evolution of his films, from his early comedies to his more serious and socially relevant works, McKay said: “You do react to the world, and the world got so insane at a certain point. I thought, let’s just say it nakedly. The entire world economy collapsed! That led to ‘The Big Short.’”

Discussing his Oscar prospects, Bale played down the importance of awards in general, but added: “As far as awards can encourage more people to see the film, that’s great. There’s no such thing as best actor really. It’s a celebration of film. I’m very proud of the film.”

Asked if he felt snubbed after missing out on the best actor prize at the BAFTAs ceremony in London on Sunday, Bale responded: “I don’t feel that I’ve been snubbed. It’s all good.”

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