Adam McKay’s Vice is a screwball biopic of Dick Cheney, the man widely reckoned to be the most powerful vice-president in US history. It traces his rise from beer-brained dropout to an intern during the Nixon administration, then covers his tenure as secretary of defense during the Gulf war, and his time as George W Bush’s official deputy from 2001-2009.
McKay, after establishing his career with comedies such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers, moved into freewheeling, lightly fictionalised accounts of real-life events. His previous film was the financial-crash comedy The Big Short.
McKay - Kaleidoscopic - Approach - Narrative - Asides
McKay’s kaleidoscopic approach – the narrative chopped up, and peppered with asides and data breaks – recalls the larky yet hard-hitting style of the British journalist and film-maker Adam Curtis, the person behind films such as The Power of Nightmares and Bitter Lake.
The two men also share an interest in unpicking political narratives and in examining how the structure of society can be insidiously shifted by individuals – and, of course, they share a first name. So, we asked them to sit down together for a cup of tea with Paul MacInnes at the Soho hotel in London.
Vice - Sequences - 1970s - Cheney - Christian
They began by discussing Vice’s key sequences, set in the late 1970s, when Cheney (Christian Bale) and Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) orchestrated a rightwing stealth-revolution that ushered in a sustained era of Republican power and idealism.
Adam Curtis: It was a moment.
Adam - McKay - Moment - Everything - Oligarchs
Adam McKay: I thought that moment was everything. The oligarchs and the corporations were mobilised through [conservative and libertarian thinktanks] the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. This idea of Ronald Reagan saying: “If you lean towards government, you are weak … true individuals don’t need government. And, oh, by the way, tax breaks for billionaires.” Really, we’re still living in that change.
AC: The very interesting question is...
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