Why Adam McKay Felt He Could Lean Into His Sillier Instincts Making Vice

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney walking down a hallway in Vice

While Adam McKay's movies are certainly more serious than they used to be, he also has clearly not lost his sense of humor. He may be tackling issues like the subprime mortgage crisis and the political ascension of Dick Cheney, but he tells those stories with a special light tough and some surprisingly big laughs. It's kind of a strange mix, but the filmmaker partially believes it's because of the tone of the times we live in that he can pull it off:

The big trick is, and you know this, is just we're living in Bonkers Town right now... So we felt like with Cheney, who's this dark mystery, who's done everything he can for his story not to be told --Dick Cheney does not want a movie made about him. And we felt like we had to show the absurdity of that. We had to show the tragedy of that. We had to have everything.

Adam McKay's particular tonal balance was an especially important aspect in my personal appreciation of the film, so I felt that I had to bring it up when I sat down with the writer/director earlier this month at the Los Angeles press day for Vice. I asked about his philosophy and approach to the new denser material, and his approach towards placing those aforementioned touches, and he explained that the world kind of did the work for him in that regard. It's both ridiculous and insane that one of the most powerful figures in modern politics can wear the shield around him that he does, and that blend told McKay how to tell the story.

Going further, there is no question that the humor also makes the material a great deal more digestible than if it were presented as straight, serious drama. It's specifically why The Big Short has Margot Robbie and Anthony Bourdain cameo to entertainingly explain complex financial terms, but also why Vice has Dick and Lynne Cheney's discussions about taking on the Vice Presidency spoken in Shakespearean verse. Adam McKay gets to have his cake and eat it too: still exercising his comedic impulses and sensibilities, while also whipping some need-to-know history at his audience.

All in all, Adam McKay basically thinks that the world has changed enough in recent years that this kind of filmmaking can thrive. We don't need to put things in specific boxes anymore, and instead movies can mix it up. Making Vice he found himself both laughing and crying throughout, and he gives a lot of credit to the atmosphere in which the film was made and is being released. Said McKay,

Our conceit was we're in a post-genre world. There is no genre anymore once your president tells you to rake the woods. That's kind of what got us there. So this is the weirdest movie in the sense that I will watch this movie on playback and I swear to God there are times where I have tears in my eyes by the end. And then there are other times where I laugh the entire way through the movie. All I can say is we're in very strange times.

You can watch Adam McKay's full comments about mixing up tone and his specific approach by clicking play on the video below:

Vice, which stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, and Jesse Plemons, is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.