One of the most divisive and controversial personalities in modern American politics gets the satirical treatment in Vice, the new movie from writer/director Adam McKay. The film reunites McKay with star Christian Bale, who this time disappears beneath the weight he put on to play former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The story follows Cheney as he’s tapped by Presidential candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) to bring the years of experience he’s accumulated as Secretary of Defense as well as a major business owner to help the relatively green Bush govern. But Cheney has other ideas, seeing the weak President as a chance to fully get his hands on the levers of power without having a fraction of scrutiny the higher office would bring.
A silhouette of Bale as Cheney is featured on the poster making this seem like an artistic magazine cover. The cast names are featured above the title while McKay’s credits are shared at the very top. It’s a nice bit of pop art helping sell the attitude and approach of the movie.
Bush is recruiting Cheney to be his VP as the trailer opens, though Cheney is somewhat reluctant to take on what’s mostly a “symbolic” position. So he proposes an alternative arrangement where he takes on the management of most everything that’s vital to the presidency, with Bush being left as mostly a figurehead. The montage that follows shows just how extensive Cheney’s role became and how that impacted the country and the world.
The performances by Bale, Rockwell, Carell and others are a highlight here, but what’s also on display is the visual style of the movie, which seems just as fast and tight as what McKay brought to The Big Short. That’s the real sales pitch here, a fast-paced trip behind the curtains of power.
Online and Social
There’s only the usual batch of information and content on the movie’s official website, not much else.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising began in mid-October with a spot showing the same kind of manic energy as the trailer, including Cheney bargaining for the kind of power a VP doesn’t usually enjoy. The movie’s SAG Awards were touted in a promoted Tweet.
Media and Publicity
Some of the first publicity for the movie came during the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. While there promoting Hostiles, Bale was obviously much doughier than he usually is, a change that was often commented on and which he said was part of his preparing for the role.
About a year later not much had happened on the publicity or marketing front, but McKay finally confirmed the movie’s title on Twitter.
A while after the trailer was released McKay started doing interviews, including one where he said Cheney is more dangerous than Trump because he’s smarter and more calculating.
He reiterated those comments in a substantial THR cover story on the movie that had the director talking about the process behind making the movie, Bale gaining the weight for the role and lots more.
An interview with McKay featured him revealing he had a heart attack on set that Bale helped him, thanks in part to the research the actor had done on symptoms and treatment. McKay was also the subject of a feature profile that allowed him to talk about his recent shift into more dramatic – albeit stylized – films, what kind of research he did while preparing for the film and more.
In early December it was announced the movie would open the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival. Shortly after that a first look at Tyler Perry as Colin Powell was released, garnering the same kind of bewildered reactions that greeted pics of Bale as Cheney much earlier.
Adams appeared on “Kimmel” and then on “Late Night” to talk about this and other recent projects of hers. Bale and Rockwell appeared together on a Variety podcast to talk about weight gains, how to not do bad impressions and more.
The movie’s red carpet premiere allowed the cast and McKay to talk about various things, including how a musical number was cut.
Bale’s transformation into Cheney was the subject of man stories, including a feature profile on the actor’s process. How he and McKay went about working to craft the story and how that story fits into the context of today’s political environment was covered in a number of joint interviews with the pair.
The campaign works hard to capture the same tone as The Big Short to try and get the same sort of critical and commercial success that movie saw. So it keeps going for clever and hip in the tone and presentation of the movie to help establish it as the emotional sequel to that earlier effort from McKay.
It never quite reaches that level, mostly because it’s working so hard to do so. That doesn’t mean the campaign doesn’t make the movie look interesting and intriguing. There’s been a lot of talk about how it might be an attempt to “humanize” Cheney, someone who not only engaged in bad behavior of his own but also poisoned the well of American society. That’s not the reading I get from the marketing, though, as it seems to be selling someone it knows is a terrible person and wants to make that point to the audience.
Picking Up the Spare
Carell was interviewed about how he approached the role of one of the most reviled political figures in modern American history.
Bale, Adams and others spoke about creating the movie’s unique visual style and format. McKay also revealed how a surprise cameo came about and why he decided to tell Cheney’s story.