When writer/director Adam McKay decided he was going to make a movie about former Vice President Dick Cheney, he only had one actor in mind to star.
“From the very beginning, I wanted Christian Bale to play him,” says McKay, whose darkly comic movie about the secretive VP’s quiet political rise, “Vice,” arrives in theaters Christmas Day. No matter that his chosen actor had a drastically different body type, head shape, age (Bale is 44, Cheney is 77) and stature from Cheney’s. (However, they share a Jan. 30 birthday.)
Bale’s initial reaction to the idea: “What?! How are you feeling, Adam?”
But the filmmaker was confident. “I knew he’d get it. I said, ‘Look, you don’t have to look exactly like him. We just want the vibe,’ ” says McKay, who also directed Bale to an Oscar nomination in “The Big Short.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Bale has already been nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for embodying Cheney throughout six decades of the ruthless politician’s life. Among a number of early “Vice” nominations, the film is up for best picture honors at the Globes (best comedy or musical) and Critics’ Choice Awards.
The usually trim, brown-haired British actor “ballooned” in weight, he says, and did months of makeup tests with artists Greg Cannom and Chris Gallaher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). The team developed several looks for the movie, including the one most moviegoers will be familiar with, giving Bale a bigger head, receding white hairline and jowls.
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Though that final look was so uncanny it made the hairs on McKay’s arms stand straight up, Bale’s appearance never threw off his 4-year-old son, Joseph.
“He didn’t flinch,” Bale says. “He must just look me straight in the eyes.”
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