When director Adam McKay approached Christian Bale about playing Dick Cheney in Vice, Bale initially didn’t believe he was suitable for the role. While Bale is known for playing real-life characters, his role as Dick Cheney in Vice was a different task entirely. Bale attributed his masterful transformation into Dick Cheney to the makeup and hairstyling crew, as he described that at times they would spend several hours at the makeup chair. Bale also put on an astounding 45 pounds, reaching a weight of nearly 230 pounds. Additionally, Bale shaved his head, bleached his eyebrows, and endured intense neck-thickening exercises to embody Dick Cheney.
This ambitious transformation was jarring, as Bale’s extreme weight gain made him nearly unrecognizable. The physical expertise that Bale brought to the character was exceptional, but it was Bale’s tireless mental preparation and studious commitment that earned him the Oscar nomination. Bale provided insight into the challenge of stepping into the shoes of Dick Cheney, « Usually they don’t allow special effects makeup artists that much time to prep but I said no, wait, we’ve got to have months and months and months to get anywhere close to something that can work here, » (Via GQ). Bale commended the patience of fellow cast and crew on Vice as their hard work paid dividends. Bale was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, as the film was nominated for an additional seven Oscars and won the award for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.
How Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney Performance Almost Won Him An Oscar
Bale’s portrayal of Dick Cheney in Vice merited him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Bale stated that this was the most research he had ever done for a movie, allowing him to perfect Adam McKay’s vision for a less-subtle satire. Due to McKay’s directorial style, Vice was debatably Bale’s most mentally taxing film. McKay utilized an improvisational technique during the filming of Vice which encouraged creative expression among actors. For Bale, this meant that doing his homework on Cheney was a necessity. This diligence allowed Bale to nail Cheney’s delivery and mannerisms, and also acquire a thorough knowledge of the relevant terminologies and policies Cheney would have employed at any specific moment. McKay’s unique approach coupled with Bale’s mental and physical dedication were instrumental elements in Bale’s Oscar-nominated performance.
How Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney Added To Vice’s Divisive Reception
Christian Bale’s depiction as Dick Cheney was also a contributing factor to the mixed reception that Vice was subjected to upon release. Vice ranks among the middle of the pack in Adam McKay’s movies. The film was somewhat well-received critically, and it’s easy to see why. McKay’s classic comedic flare was on full display, bolstered by crisp cinematography from Greig Fraser, and a compelling score from composer Nicholas Britell. In addition to the eight Oscar nominations, the film scored a respectable 65% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was met with a more divisive commercial response, as it landed with a 60% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
McKay is clear with his intentions for Cheney in Vice, as the former Vice President is undoubtedly painted as villainous. At times this tactic comes off as a bit heavy-handed, and McKay’s political satire feels overblown. McKay chronicled Cheney’s personal life and political policies in the biopic, as he overtly condemned Cheney’s actions in both respects. Bale’s weight gain and other physical transformations gave him an unsettling likeness to Cheney. In tandem with McKay’s monstrous depiction of the former Vice President, these factors rendered the film as one dimensional, despite the fact that it was well-crafted. Taking the role of Dick Cheney was a monumental risk for Christian Bale, one that he didn’t originally think could be properly executed. Ultimately, Bale’s performance in Vice was so convincing that it furthered the divide between critics and audiences, but more importantly, it earned him an Oscar nomination that cemented him as one of the most dedicated actors of his generation.