The Culture Current: Six Reasons NOT To Panic About The Cheney Biopic
It’s just been announced this week that Adam McKay, director of the recent dark comedy about the 2008 crash, The Big Short, has his eyes set on directing a biopic about former Vice President Dick Cheney. More than that, he’s trying to bring in a triple threat of talent—Christian Bale as Cheney, Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, and Steve Carrell (yes, that Steve Carrell) as Donald Rumsfeld.
Now…there’s a natural knee-jerk reaction to this—that it’ll be a hit piece, just another Lefty screed against the man the Left at one time most loved to hate…and I mean hate! And that’s understandable. I have to admit, I ultimately would not be surprised if that’s exactly how the film turns out—intensely disappointed, but not necessarily surprised.
Here’s the thing, though—I really don’t see that happening. That is, in all likelihood it won’t be such a screed. At least, at this point in time, that’s where I’m putting the odds.
Here’s my reasoning:
First—The era of Cinematic Screeds against Real-Life Conservatives is over.
It has been since The Iron Lady—and arguably, W…considering how the number-one reaction to Stone’s Bush biopic was, and I quote, “It’s much more sympathetic than I thought it would be!”
As for The Iron Lady, the famous biopic about Margaret Thatcher, well…from the looks of it, whether you’d like it or not depends on whether or not you accept the “framing story” focusing on Maggie’s latter-day medical condition. The boys at Breitbart hated the film, calling it “fictional as it is slanderous”. The Washington Times, however, praised the film, noting: “Here, her fight against left-wing orthodoxy is depicted as ferocious and honorable, with minimal time devoted to criticisms. One could be forgiven for guessing the filmmakers themselves were conservatives, if one didn’t know better.”
For what it’s worth, the “dementia” element aside, the main complaint against the film seems to be its failure to properly acknowledge those who helped Thatcher in her achievements (…as if that’s an attack on her, rather than flattery). Meanwhile, members of Maggie’s own cabinet have praised the film.
The point is, it’s impossible to just shrug off either film as just another predictable Hollywood Leftist screed against Bush, or Thatcher. You see, Hyper-Partisan Hollywood had its “golden age” (snort) during the Bush era, with all the awful and awfully-made anti-Iraq screeds…to say nothing of that Bush-assassination garbage. In its own way, Hollywood did learn its lesson. (Although, the weird portrayal of the Reagans in The Butler might be an exception….)
Second—An anti-Cheney screed is insanely outdated—and everyone knows it.
Look, Cheney hasn’t been the Left’s go-to boogeyman since Obama first took office. (If not earlier—see: Sarah Palin.) Honestly: If they were going to make such a flick, why now? How would it be “relevant” to anything, in any way?
I don’t care how much the Left hated Cheney, way back when—even Obama’s long past “Bush’s fault”. Cheney hasn’t really been talked about for nearly a decade, except for the occasional aside comment. In other words, even they would be bored with such a film.
On the other hand…it would be extremely interesting—and creative—to after all these years, after everyone’s able to “take a deep breath, and step back”…approach this former “Darth Vader” with a fresh look—a “big picture”, a declaration that “Hey…the guy we all demonized, way back when? Maybe it wasn’t that simple….”
Third—It’s directed by the guy who gave us The Big Short.
Here’s the issue. Is The Big Short one-sided? Is it a Leftist screed?
Again—like with The Iron Lady, even Conservative media was split on this one. Christian Toto didn’t care for it, describing it as essentially a missed opportunity. The boys at Breitbart, on the other hand, praised it for properly channeling anger against those who saw the crash coming and yet did nothing to stop it or at least sound the alarm, instead seeking to use it to their advantage.
In short (no pun intended)…It’s Complicated.
McKay did do You’re Welcome, America, with Will Ferrell as Bush. And that does give me pause. But then, folks, that was almost a decade ago.
In the meantime, to his considerable credit, McKay’s taken pains to emphasize that he’s doing his research on Cheney—looking over in great detail his rise to becoming a major power player in Washington. As such, assumptions by certain reporters and commentators aside, it’s doubtful that the movie’s going to center on Cheney’s turn as VP. Especially considering the youthfulness of the “first-choice” main cast, it’s more likely going to be about said rise. Which brings me to…
Fourth—Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Remember, Bale played George W. Bush beautifully, portraying him as an unambiguous hero who did what he had to do, to defeat the terrorist threat, in The Dark Knight.
Yep. Remember that? In all seriousness, as Andrew Klavan famously pointed out, Batman’s methods in that film truly did parallel the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld “whatever is absolutely necessary” take on the War on Terror, from wiretapping to rendition.
Lest we think “Oh, but that doesn’t mean Bale’s sympathetic to our side”…during the publicity campaigns of The Dark Knight Rises, Bale himself was sure to notice the parallels in Bane’s riots to the real-life Occupiers.
In short, unless Christian Bale is slower than a slug on a turtle’s back, he had to have noticed how his Batman justified the anti-terrorism policies that Cheney took part in shaping. Thus, him playing the man puts hope in my heart.
Fifth—Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney
You know I was going to get to this one. Celebrity crushes aside…as I’ve often pointed out, Amy constantly makes it a point to shy away from politics—and as she’s noted, she will absolutely NOT say anything to politically alienate her audience. She famously dropped an interview because they wanted her to talk about “income inequality” at Sony. It’s a safe bet that she’d reject this role if she thought it would be politically divisive.
Further, she’s lately emphasized that one thing she most looks for in a character is: something she can connect to, emotionally—she doesn’t have to like the character, per se; she just has to understand her, and find her sympathetic in some way. As such, Amy would never play someone as a “faceless”, unsympathetic person. Even the character who was the closest she’d ever come to playing a villain (Peggy Dodd, in The Master) had “her side”.
And let’s be honest: Lynne Cheney, as she really was/is, would be an excellent notch in Ms. Adams’s acting belt. For those who don’t remember (which would be most of us, I think—including me until I looked her up for this story), Lynne was a bit of a rising star in the GOP, herself. She was a Conservative commentator, who for a time was even the host of CNN’s Crossfire. And to top it off, when George W. Bush was looking for a VP, guess who was on the shortlist….
In short, we have two of Hollywood’s most talented actors looking set to play a real-life power couple. And as anyone who’s seen American Hustle knows, they have great chemistry, as a couple.
Sixth—Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld
Now…I know, I know, this is very counter-intuitive. I mean, a wacky comedian as Rumsfeld? Really?
Well…keep in mind that Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and of course the late Robin Williams proved that you can make a legendary career as a comedian, and yet absolutely kill it as a dramatic actor. (In Sandler’s case, we constantly beg for him to go back to drama, nowadays….) As such, while Carrell as Rumsfeld brings to mind the film overemphasizing “known unknown” jokes, don’t assume that Carrell won’t be legitimately dramatic.
And besides that fact: Even when Steve is being funny, I myself have always noticed a certain warmth to his performances. His characters as a rule (and I’m not aware of any exceptions, as of now—correct me if I’m wrong) are very likable, if not lovable. Will he bring that warmth and sympathy to Rumsfeld? Probably.
I don’t know. Maybe this is all just wishful thinking. But believe me, I don’t engage in such thinking these days, unless I have some evidence to back it up.
Stay film-friendly, my friends.
Image Source: Wikimedia / Executive Office of the President of the United States
License: Public domain
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
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