Adam McKay’s “Vice” is dividing film critics left and right, but it could have been even more polarizing had the writer-director found a way to incorporate an “incredible” and “breathtaking” musical number scene featuring Steve Carell’s Donald Rumsfeld and Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney. The scene had been rumored about for some time (Carell even mentioned during a recent Uproxx interview), but McKay finally spilled the details of the cut sequence in an interview with Variety.
“I couldn’t get that one to work,” McKay said. “It was kind of when Rumsfeld is teaching Cheney about Washington D.C. and how to get ahead. It’s sort of like ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ he’s kind of giving him that speech. But the speech is about, ‘Who cares about anything? You’ve got to just get ahead of people, making your moves.’ I think there was a line in it, ‘The means justify the ends,’ which I always loved.”
In order to give the musical sequence an extra dazzle, McKay got Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard to lend her vocals (“She’s just wailing on it,” McKay told Variety). Additionally, the film’s original score composer Nicholas Britell wrote the song, while esteemed “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler worked on the accompanying dance moves.
“It’s breathtaking. It’s incredible. And it just didn’t work,” McKay said. “You didn’t need it. It was too long in that area of the movie. We tried 15 versions of it. We moved it here, we moved it there. We played it really short. We played it way longer and put scenes in the middle of it. We tried every single thing you could do. The only reason it doesn’t pain me at this moment is because I know we tried everything we could do. You’re in the editing room and you’re like, ‘This is amazing. This is going to work.’ And you just forget the movie tells you what it wants.”
While “Vice” does not contain a musical number, it does feature numerous ballsy choices from McKay, including a Shakespeare-inspired cutaway that’s already being called the highlight of the movie. “Vice” is nominated for six Golden Globe awards, more than any other film this year.
Annapurna opens “Vice” in theaters December 25.