Christian Bale's research for his role as Dick Cheney in Vice ended up saving director Adam McKay from a recent heart attack. The latest effort from the Big Short helmsman chronicles Cheney's rise up the political ladder, culminating with him becoming arguably the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Vice doesn't open in theaters until Christmas Day, but early screenings have indicated it's a well-written and exceptionally acted exploration of its subject matter, putting it in the thick of several races this Oscar season.
Always one to fully commit himself to his performances, Bale went the extra mile to wholly embody Cheney, putting on an incredible amount of weight and perfecting the politician's mannerisms. The Vice trailer illustrated Bale's impressive physical transformation, marking yet another one of his chameleon-like turns. While Bale's supreme dedication to his craft ensured McKay got a great lead performance from the star, it also ended up (literally) saving his life.
Speaking with Deadline, McKay explained how he wasn't in the best physical shape while making Vice, as he was constantly smoking and gaining weight. When production wrapped, McKay made plans to work out with a trainer. During one of their sessions, the director had a major health scare, but was able to resolve it quickly because of Bale:
Our third workout, I get tingly hands and my stomach starts going queasy. I always thought when you get a heart attack, it’s pain in the chest or the arm. But then I remembered. When we shot one of the heart attack scenes, Christian Bale asked me, ‘how do you want me to do it,’ and I go, ‘what do you mean? It’s a heart attack. Your arm hurts, right?’ He says, ‘no, no. One of the more common ways is that you get really queasy and your stomach hurts.’ I said, ‘really? I’d never heard that before. And right in that moment [when McKay doubled over] I went, ‘oh s*it, and I ran upstairs and downed a bunch of baby aspirin, and I called my wife who immediately called 911. Got to the hospital really fast, and the doctor said, because you did that, no damage was done, your heart is still really strong. That’s because I remembered Christian Bale telling me that.
Cheney, of course, is no stranger to cardiovascular issues, suffering five heart attacks in his life and receiving a heart transplant back in 2012. It would have been difficult for Vice to shy away from this, so Bale was called upon to act out multiple heart attacks during production. With that in mind, it isn't surprising he decided to study up during his preparation, better informing his performance. Cinephiles have come to expect nothing less from Bale, who's made an acclaimed career out of completely losing himself in his characters. Obviously, Bale couldn't have known the full impact his research would have at the time, but it's a very good thing he explored the topic as extensively as he did.
The odds of this story having any influence on what's shaping up to be a tightly-contested Best Actor race are slim, but it's still an amazing anecdote behind one of the year's buzzed-about titles. McKay even made sure to incorporate the incident into Vice by including a picture of his blocked heart in a "metaphorical sequence" where Cheney starts to feel the pressures of his work. It's great to see McKay is back in good health and can laugh about the irony of the whole situation. Should he find himself back on the Oscar stage this year, he'll probably take the opportunity to thank Bale again.
- Vice (2018) release date: Dec 25, 2018