Vice director Adam McKay explains why he removed a musical number from the final cut of the movie. McKay's latest, which chronicles the rise of former United States vice president Dick Cheney, is far from your standard Hollywood biopic. The filmmaker incorporated a number of fascinating techniques to tell the story, such as a mock credits sequence that fantasizes a much more happier ending for America, a scene where Christian Bale and Amy Adams channel William Shakespeare during a discussion on power, and plenty of fourth wall breaking to explain various political terms. It was a bold and ambitious approach that didn't work for everyone, but struck a chord with awards voters.
Though Vice received generally positive (and somewhat mixed) reviews from professional critics, it's emerged as one of the leading Oscar contenders of the season, scoring numerous key nominations and wins. McKay is in the running for his second Best Director nod, which can be attributed to his out-of-the-box stylistic choices. But even a film as odd a Vice has to draw the line somewhere, and McKay couldn't find a place for an "incredible" musical set piece.
In an interview with Variety, McKay detailed the deleted scene, which involved Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) "teaching Cheney about Washington, D.C. and how to get ahead." He even went so far as to have Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler stage it, but it ultimately had no place in the finished product:
“It’s breathtaking. It’s incredible. And it just didn’t work. 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.”
There's no denying that this would have been quite interesting to see, though it's probably for the best McKay left it on the cutting room floor. Vice sends viewers on a roller coaster with its bizarre tone as it is, and chances are audiences wouldn't have been sure what to make of a singing Donald Rumsfeld. One of the toughest lessons of filmmaking is "kill your darlings" (meaning, cut out material that doesn't fit), so McKay deserves credit for not forcing something simply because he enjoyed it. As he says, he can take solace in the fact he did everything possible in an attempt to make it work, and Vice receiving plenty of awards recognition probably makes the pill easier to swallow. Again, Vice is divisive (unsurprisingly so, given its subject matter), but the movie is working for a lot of people. It might not have if the musical sequence stayed in.
For those disappointed by this development, McKay expressed a desire to include the scene on Vice's home media release, so fans of the film should be able to watch it in all its glory in a few month's time. Typically, deleted sequences are removed for a reason, so it'll be curious to see if the general public agrees with McKay's decision when they finally get a chance to see it. Perhaps a politically-charged musical number will prove to be too entertaining to resist.