Adam McKay’s Health Declined While Directing Dick Cheney Biopic Vice

When director/writer Adam McKay talks about pouring his heart into his films, after his work on Vice, he’s not joking one bit. The upcoming biopic about Dick Cheney (played by an unrecognizable Christian Bale), who redefined the influence of the position of a United States Vice President, was a tedious project that required tons of research and production challenges, leading to some ill effects on McKay’s health by the time principal photography had wrapped. Here’s what McKay said:

While I was making the movie, I was fairly conscious of the fact I put on some weight and I was smoking a lot. My doctor had told me, you got to stop doing this, and I kept saying, please don’t let me have a heart attack while I’m doing a movie about Dick Cheney.

In an interview with Deadline, Adam McKay discussed the toll his latest project had on his heart. While he was working on Vice, his family noticed the unique intensity he was giving to the film that’s giving an inside look into one of the most powerful Washington insiders. Dick Cheney has suffered a few heart attacks, leading later to a heart transplant, a detail that is touched upon in Vice. McKay suffered a mild heart attack after filming the movie, but a prior conversation with Christian Bale regarding the actor’s research on the symptoms of one saved his life. In his words:

Sure enough, we finish the movie and I call my trainer. I say, we got to get on it, man. I’m too heavy. 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. The doctor said, you got to quit smoking, that’s what’s doing this to you. You need to lose weight, but the smoking’s making it four times worse.

Wow, that’s quite the story! Adam McKay can thank Christian Bale for the in-depth research he did for his character study of Dick Cheney for Vice. It’s also quite incredible how the public figure’s life came into play just as McKay was starting to have health issues with his heart. A week after the incident, McKay said he called Bale not sure whether to thank him or Dick Cheney for saving his life.

Adam McKay’s brush with death ended up appearing in the film due to its close ties with the themes of Vice. The director asked his doctor for a copy of the black and white picture of his blocked heart and placed it in a scene in the film. According to McKay, his heart is in a moment in Vice when Dick Cheney is becoming paranoid and feelings of mortality and fear are kicking in. He said they were going to add an image of a heart in the scene already, so it fit seamlessly into the final cut. The cameo of sorts certainly adds a personal touch to Vice to look for when it is released.

Since the heart attack, Adam McKay has quit smoking and lost the weight he needed to. The filmmaker’s last project was The Big Short in 2015, which later became an Oscar winner. Vice looks to also be among award season conversation with Christian Bale’s transformation at center, along with Amy Adams playing Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. Vice comes to theaters on December 25, alongside many other exciting holiday releases.

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