The Big Short’s Adam McKay has found the cast for his untitled film about Dick Cheney at Paramount Pictures. Christian Bale is his choice for Dick Cheney, Steve Carell is the choice for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Amy Adams is the choice for Cheney’s wife Lynne. Now it’s up to Paramount to cast the vote on a green light. It seems an intriguing and gutsy movie for a studio trying to regain its footing under new chairman Jim Gianopulos. The filmmaker’s plan is to shoot in September, for release in late 2018.
McKay revealed to Deadline in November that he would make the film about Cheney, who moved from Halliburton chief executive to become reputedly the most powerful vice president in American history. McKay wrote the script. Plan B’s Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner will produce with McKay and his Gary Sanchez partners Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick. They are all reuniting after The Big Short got five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, and which won Oscars for McKay and Charles Randolph for adapting the book by Michael Lewis.
“I’ve always found Cheney fascinating,” McKay told Deadline last fall. “Questions of what drove him, what his beliefs were. But once we started digging, I was astounded at how much he had shaped modern America’s place in the world and how shocking the methods were by which he gained his power.”
While new Vice President Mike Pence has cited him as a role model, Cheney has always been a polarizing figure, and a lightning rod for controversy for his role in expanding the powers of the presidency while he served eight years as No. 2 to President George W. Bush. Among his initiatives was to press the war on global terrorism post-9/11, with tactics that ranged from spying to invading Afghanistan and then Iraq – the latter based on intel that Saddam Hussein had procured weapons of mass destruction and was aligned to al-Qaeda, assertions that were considered shaky at the time and were never substantively proven — and the establishment of techniques including waterboarding as part of an “enhanced interrogation program” that many called torture against suspected terrorists held in Guantanamo without access to due process. He previously served in the Nixon, Ford and George H.W. Bush administrations, before he became Halliburton chairman and CEO and then joined the Republican ticket alongside Bush.
Cheney was a study in contradictions: a war hawk who himself received five deferments that kept him from fighting in Vietnam. And while the Bush administration did not support gay marriage, Cheney personally went against the grain, perhaps swayed by the fact that his daughter was openly gay. Cheney’s approval rating was down to 13% when he left office, and he has long been a critic of the foreign policy of his former boss’ successor, President Barack Obama.
This will be the second time the administration has been explored in a feature by a major director after Oliver Stone helmed the 2008 drama W., with Josh Brolin as Bush and Richard Dreyfuss playing Cheney.
This is just one of the films McKay has lined up to direct with social relevance. He is directing pilot for the Gary Sanchez-produced HBO pilot Succession, about a fictional Murdoch- or Redstone-like media family dealing with succession, politics and the 21st century challenges on media companies. McKay also will direct Bad Blood, the drama he is writing that will star Jennifer Lawrence as Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the controversial blood-test company Theranos. Legendary Pictures bought that in a deal that paid McKay $3.5 million to script a film budgeted between $40 million-$50 million for Legendary and Universal Pictures. It’s partly based on a book proposal by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Carreyrou, who broke the story on Theranos for the Wall Street Journal last fall. The film focuses on how innovative companies gain astronomical valuations that sometimes prove too good to be true. Theranos is the blood-testing startup that Holmes founded in 2003, with claims it could test blood with only a pinprick instead of the traditional method of drawing blood by injection. That potential left Theranos with a $9 billion valuation as recently as two years ago. The company since has come under investigation over claims of inaccurate testing, and Holmes’ own worth — at one point valued at $4.5 billion for her 50% stake — has fallen to a fraction of that. McKay’s plan was to let the third act of Theranos’ story unfold in real time, as he first makes the Cheney movie.
Bale is about to open in the Terry George-directed The Promise, and is repped by WME; Carell next stars with Emma Stone in the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King tennis match pic Battle of the Sexes from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and is repped by WME and Media Four. Adams is coming off Arrival and Nocturnal Animals and is repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Group.