vice musical number

It’s hard to picture Dick Cheney bursting into song, but it almost happened in Adam McKay‘s Vice. McKay’s dark comedy biopic about the former Vice President makes a wide variety of stylistic choices to tell its tale, and at one point, one of those flourishes involved a full-blown musical number. In the end, though, director Paul Thomas Anderson convinced McKay to leave it on the cutting room floor. More on the deleted Vice musical number below.

Just as he did with The Big Short, director Adam McKay takes an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to his Dick Cheney biopic Vice, using a variety of cinematic tricks and visual sleight-of-hand to tell the story. It also almost featured a musical number. McKay revealed the presence of a song and dance scene, and confirmed Phantom Thread director Paul Thomas Anderson suggested he remove it, during a New York Times profile:

“McKay also showed “Vice” to filmmaker friends like Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell. After Anderson, who watched two preliminary cuts, told McKay that the end of the movie worked great but the start “had problems,” McKay decided to scrap two early sections: an elaborate musical number and a prolonged passage set in Cheney’s Wyoming adolescence. McKay adored both but decided that Anderson was right — they were gumming up the machinery.”

In a recent interview with UPROXX, Steve Carell, who plays Donald Rumsfeld in the film, also talked briefly about the musical number, saying “There’s a lot of weird stuff that didn’t end up in the movie,” and adding:

“At one point there was a big musical number in the movie. And some of it works in the context of what he’s trying to achieve as a film and a story, and some of it doesn’t. I think in the editing process it becomes evident to him what stuff is playing, and what stuff isn’t.”

As one of the handful of critics who generally loved Vice, I’m very curious to see both this musical number, and all the other “weird stuff” that didn’t make it into the final film (I’m less interested in the material about Cheney’s adolescence). And just what did this musical number entail? McKay gave Variety the details.

“It was kind of when Rumsfeld is teaching Cheney about Washington D.C. and how to get ahead,” McKay said, referring to a scene that happens early in Vice. “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.”

McKay also told Variety that Nicholas Britell (who composed Vice‘s score) wrote the song, which featured Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard “just wailing on it.” McKay also hired Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler to help stage the scene. All of this sounds great, but in the end, McKay felt he couldn’t get the scene to work. “You didn’t need it,” he said. “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.”

Hopefully the inevitable Blu-ray release will feature this deleted song, and the other deleted scenes as well.

Vice, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill and Jesse Plemons, opens everywhere on December 25, 2018.

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