'Vice': 9 of the Film's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations

5:35 PM 12/30/2018

by Linda Xu

Director Adam McKay's follow-up to 'The Big Short' zeroes in on one of the most powerful, and hated, men in politics.

Vice follows the rise of former Vice President Dick Cheney from being Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff to George W. Bush's second in command.

Christian Bale, who previously starred in director Adam McKay's The Big Short, plays Cheney, while Sam Rockwell plays then-president Bush. Steve Carrell, who has worked with both Bale and Rockwell on The Big Short and The Way Way Back, respectively, takes on the role of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Amy Adams also stars as Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney.

Read below to find out more about who stars in the film, which hit theaters Dec. 25, and the political bigwigs they portray.

  • Dick Cheney, portrayed by Christian Bale

    Christian Bale, a veritable shapeshifter, has manipulated his body time and again for film roles, and this one is no exception. Bale gained 40 pounds and a sizable neck to portray former Vice President Dick Cheney — he also dons a shaved head and bleached eyebrows.

    Cheney grew to prominence first as a congressional intern under the Nixon administration, then joined the office of Donald Rumsfeld, eventually succeeding him as White House chief of staff under President Ford. He became secretary of defense during the presidency of George H.W. Bush and surprised the public when he was selected as George W. Bush's running mate in the 2000 election. 

    During his time in the White House, Cheney oversaw Operation Desert Storm, a U.S.-led offensive against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, as well as the War on Terror after the 9/11 attacks. His support of "enhanced interrogation techniques" has been highly publicized, even in recent years.

  • George W. Bush, portrayed by Sam Rockwell

    When making a film about one of the most famous vice presidents in history, the natural question arises of who will play his commander in chief.

    That job goes to Sam Rockwell, who won an Oscar this year for his role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In the trailer, his George W. Bush chows down on buffalo wings while pitching the idea of being his running mate to Cheney.

    "What do you say?" he asks a reluctant Cheney, sitting across from him. "I want you to be my VP, I want you, you my Vice."

    Over the course of Bush's two terms, they operated, for the most part, in tandem, working together on post-9/11 strategies and national security. But it was near the end of Bush's presidency in 2007 that their relationship famously became strained — Bush refused to pardon Scooter Libby, Cheney's former aide, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice regarding a leak of a CIA officer's identity, despite Cheney's continued insistence.

    Years later, Bush seems to have maintained cordiality with his former vice president, joking about the time Cheney accidentally shot attorney Harry Whittington on a quail hunt.

    "Every time Cheney would come in, a lot of people would yell, 'Duck,'" he told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview last year.

  • Lynne Cheney, portrayed by Amy Adams

    Lynne Cheney, former second lady of the United States, boasts a considerable resume often overshadowed by her husband's.

    She received her Ph.D. in 19th century British Literature from the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s, around the same time she married Dick Cheney. 

    In the 1990s, she became a co-host of CNN's political debate program Crossfire Sunday, just before Dick Cheney's ascendance to vice presidency, and has penned several historical books. Her work includes children's books as well as a biography of James Madison. 

    Amy Adams portrays Cheney in the film and can be seen donning a blonde bob in the trailer. In one clip, the couple is seated on the couch, with Adams' character talking to a young Dick Cheney. "When you have power, people will always try to take it from you, always," she firmly tells her husband.

    Adams previously played Bale's love interest in David O. Russell's American Hustle.

  • Donald Rumsfeld, portrayed by Steve Carell

    Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld, who was the Secretary of Defense under both Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. 

    Cheney's career has been intertwined with Rumsfeld's, starting out as a staffer for Rumsfeld when he was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity during the Nixon administration. Then, when Rumsfeld became Ford's chief of staff, Cheney was the deputy chief of staff, eventually succeeding Rumsfeld when he was nominated to be secretary of defense.

    More than 20 years later, Rumsfeld started a second tenure as secretary of defense when Cheney recommended him to then-President Bush.

    The trailer portrays Carell at first as a younger Rumsfeld, clinking glasses with Cheney. Though later on, Carell's character, older and gray-haired, says to Cheney from across a desk, "Are you even more ruthless than you used to be?"

  • Liz Cheney, portrayed by Lily Rabe

    The elder of Dick and Lynne Cheney's two daughters followed in her father's political footsteps.

    Liz Cheney became deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs in 2002, before helming the "W Stands for Women" initiative as part of her father's re-election campaign in 2004. She made a Senate bid in 2014 for the state of Wyoming, running as a Republican candidate, but eventually withdrew from the race.

    Cheney now serves on the U.S. House of Representatives, occupying Wyoming's only seat. She is played by American Horror Story's Lily Rabe in the film.

  • Colin Powell, portrayed by Tyler Perry

    Colin Powell, the first African-American secretary of state, will be played by actor and director Tyler Perry.

    After serving in Vietnam, Powell became national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Two years later, he held the position of chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the country's highest-ranking military title. During his tenure, he oversaw operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and he retired from the Army in 1993.

    George W. Bush appointed Powell as the 65th secretary of state in 2001, a position he held until 2004, when he resigned and was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice.

  • Paul Wolfowitz, portrayed by Eddie Marsan

    During the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz served as the deputy secretary of defense under Donald Rumsfeld and was one of the chief architects of the War on Terror. He then went on to become president of the World Bank, through Bush's nomination. Wolfowitz stepped down from his position in 2007, after it came out that he had facilitated a raise and transfer for bank employee Shaha Riza, with whom he had been in a romantic relationship.

    Wolfowitz is portrayed by Eddie Marsan, who stars in Showtime's Ray Donovan.

  • Scooter Libby, portrayed by Justin Kirk

    Kidding actor Justin Kirk plays Scooter Libby, Cheney's former adviser who garnered massive attention for his connection to the leak of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

    Libby worked as a lawyer before his former professor, Paul Wolfowitz, inducted him into the political sphere, inviting him to join the State Department in 1981. He later became Cheney's chief of staff. In 2007, Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in an investigation of the leak. Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence and Trump pardoned him in April.

  • Condoleezza Rice, portrayed by LisaGay Hamilton

    Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Condoleezza Rice was a professor at Stanford University before becoming national security adviser to George W. Bush in 2000, the first woman to hold the position. Rice was then confirmed to secretary of state by a landslide vote in the Senate, succeeding Colin Powell. 

    She is portrayed by LisaGay Hamilton, known for her television work on shows such as The Practice and House of Cards. Hamilton also recently starred in Felix Van Groeningen's Beautiful Boy.