It looks like Christian Bale is absolutely made up to be playing Dick Cheney in the upcoming biopic, Vice. And with a Christmas release date, it would seem that Mr Bale could be a contender in next year’s Best Actor Oscar race.
The chameleonic actor is well known for physically transforming himself. He properly got in shape for American Psycho; shed every ounce of fat and more for The Machinist, and absolutely piled the weight back on for American Hustle. However, it would seem that Dick Cheney was just outside the realms of what Bale could achieve physically, so it would seem that much of the film’s budget was invested in prosthetics and make-up in order to help Bale get the Cheney look.
It’s an interesting move. Especially given this year’s winner, Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill. Oldman was just as heavily laden with prosthetics as Bale appears to be in the latest imagery released for the film, which has raised a few questions about the use of prosthetics. Personally, I don’t have massively strong feelings on the matter. But I do see a few different sides to the argument.
On the one hand, I get why you’d incorporate prosthetics into a performance. There’s something completely magical when actors can literally become the people they’re playing. However, sometimes the actor’s appearance can garner them more praise for their performance than the acting itself. When in actual fact that praise would be more accurately directed going towards the make-up department. Which it kind of was with Darkest Hour nabbing that Oscar too.
I also wonder where we draw the line with the use of prosthetics. If there is a line. It seems like they’re slowly getting more and more extreme, which is fine if they’re necessary. But I suppose the real question is, are they? Are prosthetics that effectively replace an actor’s face necessary? I just don’t know. I suppose if they’re done well, and actually make the actor look like who they’re supposed to be playing, they’re fine. It’s when they’re done badly that we drag them through the mud. And quite rightfully so, I think.
But is timing an issue too? If this performance was any other time of year, and was nowhere near awards season, would we be scrutinising the use of prosthetics this much? The same goes for Gary Oldman last year – would anyone have batted an eyelid if his film had come out in the middle of the spring? To me, it seems we’re arguing about it more because these performances are coming out in the run up to the Oscars, and already look like real threats before anyone has seen any clips. Which ties in with the second point I made, about good prosthetics disguising perhaps fairly mid-range performances.
I don’t disagree that this is a fair point, but I’ll say one thing – it’s not just prosthetic-heavy performances that the Academy have a habit of handing not-wholly-warranted statuettes to. I think the real questions to be asked are about the people who hand out the awards, not the ones who have read the latest playbook on what you have to do to win one.
Here’s the tantalising trailer for Vice: