If this movie is anything, it’s a call to arms. You’ve done your part [in making it], and now maybe someone else does theirs. The desire to just instantly be like, I don’t want to, stop pointing it out to me, I’m surprised when I see that. What do you make of that impulse?
I think in our society, we are living in a grind, most people. Wages have been flat for 40 years. We don’t really have universal healthcare. Everyone’s in debt. Student debt is crippling. Minimum wage is $7 an hour. People are terrified. The government isn’t working, people are capped out on stress. And I think what happens is sometimes when you bring these subjects up, people are basically just saying, “I can’t. I can’t do it.” It’s almost like when you bang your knee on a table and you curse out the dog. It’s just, “Well, who the fuck are you? What do you know? What are you doing?” And I think that’s probably really what it is.
And then I would say the other part is that a lot of cynicism has been strategically pumped into our culture in the US by a lot of public action groups, lobbying groups, Prosperity for America, Fox News, and even to some degree MSNBC and CNN. So you mix those two things, and I think it’s actually surprising more people don’t react that way.
I’m curious about the difference between making movies or television shows that are about real people, as you’ve done in the last couple years, and then inventing from whole cloth. What brought you back from sort of the land of historical work, and what’s different about doing pure satire?
I mean, a simple answer is that Dick Cheney brought me back. That guy is the hardest nut I have ever encountered—so secretive, so hard to penetrate. We did so much work. We hired our own journalists. He really has turned himself into a shadow. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on in my life. I, without exaggeration, had a heart attack.
And afterwards I had two reactions. Number one, I’ve got to do something on the climate, because holy moly, this is barreling towards us, way faster than I thought it was. And number two, I need to laugh.
Has your perspective on Cheney, or on that movie and the way it was received, changed since it came out?
The big thing that was really incredible was seeing Liz Cheney come out for gay marriage. [The Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, whose sister Mary is gay, was opposed to gay marriage until earlier this year. “I was wrong. I love my sister very much,” she told 60 Minutes.] It’s one thing for her to go against Trump. But when she came out for gay marriage, there was a part of me that was like, that can’t be an accident. I saw that on social media, people went after her because of the movie. There were a lot of people saying, “You betrayed your sister, you betrayed your family.” And it wasn’t by accident that we ended the movie with that. Because the one thing everyone said about Dick Cheney was he loved those daughters, and he loved that family. And in the end, the family shattered apart because of politics, because of that anti-gay stance that Liz took. Then to see her come out for gay marriage? I don’t know what to make of that. I like to think we had something to do with that, but I have no way to… I know the Cheneys hated the movie. I know they really hated it. It wasn’t a passing annoyance. So I was quite proud of that. We hit him in the real way.