Early in his 20 hours of interviews with filmmaker R.J. Cutler, former Vice President Dick Cheney sniffs dismissively that politicians who “spend all their times trying to be loved by everybody probably aren’t doing much. … If you want to be loved, go be a movie star.”
The irony is that, after collaborating with Cutler, Cheney is a movie star, and a remarkable one. Cutler’s documentary “The World According to Dick Cheney,” airing Friday on Showtime, is a rousing piece of work.
Viewers who think Cheney was the Darth Vader of George W. Bush’s presidency, the avatar of torture, perfidy and imperialism, will watch “The World” and cheer. So will those who think Cheney saved America from an implacable horde of theocratic assassins.
Cutler’s previous documentaries about politics, “The War Room” and “A Perfect Candidate,” dissected the work of spin doctors. “The World” is their polar opposite, the chronicle of a fiercely focused national-security warrior who cares nothing for the way others see him.
Even politicians congenitally tone-deaf about their public image, when asked in an interview what their biggest fault was, would know to offer something — I’m stubborn, I’m too frank, I sometimes forget to feed the puppy — in reply. Cheney simply shrugs and says, “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my faults.”
His story would be fascinating even without his eight years as Bush’s vice president. “The World” dexterously traces Cheney’s unlikely journey from the Wyoming mountains to party-boy flunk-out at Yale to child-prodigy chief of staff (at age 33) during the accidental presidency of Gerald Ford. Well before his 40th birthday, Cheney had sidestepped one runaway locomotive of history (the Watergate scandal) and derailed another (he helped engineer the ouster of Henry Kissinger as national security advisor).