20181221_liv_kissingernebraska2

Actor Kirk Bovill as Henry Kissinger on the set of the movie "Vice."

It’s not a long scene, but it is a pivotal one.

In the new Dick Cheney comedy “Vice” — in theaters Monday night — Cheney (Christian Bale) and Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) schmooze President Gerald Ford (Bill Camp) in an effort to wrest power from Henry Kissinger (played by Wayne, Nebraska, native Kirk Bovill).

It’s a tense scene primarily played for laughs, featuring two movie stars, one Emmy nominee and some guy you’ve never heard of.

The guy you’ve never heard of felt very lucky to be in that room.

Bovill, 57, has been acting for about a decade, landing more than 70 screen credits, mostly small roles in such films as “Get On Up” and “20th Century Women,” and on episodes of “NCIS” and “American Crime Story.”

So scoring a role as one of the most influential political players of the 20th century in a high-profile, star-studded Oscar contender? It’s the highlight of his career so far, he said. Even if it doesn’t amount to much screen time.

“The ensemble is like a frickin’ all-star cast,” Bovill said. “There are these huge heavy-hitters. I’m just the low guy on the totem pole. But that cast, you just go down the line, it’s not two guys, it’s not three, it’s about a dozen who are really well-known.”

“Vice” — which tells the story of Cheney from his early days as a congressional aide through the end of the George W. Bush administration — has the deepest bench of name actors of any cast this year.

Bale and Carell as Cheney and Rumsfeld, as mentioned. But also …

Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney; Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush; Tyler Perry as Colin Powell; Justin Kirk as Scooter Libby; LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice; Lily Rabe as Liz Cheney; with Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Obama playing themselves (in archival footage).

“Vice” is a freewheeling history of the past 50 years of American politics, told with a puckish sense of irreverence. The film’s writer/director, Adam McKay, took a similar approach to the 2008 financial crisis in “The Big Short.”

When Bovill got the audition for “Vice,” he thought, “That was cool, but they’re going to go with Christoph Waltz or somebody. With some super-established A-list dude.”

The casting directors had never heard of Bovill. But they liked him for the part. He was funny and good at accents and he looked enough like Kissinger circa the mid-’70s. Bovill is naturally a little thinner than Kissinger so he stopped riding his bike ahead of the shoot to bring his weight up. To complete the transformation, Bovill went through more than three hours of hair and makeup at the start of each shooting day.

To nail Kissinger’s accent and speaking patterns, he spent months studying old footage. After all, he was going up against Bale — one of Hollywood’s most intensely dedicated actors. Bovill made sure to do his homework.

He recalls watching Bale (bald and 40 pounds heavier than normal) act as Cheney on their first day of shooting together.

“In my head, I’m going, ‘Holy crap, he is good,’ ” Bovill said. “Wait, I have the next line.”

“Vice” is not only a big break for Bovill. It is already the most-accoladed project he’s ever been a part of.

The film recently scored the most Golden Globe nominations of any film this year and tied for the most Screen Actors Guild nominations. “Vice” will likely land half a dozen Oscar nominations next year.

Bovill hopes that his role will open a few doors and that he might even become a regular in McKay’s roving ensemble of actors. In any case, it was a priceless experience, he said. It serves as proof that “you’re never too old to do what you wanna do.”

Bovill didn’t even give acting a shot until he was well into his 40s, shortly after he moved to L.A. Before that, he was a tech-sector marketer in Silicon Valley. Before that, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he was an undergraduate assistant coach of the three women’s track and field teams that won national championships in 1982, ’83 and ’84.

Now he’s Kissinger, hanging out in a fake Oval Office with Batman, Michael Scott and the only Omaha-born president in U.S. history. Life’s funny.

This complete guide of local music, movies, dining and entertainment will have you weekend ready

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.