The poster states that the film is “based on truly possible events”, so let’s break it down.
Billed as a satirical, sci-fi dark comedy, the movie centres on two low-level astronomers who discover an asteroid hurtling toward Earth that could wipe out humanity. When faced with ridicule and indifferent response from the White House, they go on a media tour to warn humankind of the impending apocalypse.
What is Don’t Look Up About?
In a nutshell, the film is satirising the way the world, and its leaders, are approaching climate change, but McKay — who also directed Vice and The Big Short — has said that after COVID-19 hit, he actually went back and made the film even wilder than it was originally.
“There was this moment where I realised it was all about how we’ve befouled, broken, profitised, pornographicised our lines of communication, the way we actually talk to each other,” he explained at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Los Angeles panel. “That was the moment where I was like, ‘Oh, we definitely have to make that,’ and I wrote all the cast, and they were all like, ‘Oh, yeah — Now more than ever”.
McKay continued: “Regardless of how you voted, I think we all have to admit seeing the President of the United States float the idea of ingesting bleach to deal with a medical emergency is an unusual situation. When that happened, I right away texted my producer, Kevin Messick, and texted Leo and Jen was like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna make this a little crazier.’”
Speaking to the Today show, DiCaprio — who is very passionate about climate change —said that he hopes the film will be a “wake up call”.
“If you do a film about climate change, it’s nearly impossible to get people to get a sense of urgency and hold a mirror to our culture and media and politics and all of these things,” he said. “And I just felt like this was an incredible gift to be a part of a movie that encapsulated exactly what we’re going through at this particular moment in time.”
The Oscar winner added that when speaking about climate change he can be perceived as “a bit of a Debbie Downer because the clock is absolutely ticking”.
In fact, Leo even mentioned climate change in his 2016 Oscar speech, when he won Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Revenant.
“Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” he said at the time. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating”.
Is Meryl Streep’s Version of the US President Based on Trump?
Short answer: Yes, but not entirely.
Speaking to Deadline, McKay said that Streep’s version of the President of the United States is a combination of all the most recent American Presidents.
“I took a little bit from each, so you have kind of the performative empty suit of Reagan,” he said. “You have the used car salesman of Bill Clinton… and you have the dangerously underqualified George W Bush. And then you have — I voted for him, but like let’s face it, Barack Obama [is] awfully smooth and cosy with big money. And then, of course, Trump’s run-amok narcissism.”
Don’t Look Up is streaming now on Netflix.