The creators of “Don’t Look Up” stress how the film gives viewers a dire glimpse into the end of the world, but through a much-needed comedic lens.
“The idea with this movie was that the biggest story of all stories is the climate crisis — and what if we could laugh at it? What if we could create an absurdist comedy that reflects how absurd our ignoring the climate crisis is?” writer, director and producer Adam McKay told senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay in Variety’s streaming room, presented by Netflix. “The big moment in this film was where we decided we needed to laugh.”
In “Don’t Look Up,” the world faces a comet that’s headed directly towards Earth and big enough to wipe out the entire planet. But the people in power neglect taking the essential actions to stop it, ignoring scientists’ pleas. The comet serves as an allegory about the climate crisis and other apocalyptic events, which, as the creators note, is especially striking during the ongoing crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the film weaves humor into the grim tale — with an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan and Meryl Streep.
“Storytelling has that opportunity to sort of pass through ideas in a way that just understanding information can’t always do,” said composer and songwriter Nicholas Britell. “If someone tells you something, it’s different than if you experience a story and you feel that knowledge… That’s what’s exciting about doing something like ‘Don’t Look Up.’”
“Don’t Look Up” also features big names in music. Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi play Riley Bina and DJ Chello, a celebrity power couple (with an on again off again relationship) who sing “Just Look Up” during a benefit concert in the movie, urging the world to open its eyes and listen to scientists’ warnings. Britell collaborated with Grande, Cudi and songwriter Taura Stinson to write the soaring pop ballad.
“I simply told [Britell], ‘Write the song to save mankind,” said McKay. “And this scene is a little bit of a riff on the fact that, sadly, our governments are so overrun with dirty money we’re not solving many problems, but one thing we can really do well is put on a great benefit concert.”
Hear more from McKay, Britell and film editor Hank Crowin in the conversation above.