Amid and COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (on Netflix Dec. 24) has its star studded cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill and Timothée Chalamet, fighting for the respect that the science community deserves in a time of misinformation.
“It's just so sad and frustrating to watch people who have dedicated their lives to learning the truth, be turned away because people don't like what the truth has to say,” Lawrence told reporters ahead of the movie’s release.
Don’t Look Up is ultimately a comedic story that explores why we can’t seem to understand and take action when presented with a scientifically proven problem.
At the outset of the movie, astronomy graduate student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a massive comet, under the supervision of her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). While there’s excitement about discovery, it turns out that it’s on a direct course to collide with Earth, which would kill the planet in six months.
With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and Randall alert President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son/Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill) about the comet, but they met with a "wait and see" approach, as President Orlean is too preoccupied in her own scandal.
This leads them to go on a morning show, "The Daily Rip" hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry), to share the information but still, no one seems to understand the gravity of the situation, leading to conspiracy theorists calling this comet a hoax with the slogan “Don’t Look Up.”
“I was just thankful to play a character who is solely based on so many of the people that I've met from the scientific community, and in particular climate scientists, who've been trying to communicate the urgency of this issue and feeling like they're subjected to the last page on the newspaper,” DiCaprio said.
“I also love the way he was just incredibly truthful about how we're so immensely distracted from the truth nowadays and then, of course, COVID hit and there was a whole new scientific argument going on there, and it's just such an important film to be a part of at this particular time.”
'You can feel urgency...while also having a sense of humour'
In terms of leaning in on comedy in this film, McKay recognized that looking at something like space or the climate crisis, can be “overwhelming” so he leaned into the humour.
“The climate crisis, which is so overwhelming and it's arguably the greatest threat to life in the history of mankind, and we just felt like…that can almost be like an animal attacking you,"he said.
“If you're able to laugh, that means you have some distance and I actually think that's really important. You can feel urgency and you can feel sadness and you can feel loss, while also having a sense of humour.”
There is one scene in particular in which Randall makes a fiery, urgent plea to the public to understand the gravity of this comet approaching Earth, which is something DiCaprio worked with Dr. Amy Mainzer on, an astronomer and advisor to the cast and crew. Mainzer also said it was “cathartic” for her to watch this particular scene.
“We worked on that speech probably 50 times together and what I really wanted to do was to try to articulate the frustration of the scientific community,...sitting there on a pulpit speaking the truth,” DiCaprio said.
“We worked a lot together on trying to understand the frustration of the scientific community and how one would be in a situation like that, of ultimate frustration, realizing the world is falling apart, and how do you take off this sort of professional jacket to cut straight to the chase about the truth of this issue.”