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Adam McKay Made ‘Don’t Look Up’ Because Climate Crisis Is Not Years Away, “It’s Right Now” – Contenders Film: The Nominees
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Adam McKay Made ‘Don’t Look Up’ Because Climate Crisis Is Not Years Away, “It’s Right Now” – Contenders Film: The Nominees

Adam McKay Made ‘Don’t Look Up’ Because Climate Crisis Is Not Years Away, “It’s Right Now” – Contenders Film: The Nominees


Adam McKayHis blistering satires are his most prominent trademark. ViceAnd The Big ShortAmong them. His latest, which was four times Oscar-nominated Don’t Look Up, takes aim on our ignorance of climate change and our obsession with technology.

Speaking on a panel during Deadline’s Contenders FilmMcKay, the host of the Nominees Event, explained how McKay came up with the idea for Don’t Look UpHis germinated seeds.

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Contenders Film: The Nominees — Full Coverage

“It came about from the dawning awareness that the climate crisis, which I think a lot of us always thought was 50, 80, 100 years away,” he said. “And in the last four or five years it started to hit me that it’s right now. And that a lot of the modelling that we’ve seen has been incredibly optimistic. Fairness be told, scientists had been telling us this all along. I felt a terrible feeling in my stomach. And as someone who writes and directs and produces, you get that kind of feeling and you want to make a movie.”

The film was born out of a conversation with David Sirota, a journalist. “He made a joke about how ignoring the climate crisis is like the asteroid’s going to hit in Armageddon and no one cares. It was an amazing, simple, and powerful idea. That was it. We dove in.”

Don’t Look UpThe story follows a pair low-level astronomers, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, as they discover that a meteorite is about to wipe out the planet. They then try to explain the situation and the circumstances to Meryl Streep, a self-interested president.

McKay was joined by his frequent collaborators, producer Kevin MessickComposer Nicholas Britell.

Messick said his working relationship with McKay is “really fun,” adding, “I am in the luxurious position of being one of the first to read great scripts from Adam, and the scripts are always amazing… The script was just incredible.”

Covid, as with many recent productions, stymied the shoot. “Everything came screeching to a halt and we had to figure out like many others, how to do it, how to do it safely or how to do it at all,” Messick said. He was credited NetflixThank you for your support throughout the pandemic. “It wasn’t without this incredible support from Netflix for safety and all of the Covid protocols that we were able to make this movie,” he said. “We made this movie before vaccines were invented so [it was] pretty hectic.”

Britell considers working with McKay a long-term experience. He was faced with a daunting task on this film: to combine all the commercial music, as well as scoring big band dramatic pieces, and co-writing two songs performed by Ariana Grande or Kid Cudi.

“It was a big process and I think the challenge and the excitement of every project that I get to do with Adam and Kevin here is each of these has their own tonal equation in a way,” Britell said. “I think The Big ShortEach country had its own musical tonal language SuccessionWe mix and match their absurdity and gravitas. And Don’t Look UpEach has its own unique flavor. One of the joys of this process is that I get to work so closely with these guys and with Hank Corwin, our amazing editor—and we go in the room there and we figure this stuff out together. We experiment a lot. I started the score from this perspective of, the sound of this almost scientific rationality, and a reverence for knowledge, and then I spent a lot of the next months figuring out what the opposite of that sound was, you know, what’s the sound of a rollercoaster hurtling off a cliff, which turned out to be that absurdist big band.”

For the panel video, check back Monday

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