In a world where politicians chase short-term ratings, news media are obsessed with celebrity gossip, and parts of the population are in wilful denial of the facts – can anything avert disaster?
A massive meteor is about to end all life on Earth. Will the people in charge take the urgent action needed? Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play the scientists that have discovered the threat. Meryl Streep is the US president who, in your standard Hollywood movie would be counted on to save the earth.
The Global Risks Report 2022 revealed the top risks facing the world – So what can we do about it?
Don’t Look Up, is a blockbuster Hollywood disaster movie, but it’s also a comedy – an allegory about climate change and a biting satire on politics and the media. Its Oscar winning writer-director Adam McKay told the Radio Davos podcast why he felt compelled to make the film.
An interview with writer-director Adam McKay
Robin Pomeroy: It’s my pleasure to welcome to the show an Oscar-winning filmmaker, the writer director of The Big Short of Vice and now of Don’t Look Up, an epic disaster movie, a satire, a comedy, a tragedy – Adam McKay. Hi Adam. How are you?
Adam McKay: I’m good, Robin. Thanks for having me.
Robin Pomeroy: It’s such a pleasure to have you. Now, for those few people who are listening to this who haven’t seen your movie, how would you set it up for people? What is it about?
Adam McKay: I would say it’s a big, ridiculous comedy about two scientists trying to warn the world that a death comet is going to hit, and they’re trying to warn a world that is much like the world we live in right now in 2022. So, yeah, it’s a comedy, and then it’s got some dramatic, tragic elements to it as well.
I always thought [climate change] was very serious but I always kind of thought it was 50 years away … I started reading this and going, ‘Holy God, this is now!’
Robin Pomeroy: So your inspiration for this movie, I believe, was climate change. You were reading a book and it suddenly dawned on you what an awful situation humanity’s in. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that, but I’m just curious to know why didn’t you make a movie about climate change? Why did you turn into this kind of allegory and turn it into a meteorite strike?
Adam McKay: Yeah, I had read the U.N. climate report about four years ago, I had read David Wallace-Wells’s book Uninhabitable Earth, which I highly recommend. And I had this moment where I realised the climate crisis, which I always thought was very serious and something we had to deal with, but I always kind of thought it was 50 years away, 80 years away – for my grandkids. And I started reading this and going, ‘Holy God, this is now!’
The models have all been too optimistic, and it’s impossible to model a system as complex as planet Earth when you talk about turning the heat up the way we’re doing it. And I got very scared very fast and I realised – well, you know, I’m a guy who makes movies, so I got to make a movie. I mean, no matter, you know, if I made sandwiches, – well that doesn’t quite work – I was going to say I would have made a ‘climate crisis sandwich’. I guess you could.
Robin Pomeroy: You could, I’m sure. Depends where you source your products, doesn’t it?
Adam McKay: Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. So anyway, I started kicking around ideas and I had about five different ideas and some felt overly dramatic, there were some that were kind of thrillers with a twist. And in every case I just kept thinking, I know the audience that will see this, and I don’t know if it’s enough. I think, you know, we know we can talk to a certain audience. And it was my friend David Sirota, who’s a journalist and a former speechwriter for Bernie Sanders, he and I were commiserating about the lack of coverage of the climate crisis on our mainstream media. And he made an offhanded joke about how it’s like the movie Armageddon, only the asteroid’s going to hit and…