After politics in Vice and finance in The Big Short, director McKay is taking on the climate crisis in his star-studded ‘freakout’ satire Don’t Look Up
Adam McKay calls it his “freakout trilogy”. Having tackled the 2008 financial crash and warmongering US vice president Dick Cheney in his previous two movies, The Big Short and Vice, McKay goes even bigger and bleaker with his latest, Don’t Look Up, in which two astronomers (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a giant comet headed for Earth, but struggle to get anyone to listen. It is an absurd but depressingly plausible disaster satire, somewhere between Dr Strangelove, Network, Deep Impact and Idiocracy, with an unbelievably stellar cast; also on board are Meryl Streep (as the US president), Cate Blanchett, Timothée Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Mark Rylance, Jonah Hill and Ariana Grande. It has been quite the career trajectory for McKay, who started out in live improv and writing for Saturday Night Live, followed by a run of hit Will Ferrell comedies such as Anchorman, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. “The goal was to capture this moment,” says McKay of Don’t Look Up. “And this moment is a lot.”
Was there a particular event that inspired Don’t Look Up?
Somewhere in between The Big Short and Vice, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] panel and a bunch of other studies came out that just were so stark and so terrifying that I realised: “I have to do something addressing this.” So I wrote five different premises for movies, trying to find the best one. I had one that was a big, epic, kind of dystopian drama. I had another one that was a Twilight Zone/M Night [Shyamalan] sort of twisty thriller. I had a small character piece. And I was just trying to find a way into: how do we communicate how insane this moment is? So finally, I was having a conversation with my friend [journalist and Bernie Sanders adviser] David Sirota, and he offhandedly said something to the effect of: “It’s like the comet’s coming and no one cares.” And I thought: “Oh. I think that’s it.” I loved how simple it was. It’s not some layered, tricky Gordian knot of a premise. It’s a nice, big, wide open door we can all relate to.