Netflix’s latest Oscar contender, “Don’t Look Up,” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as scientists who discover a comet barreling toward Earth and Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill as politicians who try to keep that knowledge contained. The satirical film boasts a roaring, big band musical score from composer Nicholas Britell and an original song ballad, “Just Look Up,” written by Britell, Taura Stinson, Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi. Britell and Stinson recently sat down with Gold Derby to talk about their work on “Don’t Look Up.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Britell has collaborated with director Adam McKay before on “The Big Short,” “Vice” and “Succession” (for which he won an Emmy Award). “It’s been amazing to collaborate with Adam,” Britell reveals. “He’s one of my dearest friends. He’s certainly the funniest person I’ve ever met. Honestly, I was a huge fan of his before we ever met. My wife and I quote ‘Anchorman’ to each other about 80 times a day.” Britell, a two-time Oscar nominee for composing “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018) and “Moonlight” (2016), thinks of “Don’t Look Up” as a “breakneck comedy” where “the stakes are huge.”
“The first thing I did was write a piece that was about the sound of the reverence for logic and knowledge and science,” he says. “I wrote it and Adam played it for actors on set in the early scenes in the film.” Since the film also deals with anti-science politics, Britell had to create a counter score that was “the opposite” of that sound. As he explains, “What if we don’t have that type of reverence? What if we don’t muster the forces to solve our problems? And the sound of that is this sort of absurdist big band, this bombastic, over-the-top, every instrument in the kitchen sink kind of approach.”
“Don’t Look Up” marks Stinson’s first foray into the McKay universe. “Who says no to Nicholas Britell and Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi?” she smiles. “Immediately I heard Ariana’s vocal and it was just this angelic, beautiful melody — not a bad note, just beautiful.” She describes the movie’s original ballad as a “love song that has to go from inward to out, to the world. It starts out as a love song but it goes into this, ‘What the hell are we doing to ourselves?’ Just look up because the world is about to end potentially.”
Stinson is also no stranger to the Oscars, earning a nomination for co-writing the song “Mighty River” for “Mudbound” (2017). What would it mean to earn a bid for “Don’t Look Up”? “I’m all about empowering the women, the youth from where I’m from,” she declares. “I love to be able to just reach back and pull up. I could be able to show girls in my neighborhood and women around the world that they can go from writing songs in their little compositional books like me to being nominated for and winning an Oscar.”
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