Adam McKay interview: ‘Don’t Look Up’ director/writer/producer
“It’s the biggest story in human history and yet you can go through the TV channels on the news and never hear anything about it,” Adam McKay declares about the day he and co-writer David Sirota came up with the initial idea behind his Netflix satire “Don’t Look Up.” That simple conversation between the two men snowballed into the idea that spawned the dark comedy about the end of the world.
“We were commiserating about the lack of coverage of the climate crisis and he said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s like an asteroid is going to hit earth and no one cares,’ and I was like, ‘That’s it!'” McKay recalls of that fateful lightbulb moment. Watch our exclusive video interview with the Oscar and Emmy winning writer/director above.
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“Don’t Look Up” stars Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two astronomers who discover that a giant comet is careening toward Earth. As they attempt in vain to warn humanity about the approaching extinction event, the world around them either doesn’t believe them or simply doesn’t care. As an allegory for humanity’s failure to reckon with the burgeoning global climate crisis, the Netflix all-star satire is a scathing and often hilarious rebuke of the role of government and the media in fostering worldwide neglect and complacency.
“I think the one thing we can all agree on is the world is insane, whether you’re right wing or left wing,” McKay notes about how the film takes aim at both sides of the political spectrum. “The media, the way we depicted it in the movie, is kind of across the spectrum,” he admits. “One of my favorite jokes in the movie is when the world is ending, we go to our Fox News stand-in, who’s played by Michael Chiklis, and he says there’s only one story everyone’s talking about; topless urgent care centers.”
“Many times in the last five or 10 years that we had a global crisis going on, and you turn to Fox and they’re doing some bizarre story. But you know, also we took pretty hard shots at CNN and MSNBC, as they have not done a good job of covering the climate crisis [either],” the auteur states. “The movie is trying to ask the question of what is going on with our media that we’re looking at the biggest story in human history scientifically speaking in the climate crisis, and yet the coverage is woeful and sporadic and downplayed. So, I think one of the reasons this movie is playing across the political spectrum is that all sides can see that it’s pretty fair as far as who it goes after.”
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McKay also doesn’t shy away from how “Don’t Look Up” has been received on social media, where opinions on the movie’s tone and message range from high praise and admiration to some skepticism and inevitable pushback. “I actually love the controversy; I actually love the debate,” he smiles.
“I think critics and I think film fans should be challenging this movie and we should be asking questions about how we tell stories. During the seismic times that we’re living through, these are times like no other. I’m 53 years old and I’ve never seen times like these, so the passion that I saw and the anger from some viewers of the movie have been incredible,” he says, adding, “but at the same time, the overwhelming response has been positive.”