Q&A: Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam McKay dare you to look up

Dec 19, 2021, 9:33 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2021, 11:49 am
This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio in "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix ...

This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio in "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)

(Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)

Leonardo DiCaprio has been an outspoken environmental advocate for as long as he’s been famous. But while he’s produced documentaries, contributed millions to the cause through his foundation, sat on several relevant boards and even used his Oscar speech to talk about climate change, the topic has never overlapped with his acting work.

It wasn’t for lack of trying: He just couldn’t find the right fit. And, more importantly, he didn’t want to do the wrong thing either.

Then Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) came knocking with an idea he’d been developing with journalist David Sirota: What if it wasn’t explicitly about climate change, but a comet? That DiCaprio found interesting.

The result is ” Don’t Look Up,” a star-studded end-of-the-world satire hitting Netflix on Dec. 24. DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play scientists who discover the extinction level comet and…no one cares.

McKay and DiCaprio spoke to The Associated Press about the film and trying to entertain and get a message through without alienating too many people.

AP: Leo, how did you decide this was the one?

DiCAPRIO: The brilliance of this screenplay is the analogy of making it a comet that is going to wipe out mankind within a six-month timeframe created this massive sense of urgency, rather than some slow-moving climate behemoth narrative. It really came at this specific moment in time, like films like “Network” or “Dr. Strangelove,” that really encapsulates what we’re going through as a culture. It perfectly held a mirror to our society and how we deal with the climate crisis, that we just let it continue and don’t take the actions that we need to take in order to survive on this planet.

AP: I read that you two spent five months going over the script.

McKAY: There’s nothing I love more than having my script or a cut of the movie challenged in a thoughtful way. Leo came in the edit, too, and I would show him unfinished cuts. He gave terrific notes. The guy’s worked with some of the great directors of all time, you know, Scorsese and Tarantino, these grandmasters, and he knows a thing or two about story and film.

AP: Do you remember any big debates from these sessions?

DiCAPRIO: My motivation was (to) give a voice to the scientific community, to the people who’ve been devoting their life to the climate crisis and how their voice feels marginalized. I’m much more literal about a lot of these things. I wanted to bring politics and specificity and direct linkage to climate in a lot of these speeches that we did. It was amazing to be able to have a partner like Adam in that process who kept on stripping away specifics that would make certain people that are in the audience feel alienated, that made it political.

McKAY: It’s interesting, some of the words that Leo and I would debate, like the word “fact.” You want to just say facts. And I was like, “Leo, I hate to break it to you, I think they politicized the word fact.” So there was this constant vigilance over what words we were using. We just tried to stay out of the nonsense, the talking points, the focus groups, the clicks, the ratings.

DiCAPRIO: As soon as we stripped away a lot of those words too, it just made it more human.

AP: Was it cathartic, getting to yell into the void in a way in a “mad as hell”-style speech?

DiCAPRIO: Well, look, I’m not a climate scientist, but I tried my best to think of a lot of these people in their frustration.

AP: Randall and his midwestern unassumingness is pretty different from other characters you’ve played.

DiCAPRIO: It was it was a fascinating journey because, yeah, I’m in scenarios wherein a Jonah Hill or a Meryl Streep is attacking me and I had to constantly swallow things that I wanted to say on a personal level and just bite the bullet and take the insult and the kick in the nuts. Even when Ariana Grande says what she says to me, I had to fight that instinct. It was a very, very unique experiment in patience and sitting in discomfort, which is something that I love in movies, if, when done correctly, when you can make the audience feel uncomfortable for you as a character. I think back to “King of Comedy” or “Taxi Driver.” It’s a hard thing to pull off. I don’t know if I did it or not, but that’s what I was definitely aiming for.

McKAY: I mean, I loved it. I just thought it was so cool to see a guy who you’ve seen like, fight a bear in like giant sprawling epics and lead of the biggest movie ever made and to see him having a panic attack or having to take a quarter of a Xanax and getting run over by this fame.

AP: What have you thought of audience responses so far? Are people getting what you hoped from it?

McKAY: The big thing was that we wanted to make it funny. I would see the crowd laughing through the whole movie and then I would look at the cards (at test screenings), and it almost seemed to defy people who would identify as conservative, liberal and that was very heartening to me. There was always going to be a couple of people that are mad about something.

DiCAPRIO: You never know ultimately how a movie will impact a mass audience, but a little test case for that: I have very liberal hippie parents that walked out of that theater, both my mother and my stepmother went to the premiere, and be like, “I’ve got to tell you, I really identified with a lot of the characters in that movie. I mean, I was thinking about some of my actions. I was thinking, am I like Meryl Streep?”

McKAY: No! Are you serious?

DiCAPRIO: I’m like, “Mom, you’re nothing like that character.”

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Afghan Taliban deputy calls for reopening schools for girls

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A senior member of the Taliban-run government in Afghanistan on Tuesday called on Afghanistan’s new rulers to reopen schools for girls beyond the sixth grade, saying there is no valid reason in Islam for the ban. The appeal from Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban deputy foreign minister, came during a top […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

German police raid yacht linked to Russian oligarch

BERLIN (AP) — More than 60 police officers raided a luxury yacht in northern Germany linked to a Russian businessman in connection with alleged breaches of sanctions and money laundering rules, officials said Tuesday. The statement by Frankfurt prosecutors identified the suspect only as a 69-year-old Russian businessman. But German weekly Der Spiegel identified him […]
1 day ago
FILE - Former police data analyst Davin Hall uses the Waze navigation app while driving through Gre...
Associated Press

Senators push to reform police’s cellphone tracking tools

NEW YORK (AP) — Civil rights lawyers and Democratic senators are pushing for legislation that would limit U.S. law enforcement agencies’ ability to buy cellphone tracking tools to follow people’s whereabouts, including back years in time, and sometimes without a search warrant. Concerns about police use of the tool known as “Fog Reveal” raised in […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: How to help loved ones deal with debt

Juan Pinon, an electrical engineer in McAllen, Texas, struggled with credit card debt for years. It wasn’t until he confided in his sister that he began to turn things around. “It just so happened that one day I opened up to my sister, and she confessed to me that she had debt issues and was […]
1 day ago
Medical staff carry an injured person on a stretcher at the emergency department of the First Repub...
Associated Press

Russia to medevac wounded in school shooting to Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) — More than a dozen people wounded in a school shooting in central Russia will be medevaced to Moscow for further treatment, authorities said Tuesday, a day after a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 24 others. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that a medical evacuation is planned for 15 of the injured, […]
1 day ago
TV screens show the news programs reporting the state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Sh...
Associated Press

Abe’s militaristic funeral captures Japan’s tense mood

TOKYO (AP) — The leadup to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial state funeral could seem like a never-ending exchange of heated words — both for and against. But it was the images of Tuesday’s ceremony that most clearly told the story of a nation still deeply divided over the legacy of perhaps the […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Q&A: Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam McKay dare you to look up