Science

Leonardo DiCaprio: How Comet Themed ‘Don’t Look Up’ Shows The Climate Crisis As An Emergency

Leonardo DiCaprio’s longstanding passion for climate change, which even brought him to NASA a few years ago, is now on screen in a new movie.

The Oscar-winning actor (“The Revenant,” “Inception”) is the star of the cast of “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix, December 10), a dark satire about a deadly comet heading for Earth. Director Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) has said that the comet is meant to evoke how the global warming crisis is being politicized by anyone who gets a chance to do something about it.

DiCaprio’s advocacy to protect the climate includes the production of several films (such as “Before the Flood”). He also took it to the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, and to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2016.

In the new film, DiCaprio plays astronomer Randall Mindy, a mentor and colleague to the comet discoverer and Ph.D. candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence, “X-Men: Apocalypse”, “The Hunger Games”). As the movie shows, Dibiasky and Mindy have to fight everyone from the President of the United States to the military to get their message heard.

“I was grateful to play a character that relied solely on so many of the people I met from the scientific community, particularly climate scientists,” DiCaprio said during a press conference broadcast live on Sunday (December 4).

Related: The Greatest Close Comet Encounters of All Time

“They are trying to communicate the urgency of this issue, and they feel like they are bound by the last page of the newspaper,” DiCaprio continued, saying that he loves the personality of the two characters: their attempts to work the system, against it. ” type of character Greta Thunberg “from Lawrence.

While the film was conceived before the pandemic in March 2020, DiCaprio added that the broader message about how science becomes politicized carries even more weight in the new environment. “COVID hit, and there is a completely new scientific argument there, and it is a very important movie to be a part of at this particular time,” he said.

But the challenge for the film, according to McKay, was figuring out how to convey the urgency of climate change while still allowing people to laugh, as he felt that comedy could help unify the diverse political views that audiences might. bring to the theater.

Don't look up

Adam McKay (left) directs Jennifer Lawrence during “Don’t Look Up.” (Image credit: Netflix) (Image credit: Netflix)

“You can feel urgency, you can feel sadness and you can feel lost, at the same time that you have a sense of humor, and that was really the intention with this film,” he said at the same press conference.

“After the last five to ten crazy years we’ve had across the planet, [my feeling] It was God, wouldn’t it be nice to laugh at some of this? And feel the other feelings? So that was the focus, because I think we get hit by a kind of apocalypse. “

While the satire is about climate change, with the help of University of Arizona astronomer Amy Mainzer, the film also attempts to portray comet science in at least a somewhat realistic format, along with the scientists doing the work. .

Lawrence portrays a Ph.D. candidate who seems (at first) to have a breakthrough in research after discovering the comet, having found a whole new world would be a blessing to complete the long research work to get the title. But as it quickly becomes clear that his discovery is a disaster in the making, his character’s feelings about the comet change.

In “Don’t Look Up,” astronomers must convince skeptical White House officials of the imminent threat of a comet, including President’s chief of staff Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill). (Image credit: Netflix)

“I think there was probably an evolution” in how Dibiasky thought about his namesake, Lawrence told the panel. “I think at first I was very, very proud of this. And then I’m sure the resentment started to build up when people started to fear Comet Dibiasky.”

While the movie looks at the implications of having a deadly comet associated with a person, Mainzer said during the discussion that this is a purely fictional scenario. “Fortunately, in real life with asteroids [and comets], we would not name one who is really dangerous after a living person. That is not allowed “.

Almost everyone interested in science was skewered, so along with the scientists came satirical and negative descriptions of how the media and politicians tend to deal with “bad news” and spread it to the public.

Don't look up

Meryl Streep plays the president of the United States, Janie Orlean, in “Don’t Look Up.” (Image credit: Netflix) (Image credit: Netflix)

US President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”) initially rebuffs astronomers saying she wants the White House to verify their work using what she considers more prestigious institutions than where Mindy teaches (the University of Michigan, which in real life is a well-cited astronomical institution).

“It was a bit of fun putting together this character who was pure Id, just what his appetite wanted and about amassing power, money, more power and more money and that’s it. And nice hair and nails,” Streep said.

“There is no feeling of camaraderie and that, unfortunately, that is the cost of what it is now to be a public servant,” he added. “You really have to make a big sacrifice. Your family makes a sacrifice, and you have to be willing to do it. It’s amazing that we have good people, always, to do it. But we need them now.”

Don't look up

Rob Morgan plays Clayton “Teddy” Oglethorpe, an official with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office in “Don’t Look Up.” (Image credit: Netflix) (Image credit: Netflix)

One of the film’s early scenes shows Orlean and his son Jason, also the White House chief of staff, firing astronomers entirely before checking on their work. This is despite warm support in the script from NASA’s real-life Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) evaluating potentially threatening objects.

Clayton “Teddy” Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan, “Daredevil”) was the senior PDCO representative in the film, sitting in the room during this White House discussion. He said the scene was poignant given recent high-level discussions of climate science in politics. The Orleans, he said, are “simply dismissing the facts and the science.”

He continued: “That, to me, sounded very true because of what is happening, especially at this time in the country and where we were with the pandemic: things are simply being discarded and all those who say something against what is the truth”. . “

“Don’t Look Up” opens in theaters on Friday (December 10) and will launch on Netflix’s streaming platform on December 24.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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