After watching his end-of-the-world satire Don’t Look Up notch four Oscar nominations this morning, in the categories of Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Original Score and Editing, writer-director Adam McKay spoke with Deadline about the film’s recognition and real-world impact, as well as upcoming projects ranging from the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, to his HBO Max series The Uninhabitable Earth and his Elizabeth Holmes film Bad Blood for Apple.
The filmmaker, who shared an Oscar with Charles Randolph in 2016 for The Big Short‘s screenplay, said that he’ll be delving deep into the latter two projects in April, shortly after concluding press for Don’t Look Up and his work on Winning Time. The story of Bad Blood, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has evolved in real time, with Theranos founder Holmes currently awaiting sentencing on charges of defrauding investors, meaning that the script will need to be further refined before production can begin. “That was a very interesting project because…the story hadn’t run its course when Vanessa Taylor wrote the first draft. I did a rewrite and it never really had the ending,” he said. “Obviously we all now know that the ending has been reached, that verdict was levied, [though] I don’t think they’ve done sentencing yet. So, I’m going to take a whole new approach at that [and] look at the draft that we left it off with.”
Billed as a travelogue of the near future and the impending terrors we will all face, The Uninhabitable Earth will engage with sociopolitical themes including climate change, which McKay had addressed through metaphor with Don’t Look Up. “That’s the next one I’m jumping into,” said McKay with regard to the anthology series. “I’m going to write and direct the first hour-long [episode] and maybe even the second.”
McKay also was behind Mimi Cave’s Sundance 2022 pic Fresh, which Searchlight is releasing in March, and has a second season of HBO Max’s Painting with John on the way, with his “passion project” Winning Time set to premiere in March. He says that the upcoming series, based on Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, will thread the needle between entertainment and exploration of “complex subjects like race and class and gender, and a changing, shifting cultural landscape in America,” as so many of his past projects have done.
“That’s kind of always the blend I’m looking for, and this show really did it. All credit to Rodney Barnes and Max Borenstein, the two writers,” said McKay. ” They did an incredible job, and then we took some real, big visual leaps with it. We really tried some fairly ambitious formatting decisions with my great director of photography, Todd Banhazl.”
McKay’s sci-fi comedy Don’t Look Up finds a comet hurtling towards Earth. Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play Drs. Kate Dibiasky and Randall Mindy, two low-level astronomers who go on a media tour to warn mankind that the end of days might be near. The multi-hyphenate found it heartening to see the Film Academy’s recognition of his latest work, and was wowed by the experience of watching it debut globally on Netflix. “I’ve just never experienced anything like that, where it’s almost like a button is pushed and then it just injects into upwards of 500 million people, and [you’re] seeing responses from countries all around the world,” said McKay. “Seeing these responses of people just saying, ‘Yes, I feel this too. Yes, this is what I’ve been seeing,’ that was really an incredible moment.”
McKay says that the film has “surpassed” all of his expectations, not only in terms of the critical acclaim it has garnered, and the size of the audience with which it’s connected, but also in terms of the change it’s inspired in the real world. “Honestly, movies are movies, so they can only do so much, but they can also do a lot…I just heard in France, they’re going to do a Just Look Up Day in March through six, seven major cities. I just heard there’s a bill named the Don’t Look Up Bill in New Mexico. I’m seeing it referenced everywhere. I’m seeing climate groups drawn to it and using it as a reference, so it’s definitely surpassed what we’d hoped for,” he said. “We were just trying to give a little kick in the pants, as far as urgency, and clearly it’s a message that relates to people…beyond even the climate crisis. A lot of people relate to it as far as democracies teetering, income inequality, the pandemic. So, it’s amazing and it just reminds us of what movies can do.”
Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, Melanie Lynskey, Gina Gershon, Ron Perlman, Matthew Perry, Ariana Grande, Tyler Perry, Michael Chiklis, Himesh Patel and Kid Cudi round out the cast of the film, which McKay and Kevin J. Messick produced under their Hyperobject Industries banner.
Don’t Look Up will compete for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars with Belfast (Focus Features), CODA (Apple), Drive My Car (Sideshow/Janus Films), Dune and King Richard (Warner Bros.), Licorice Pizza (MGM/United Artists Releasing), Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures), The Power of the Dog (Netflix) and West Side Story (20th Century Studios). The ceremony will take place on March 27.