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From the Web To Cinemas, “MobKing” is a Name to Reckon With


With a name like Mike White one might assume he’s a pretty bland character — one who might blend into the background. But like so many things that seem to be background-able, there’s much more to the story.

Rather than being a simple everyman, White’s a “rehabilitated” gangster who has distinguished himself as a man of honor — a standup guy.

But once he’s released from a lengthy prison sentence, he finds himself a target. Miami’s most notorious criminal organization wants him dead and silenced.

This has been the premise of both “MobKing” — the web series —and the recently wrapped film which is based on it. One of the key reasons the online MobKing project has garnered millions of loyal followers from around the world, has been because of the authenticity that its creator Ciro Dapagio brought to the table.

A fascinating personality in and of itself, the Miami native did his own time in prison as well. A former participant of Florida’s organized crime network, he too served a considerable amount of time in prison for RICO violations. After being released, he pivoted, shaping a film and television career from his life experiences.

As Dapagio explained, “Spending a considerable amount of time in prison can go a very long way in changing your perspective on your life’s course and how you should live your life. There’s nothing cool about a life of crime. I wanted to do something in this life that my kids can be proud of. I want to create a better second half of my life than the first half.”

With that in mind, he joined forces with award-winning director Jorge “Jokes” Yanes who first worked on The MobKing web series and then co-wrote and directed the film. Growing up a first-generation Cuban American in the dirty south of Miami, Yanes was given the moniker "Jokes" from his graffiti artist tag. Eventually, he put down the can and started movie-making. After his breakthrough success as the creative director of “The Roof,” a prime-time Latin Urban music show on Telemundo's MUN2 where he became the first to program Reggaeton on US television.

In the early 2000s, Yanes made videos for artists such as T-Pain, Plies, Mike Jones, and Slim Thug. He directed one of YouTube's first viral videos, "GroundHog Day" by Mayday Ft. CeeLo Green. In 2009, Jokes won an Emmy for editing “Gabriel: Amor Immortal,” the first American style-mini series done for Spanish TV. After his success in the music and television scene, Jokes turned to narrative film debuting with the feature “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe” (2013) which premiered at the Miami Film Festival and received worldwide distribution. In 2013, Jokes started working with the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation to create philanthropic films on such subjects as addiction. Since then, he has directed and produced countless works for clients such as HBO, Complex, Universal Music, Atlantic Records, and Rolling Loud.

“MobKing” also stars a mix of established names such as James Russo who was in “Donnie Brasco.” Russo transformed into the role of Dominick “Dom” Sasso, the Capo di Tutti Capi of South Florida’s Sasso crime family — a respected yet ruthless leader, necessary when it comes to protecting his family interests.

Also in the film is the heavily tattooed veteran character actor Robert LaSardo — seen in many series such as “Burn Notice” and in films such as Clint Eastwood's "The Mule." And there's Paul Borghese, a familiar face in mob movies such as Martin Scorcese’s “The Irishman.” Rounding out the cast is noted up-and-comers such as Stelio Savante (“Acre Beyond the Rye”), Antoni Corone (“Into the Night”), Elisabetta Fantone (“Big Eyes”), Bruce Soscia (“Gravesend”) and fresh faces such as Oksana Lada, Artie Pasquale, and Anthony Caliendo.

In order to make his idea a reality, Dapagio joined forces with Krystal Harvey of Tiger Shark, Inc. who serves as a producer and represents Anthony Caliendo of MAINMAN Productions, Inc. as well as Ciro Dapagio Films, LLC. Caliendo is an Executive Producer as well.With Caliendo, he has formed Button Man Films, LLC for future film and TV endeavors.

In order to elaborate on his evolution from ex-con to executive producer and creator, Dapagio spoke about turning his life around after several years in prison for RICO violations as a former member of organized crime in Florida.

Q: What did you learn through the success of the web series MobKing?

CD: What surprised me the most was how well the web series was received by viewers. Their amazing response is what generated millions of views and created such an incredible fanbase for the MobKing brand. We had no expectations so its success is truly remarkable.

Q: What unique challenges did you face in turning the MobKing web series into the feature film — MobKing.

CD: Oddly enough I didn’t see any challenges. In my opinion, the process was remarkably easy. It flowed naturally, from the storytelling to the production of it.

Q: Describe the character Mike White who you play In both the web series and the film.

CD: Mike is a hard-nosed family man. He’s not afraid to push buttons to go after what he wants and needs to do in order to protect his family. He has to dig deep and find the inner power to maneuver through all of the conflicting elements in his life and come out on top.

Q: The authenticity that you bring to these projects has stirred quite a buzz. This is in no small part because you’re transparent about your past as a former participant in Florida organized crime where you spent a serious amount of time in prison for RICO violations.

CD: I’m transparent about it because I feel it’s important for young people to realize that crime is a dead end. There’s no such thing as easy money or a fast buck because its repercussions are 10-fold. You end up broke, locked up and away from your family. And that’s if you even manage to survive the racket in the first place. So, in the film, I get the beats right about organized crime which is hard to do in movies. In my opinion, the reason so many mob movies fail is their lack of authenticity. They all seem to be stuck in the “Soprano-esque” cliché mode of “I’d better get my money.” In "MobKing," I put a completely different, original spin on a classic mob tale, based on things that I may or may not have seen in my lifetime.

Nashville-based Song Promoter Chris Keaton Transforms Careers as The Connector While He Lives and Breathes Music

Chris Keaton

With the Grammy Awards freshly in mind, the state of the music world in general is also worth considering. The show presented that recent Sunday was quite the entertaining event — especially if you like the very narrow band of music genres and styles that was heard and seen. But obviously there are more sounds than what was there on the screen. Some genres are served by the various country and urban music events, but that’s hardly all that’s out there.

Nevertheless, the Grammys themselves support diversity through its many unseen award categories — 86 and counting — but those genres don’t make it on broadcast TV. Still, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which administers the Grammys, tries to make adjustments from time to time.

With all that in mind, music industry master Chris Keaton is a perfect subject with whom to disucss the state of music from the Grammys on.

An award-winning music publisher, artist management consultant and entertainment industry executive, Keaton resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his family. 

Call him a song plugger, promoter, even pusher, his career in music includes many years as a touring performer, a recording artist, songwriter and record producer. He’s a member of the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and is also a 25 year-long voting member of The Recording Academy (The Grammys). He’s also served as a judge in the Miss America Organization. 

He co-authored the book, “The Seven Stupid Mistakes People Make Trying To Get Into The Music Business,” and is working on his next project. 

As a big believer in giving back, the 60-something has served on many boards including the Nashville Ballet, the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Advisory Council of Nashville’s W.O. Smith Community Music School. And he’s done his share of volunteering as a mentor for Lipscomb University’s Joshua Project. 

Right after the awards night, his answers to questions about the business, his role in it and what it takes to make it nowadays seemed particularly insightful. Here is that Q&A.

Q: What about the various country music awards -- and others such as the Grammys -- are they still relevant?

CK: Relevant? I don't know anything relevant but I can tell you this. Many of my peers love to complain about them. It makes me want to puke. Why? I'm glad you asked! Because being in the live audience of award shows is the most fabulous thing ever and anyone who complains about it should stop, take a deep breath and, for one moment, remember how fortunate they are to be there. One hundred or one thousand or even more people would gladly take their seat, if offered!

Award shows are the direct intersection of art and commerce. The decision ultimately is, "Will this make a television show worth viewing?" Sometimes it works and sometimes, not so much. The relevancy question, in my opinion, is with the viewers. Personally, I enjoy most but not all of the shows.

Q: With the Grammys, I wonder whether they’re irrelevant since so many categories are overlooked.

CK: I am sorry to hear that. I am a proud member of the Recording Academy and have been for 30 years. The professionals in the academy are some of the most creative game changers on the planet. Is the award system perfect?  Far from it. Are we making changes to address that? Absolutely. The awards are peer-nominated and peer-voted. The show has struggled and stumbled but it has also offered up some of the most memorable once-in-a-lifetime performances ever. 

Q: What do you think of the term “Americana?”

CK Not sure there could be a better label for the styles of music the genre encompasses. Then again, none of the styles of any music are "American" except for jazz. I don't know, what should we call it?

Q: What services does your company Keaton Music Ventures include?

CK: My business includes consulting services for emerging artists and their managers, creative planning for artists and songwriters as well as song plugging, critiquing and offering (mostly) valuable advice. Or as I like to tell everyone, "I’m an intergalactic tidal wave of love, creativity and magic for whom all the elements bow." OK, maybe that's a bit much! LOL!

Q: What does it mean to be Macy's Celebration Consultant -- tell me more about it?

CK: It's another one of the amazing blessings this life has bestowed upon me. I am proud to be a member of this team and it is one more creative outlet for me. The late Virgil Abloh expressed it best when he said, "If you look at why people become wack as they get older, it's because they stop doing the things they did that were formative to their work. You can't mentally stay still. You can't not challenge yourself."  Style has always been important to me and I am always in search of a challenge. Macy's allows me the luxury to follow both muses.

Q: What did it feel like to be an Inductee in 2016’s North Carolina Music Hall of Fame?

CK: One of the greatest surprises in my life. I never saw it coming. In the 1980s I toured with a band in the southeastern US called the Band of Oz. In that region there is a very popular form of music referred to as "beach music.” The fans of this music are absolutely fanatic, bordering on the religious, in their love and affection for it. Being named the Band of Oz, I asked the leader, "Why don't we play "Somewhere Over The Rainbow?"  His responses ranged from a yawn to suggesting that I "drop dead."  

smallAbout the thousandth time I asked, he curtly responded, "I tell you what. If you want us to do that damn song so badly, go create an arrangement, record a demo and maybe, just maybe, we'll learn and record it. I accepted the challenge. 

When I presented the demo they loved it. We recorded it and it became their biggest selling single. To this day it remains their signature song with which they close their show every night. When the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame offered to induct the band in 2016, they asked me to join them because of the impact of that recording. What a marvelous blessing!

Q: Yes, you’ve made music yourself — what about your own music?

CK: I live and breathe music. I play piano, saxophone and sing. There are several songs on Apple Music and Spotify which I wrote, recorded and performed over 30 years ago but I just rediscovered the tapes in 2020. I am about to release more music I have uncovered, too. 

I have had a grand piano in my home for 40 years and, quite honestly, for the past 15 years have walked right past and ignored it nearly every single day. But last summer the piano called my name as I walked by and I have been playing and assembling songs daily ever since. I am absolutely in love with playing and am now writing my next album which I laughingly intend to title "Mindless Noodling," since that's what I do at the piano.

Q: How has song pitching changed, or not, over the years?

CK: It has changed dramatically. When I started as a song plugger you could literally walk into nearly anyone's office on Music Row at any time of day and meet with producers, managers and record executives and pitch songs. The space was much more open but as the city grew the doors started getting locked. Security guards were hired and a lot of the innocence went away.

Also, in the CD and cassette tape era there were typically 10 songs on an album. If you got a song and the record, and the record sold a million units, the writer and the publisher of any one of the songs would split nearly $100,000. If the song got radio airplay, even more. 

Today we no longer have that avenue; if it's not a single, the song doesn't earn much. That and the streaming rates have narrowed the playing field. It made a lot of pluggers quit which to me is the bright side. I'm still here and making money.

Recently with the pandemic there has been a seismic shift to pitching online via Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype with person meetings nowadays being nearly nonexistent.

Q: Has the digital revolution and the internet affected your job?

CK: Income has dropped for sure but as I stated, with Zoom, FaceTime and Skype meetings are once again on the uptick. The opportunity for writers to find me is so much easier now. With search engines, writers from around the globe can connect with me and hire me to pitch their songs.

Q: You and Nashville seem intertwined — could you live anywhere else and do what you do?

CK: As a matter of fact, right now I could. To a certain degree. Let me explain. Since COVID shut in person meetings down, almost all of our business has been online: songwriting via Zoom, FaceTime; meetings the same, except the occasional meetings on a patio at a coffee shop or bistro. But the fact remains that someone pitching songs absolutely, positively has to have the connections, a network of industry insiders, producers, artists, managers who will answer my calls or emails.

Otherwise it's spam. Face it, the old joke has always been that most entertainment executives are abysmal about returning calls or emails from people they don't know. (In fact, it's not even a joke, it's the truth!) 

The value I bring to artists and creatives truly is my network. I have rebranded myself as The Connector because I truly am the embodiment of Malclom Gladwell's definition of connectors in his book, “The Tipping Point:” Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.”

Q: How is what you do enhanced by being there — please share an anecdote or two?

CK: Because I randomly meet people, the proximity effect certainly plays a big part in my life. I am very social and not afraid to approach someone and strike up a conversation.

The late Buddy Killen was an icon, the embodiment of the American Dream in the music industry and became a mentor to me. When we moved to Nashville 29 years ago, my wife responded to a classified ad (remember those?!) for an accounting support position at a music publishing company.  

When I asked how it had gone, she said, "Fine. I met the owner, Buddy Killen and he seemed to like me." I nearly passed out! I recovered and quickly asked, "Did you take the job?" She said, "They said they would call me." I implored her to call them back right away.  She did.  Got the job and two months after landing in Music City I was invited into Buddy's office for the first of many meetings. Through Buddy I met countless other industry giants with whom I have maintained relationships.

I have pitched songs to producers and managers at my daughter's soccer games (when she was that age). In kindergarten, my daughter was invited to ride from school to a friend’s birthday party on Vince Gill's tour bus. (The party was for his and Amy Grant's daughter. I "chaperoned " her and was able to meet and speak with Amy during the ride, beginning a friendship with her).

Q: What are some of your pitching benchmarks?

CK Meeting Buddy Killen, Waylon Jennings, Garth Brooks, Rick Derringer, Bill Aucoin (Kiss), Desmond Child ... the list really is a mile long.

My first big cut was with Sir Cliff Richard (“Climbing Up Mount Everest”). [Then came] George Strait (“Roundabout Way,” “Stars on The Water”), Brooks and Dunn (“Building Bridges”), Mike Greenly (the Contemporary State Song for the Commonwealth of Virginia), among others. Working for Barbara Orbison (Roy's widow) was pretty fabulous! My life has been and continues to be wonderful!

Q: Do you have any memories of Roy that you can share?

Unfortunately, I never met him. He passed away years before I worked for Barbara. But I did get to hold several of his guitars, see his suits and drive his vintage Mercedes Benz convertible while I was in LA on business for the company!

Q: What is the future of music and its marketing?

CK: Don't I wish I had that crystal ball! In my opinion we have to meet the fans where they are and currently they are online and on mobile devices. Those devices are the new venues and delivery systems for music. The business has changed dramatically in the past 100 years and will continue to evolve. Let's just hope the powers that be don't forget the creators and pay them their due.

Director & Cast of Oscar Nom “The Lost Daughter” Examines Its Truths & Illusions


“The Lost Daughter”

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Cast: Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Mescal, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Written and directed by veteran actor Maggie Gyllenhaal (in her feature directorial debut), “The Lost Daughter” -- a complex psychological drama based on the novel of the same name by the mysterious Elena Ferrante -- had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Gyllenhaal won its Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay. It then had a US theatrical release in December, prior to streaming on Netflix at the end of 2021. Its star, Olivia Colman, nabbed a best actress nom from the Motion Picture Academy just as Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In this powerful and dark story, middle-aged Italian language professor Leda Caruso (Oscar winner Colman) runs off to a Greek island (where Leonard Cohen had written some of his early songs) to escape a past she can’t deny, rife with regret. While she’s there to relax and supposedly do work, her discomfort seems apparent throughout the film. In flashback, her earlier self (Jessie Buckley) prefers work to mothering her two young daughters. When the opportunity affords it, she has an affair with an admiring professor (Peter Saarsgard) and leaves her husband and kids. Though she returns three years later, she can’t remove the shroud of guilt she feels.

Now, years later, she behaves impulsively and weirdly, pushing people away and alienating some. Starting out as a seemingly serene tale of a woman's self-rediscovery, "The Lost Daughter" transforms into a painful confrontation with an unsettled past. Leda can’t get beyond the feelings that haunt her. This prompts disturbing consequences.

At a Q&A held before its release, Gyllenhaal and the cast discussed the unique qualities of this film based on the equally special novel detailing moments in the life of a brilliant yet disturbed woman and mother. Though the whole conversation might not fully make sense until the film is viewed, it’s worth reading here just to get a sense of the process of making this fine and compelling film.

Q: Maggie, you show the confidence of a veteran with the first film by you as a director. It’s coming from a very profound, honest and urgent place, both stylistically and thematically, on what it means to walk in the shoes of this woman. How did you first become acquainted with this material, and why did you choose it to be your [directorial] debut?

MG: I read Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, “My Brilliant Friend” and the one that followed [“The Story of a New Name”]. When they came out, I loved them. I was totally shocked by the books.

mag-minI feel like I’ve seen so many representations of women in music, books and movies that were compelling, but they didn’t feel totally right to me. They felt like a kind of fantasy. I spent a lot of my time -- maybe I still do — trying to fit myself into this fantasy that I kept seeing described everywhere, and coming up short.

With Ferrante, some of the things she was saying I had never heard said out loud before. I have this experience where I thought, “Oh my God, this woman in this book is so fucked up.” Then less than 10 seconds later, I would think, “I really relate to her.” Am I so fucked up, or is this actually a common experience that nobody’s talking about? I thought, “Though I’m having this experience alone in my room, so are people all over the world.”

So, I thought, “What if you gave people an opportunity to have that experience in a space like this, surrounded by other people — strangers, or a mother or your husband or your daughter.” That seemed like a radical thing to do, so that’s why I wanted to try.

Q: How did you approach Ferrante — who writes under a pseudonym — and get the rights to the book? What was that process like? Did she allow you on your own to adapt the material, or was she more involved? What was it like adapting the book?

MG: I wrote to her to petition her for the rights to the book. I don't know who she is. All my interactions with her have been through email. I [emailed] her a letter that it took weeks to write. I said I wanted to adapt and direct it and gave her a sense of why… of what I was thinking. And she said yes.

But she said, “This contract we're making is void if you don't direct it." Which I took -- because I didn’t know who she is — as a kind of gift because she's this supportive woman out there in the cosmos. It's such a supportive thing to do. I was afraid to take it on and direct it, and she was saying to me, "No, do it."

Then I was in this theater doing a Q&A about “The Kindergarten Teacher” when I got all these emails that Ferrante had written a Guardian piece to me. I was in the process of adapting the script, and the Guardian piece basically said that although it will be difficult for her to have the parameters of her book changed, she knows that in order for the piece to work, I need to be free to make it mine. She said if I were a man, that she wouldn't feel like giving me this freedom. But because I'm a woman and an artist, she knows that she has to. I love that.

Q: Olivia, what was your entry point into the head space of this character, a complicated woman — mother, professor, wife, and lover. How did you craft this on your own and with Maggie?

OC: I met Maggie in New York, and meeting Maggie Gyllenhaal is knee-tremblingly exciting, and we had lunch. I read the script and was so excited, because I had never played this person before. The entry point as a professor, I don't have any "in" with that thing. But the mother and the lover and the wife and things, I've never seen anything quite so honest. I feel like I'm a good mummy, but there are definitely moments when I am not proud. I'm just too tired or [whatever].

For the first time this was something that was really, genuinely honest about [how] you don't have to be perfect, you don't have to be great, and sometimes you'll be quite bad at it. I was very excited to play that.  

Watching a film like this, you feel like you want to stand up and go, “Yes, I — Oh, sorry, everyone thinks I'm insane.” But I feel like actually a lot of people do feel insane. Not about all of it, but some of it. For me that was terribly exciting.

To work with Maggie, someone I’ve known as an actress who I adored, and have worshipped slightly — I did have a bit of a girl-crush -- so to be directed by someone like Maggie, to be directed by an actor, is always exciting because you know they know how you feel. I was very excited to be part of it. I loved every minute of it.

Q: For the rest of the actors, what was it like to be directed by Maggie, an actor with a beautiful career who speaks the language of actors fluently. Dagmara…?

DD: It was a magical dream. We filmed in a pandemic before vaccines on a tiny island in Greece. Just us, really, no family. Maggie and Peter had their wonderful girls, but the rest of us just came. And it was like a moment suspended in time, where you look up and there is Olivia Coleman serving you a Mai Tai! And Maggie comes up to you and says [whispering] "You’re gorgeous, you're beautiful." and whispering in your ear, and giving you the freedom and the confidence to tell her story, our story, authentically.

I saw the movie for the first time yesterday and walked away just blown away. Because [of] the experience of it and being guided by Maggie, who is so inspiring because she leads with such confidence and gentleness. It's a combination I think only a woman can have on a set where she is the boss. But she didn't control you. It really was just the best thing ever. What else could I say?

Q: Paul [Mescal], what is your take?

PM: I suppose a film like this is testament to the fact that it doesn't have to be torture, the process doesn't have to be torture to make good films. Good films can be made by fundamentally good people, and I think that's true of this film. And also it's true the kind of atmosphere that is led on set by Maggie and Olivia at the front of the film, leading us through it. I can speak for a lot of us that when they set the tone like that, it's very easy to -- there's a demand to be at that level or try and get to that height, and step into scenes and engage with the material in a kind of safe but challenging way. So I'm incredibly proud of it and proud to have worked with these amazing people.

Q: Peter, How did you get involved?

PS: It wasn't easy. I had an amazing experience. I was, like you guys said, on this Greek island, taking care of our children while my wife was making this movie. I would hang out with my children in the morning and they would start school at three in the afternoon. Because of the time difference, they would do school until around ten o'clock at night. I'd take them to the beach in the morning and hang out with them, and I had a very deep, awesome experience with my children during the making of this movie.

The acting was incredibly nerve-wracking for me on some level because I really didn't want to suck. I thought it would be incredibly embarrassing and humiliating to be really bad in my wife's movie. Also, I don’t really play roles like this that often, where I'm sortof the object of desire, some sort of amazing guy that every woman would want to be with. Of course Maggie thought I was right for the role, but I couldn't see myself doing it and I was like "When do I kill someone?"

I remember one of the things that I worked on for a while -- and you would never know it, really, watching the movie -- is, I give a lecture in the movie. In the script it's just like a couple of lines. Maggie was like "I really want you to have a whole lecture that you give." I'm really not an academic. I was like the worst student you could ever possibly imagine. I actually held the record at my high school for least number of days attended in my senior year. I went to school 71 days my senior year, and I still graduated somehow. So I am not an academic.

However, I got really into the idea of this lecture. A friend of Maggie's helped: Dominique Townsend, who’s a professor at Bard. I watched a number of lectures of people that I admired or knew other people admired. I read a ton, I really worked on it, and when I finally went to go give this lecture, I was so nervous.

I mean, this is nerve-wracking for me as an actor. For me, facing a group of people and talking is not really what it feels like I do for a living. I'm used to being on a stage and facing like, Ed, and we're having a conversation. When I face this way, my heart beat goes up quite a bit.

I remember I did a take, and was just happy to have made it through it. I’d said everything, it seemed like it was pretty good to me. But Maggie came up and she was like, "That's really great. Just take your elbow off the lectern." I was like, "Take my elbow off the lectern?" It was like the life raft! So I dared to, and my own wife really challenged me.

As I said, you wouldn’t necessarily know it in the movie because it's in bits and pieces in there, but that was tough, and I really finally got there. By the end, I really felt like I had been challenged to be better by my own wife and it somehow happened, and I'm proud of those little bits and pieces in there.

Q: Ed [Harris]?

EH: I thank my wife, Amy [Madigan], for reading the script after I read it. She's a woman and she read it, and she got it. She said, "Eddie, you've got to do this movie." I said, "Okay." I wanted to be sure. I read it again and finally understood where Ferrante, Maggie and where my wife -- how they were perceiving it and where it was coming from.

dakota-minI have a daughter and I remember when she was little, I was taking care of her a lot, and getting, at times, really frustrated and confused. I was like, "What do I do with her?" She's annoying me or demanding things. Some of the frustrations or some of the difficulties of being a mother, that kind of thing.

Anyway, I had the opportunity. I was told I was going to be working with Olivia Coleman and was excited about that, because I like working with the best people. She's certainly that. Maggie was great to work with because she made it a very -- I think for all of us — personal, intimate experience in terms of the relationship between actor and director. She's not someone who gives you a note in front of the crew. She comes up and very [softly], "Ed, why don't you try doing this?" or "What about if he’s… “ dadadadada. And I go, "Okay Maggie, we can do it." It was just fun, it was great.

I’ve got to say, I've been doing this for a while, making films and things. I don't feel that as an actor in front of a camera, I've ever felt as relaxed as I did working with Maggie on this. So that was cool.

Q: Dakota?

DJ: I feel like Maggie, having experienced so many different kinds of films herself, has waded through all the bullshit of making movies and goes directly to what's pure and what is honest and what is safe.

I think for me, Nina is a really different woman, and is so -- not helpless, but just wants something, wants something from anybody. It's just like "Help me!" I think that Maggie really gave me the space to be that vulnerable all the time, and not feel like I wasn't going to be taken care of in that moment and in the edit. And that was very important to me.

You know, a lot of times, you're on set and you're doing something that's really scary or really emotional or really provocative, and you're giving so much of yourself. And you're like, "There's something in me that knows that this is not going to be taken care of, but I'm doing my job, and I have to do my job."

But in this I didn't feel like I was "doing a job", I felt like I was doing my art. I felt like I was expressing my true artist self, and so were all of these people. It was like a family, and it was, like, everyone had each other's back. And if one of us had a hard day, everyone was there. It was like, "No, that was great. Don't go into your hotel room and cry and regret choosing this as a career." I've done that a lot.

But I think that's the thing that made it so special with Maggie: no matter what beautiful moment or extremely ugly moment, it was totally safe. And that is perfect.

Q: There is great chemistry among all the cast members on screen. But also an undercurrent of tension. It feels like you're always on the verge of something dangerous happening. Can you talk about the chemistry and tension between the three of you? And how do you work with your actors?

MG: I was on the jury at Cannes this year, and I saw 24 incredible movies. I saw them 10 days after I finished my final mix on this movie. And I realized something at Cannes: I was like, "Ohhh, you can do whatever you want."

But I think in this film, I thought I will be able to do whatever I want, I will be able to express whatever I want, if I hang it on a form that's known so that people feel "Oh, I know what's coming. I've got this rhythm." Then I can, like, hundred-and-eighty-degree it. I can do whatever I want, but I have to set up.

I was using the language of a thriller. And even, sometimes, there's a little horror sprinkled in, and a little French film. But really what you're talking about, in a way maybe, is the thriller aspect of the story, which I wanted to create. And then I wanted the whodunit and the terrifying thing to be what's actually inside of Leda's mind -- and actually inside, probably, many many peoples' minds. Of course, that's the most terrifying thing, you know: what lives in our minds. I wanted to use the language of classic thriller in a way to create that tension.

Q: Olivia, Dakota and Dagmara, do you want to add anything about building that chemistry and tension among the three of you.

OC: I never want to let Maggie down.

Q: The dynamic has been the three characters, both the harmony and tension they have.

Dag, did you create tension?

DD: Did I create tension?

DJ: You know, it's interesting because I was ready to create tension when I read it out, like "all right."

DD: She would spin me the other way, and she was like the great note whisperer. She would come in and drop like, 12, and just say "whatever sinks deepest,” like, "We'll see what happens." And so on the page, and in the book, Callie's character is bold and brash, and she's the one who wants to get a snack for everyone, but it has to be her snack.  

I know moms like that, and sometimes I'm one like that, too. But I remember Maggie saying to me "She wants to be validated. She wants to be loved. She's wonderful.” I've never felt like everything was more relaxed or more confident in a movie. And I'm in a bikini with a pregnant fake belly and my jigglies are out, and Maggie made me feel extremely beautiful.

We discussed how not every woman who is loud and opinionated is a fuckin' bitch. So let's try it differently. And so I think the tension isn't like, oh three different personalities and they all hate each other. It's three different women who want to know that they're good inside and sometimes don't know how to do that. I think that's where the tension lies. Right?

OC: I would have said that. That's exactly what I would have said.

DJ: I also feel like Maggie does this thing where it's like life is tension. Every day is stressful for me. And I have moments with women and with men, and people, and everyone that is tense. But now, you go to the movies because it's escapism, or you're binge-watching a show because you want to feel less tension. But isn't the point of art to make you feel things that you need to look at, and then you feel tension in this movie. I feel like women can just look at each other and have millions of different tensions without saying anything.

MG: Yes, and that scene -- I love the scene where you're asking about these three women here. I love that scene between you guys when you just found the little girl. And so in terms of tension, these two women looked at each other. Dag, someone said to me about you, was giving me a note early on about the movie, and they said, "Well, I don't know. I can't tell if I'm supposed to love her or if I'm supposed to be afraid of her." And I'm like "Oh, yeah!"  

DJ: How many people do actually feel [like that]?

DD: That's what my kids think about me every day.

DJ: Yeah. Also, that scene, you’re like -- is Nina going to cry, is she going to apologize? Is she embarrassed? Are they going to have sex? What's going to happen?

MG: Yes, yes. There's so much tension or vibration between you guys. I don't think you could articulate what it is, what kind. I love the scene because it's like 500,000 different things going on between you guys, and beyond my wildest dreams.

DD: Yeah but that's you, because you didn't tell us to play it one way. You would do your whisper thing and then it just…

OC: We each had 20 whispers.

DJ: Yeah and I'm like "Well, what'd she say to you?"

Q: You and the cinematographer you worked with, Hélène Louvart, created such a visual language for this movie. This is a very intimate kind of movie. Talk about crafting that and how you stayed close to the character?

MG: It's interesting that so many people have said that to me. In fact, early on in editing, I got a note saying, "We've got to expand a little bit. Can we see where we are?" Because I was watching the beginning of the movie and going, “big wide shot, oh, another big wide shot; another big wide shot." I think it doesn't get digested that way. I think because the movie is so subjective, inside of Leda's mind, actually in terms of the cinematic language, there's a lot of moving back and being wide. But it doesn't feel like it, for some reason.

Hélène -- I am so grateful to that woman. She's got five kids. She really taught me how to prep. I knew that I needed to prep, in fact I met a DP who I was a massive fan of. He pretended for a minute that he wanted to shoot the movie, and we had lunch a few times. He [said] "I don't prep. I don't do any prep." But I was like, Wow. I don't think I can do that.

peter-minHélène was, "Of course you need to prep." We spent hours on Zoom in the pandemic thinking through the scenes. Then we scouted together and then we really shot listed together. But we had shot lists, I mean really organized. And I never opened my binder with my shot list in it one time, the whole time we were shooting.

I don't know how much we did that we had imagined. Certainly, coming from being an actress, I want my actors to be free, and if they came in with their own sense of what they were doing -- and they always did -- you can't really shot-list. But the point is, we really knew what the scenes were about. Together we knew what we were after. So then it was like jazz, because we were free enough to run with it.

Have you guys done scenes where we're at a dinner table? All of us are at a dinner table, and somebody's shooting it and they're like "I need two shots on you, and you, and you, and you.” And then they need your P.O.V. of everybody, and my P.O.V. of everybody. And you want to shoot yourself by the end of the day.

But if you know that the scene is really about Paul, and how he feels about Peter, then I don't have to come in that day. [laughter]

You'd shoot it in half a day, which is what we had to do anyway. because we only had twenty-eight days. But she helped me to really understand.

I learned to love the lenses. I didn't know that language. Now I knew some languages in filmmaking, and I was like "Get that 50 off." I never talked to her like that, but I really learned. I told Hélène that at the end, and she said "Yes, you did, you learned quite quickly." And I was terrible. She was totally like "Yeah. So people learn about London, whatever. " To me it was incredibly expansive. She really taught me so much.

Q: Irish actor Jessie Buckley isn't here, but talk about her a bit. You, Olivia, and Jessie basically built the same character at two different points of her life.  Did you have any conversations about how to tackle this character in two different life stages?

OC: We knew each other beforehand, and I am obsessed with Jessie. I just think she's incredible. We spoke and said, "What action shall we do?" And that was what we decided, and then we didn't speak again.

It was lovely, though. I knew at this moment I might have realized that people are not sure of where they come from. It's all in the script, and clearly Jessie and I didn't talk to each other and we found it in the script. And it is all there, and we both ended up with something.

Even though we're clearly two different people, we understood it so beautifully between us. We came up with the same thing In a way, albeit different. But a woman in her twenties is not the same woman in her 30s or 40s. We all change, so it's okay that we're different. And Maggie said "It's okay. You don't have to meet and have a great big thing about it." And she's right.

But It's because the script is so good, we just knew our road map was clear. So we didn't go massively awry. For some reason, that was a massive moment for me, just that second. So we’re good, it’s good. We basically said we're from Shipley in Leeds, but we’ve been educated so the edge is taken off it. See you there.

At The “Don't Look Up” Press Conference, Its A-List Actors Discuss The Comedy of A Planet-Killing Event

Known for his raft of successful left-leaning satires such as “Vice” and “The Big Short,” Director Adam McKay once again tries to find the balance between serious social commentary and an acidic attack on the right wing conservative views especially when it relates to global issues.

In his Oscar-nominated “Don't Look Up”(now on Netflix)  two low-level astronomers (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) attempt to warn mankind via a media tour about an approaching comet that will destroy Earth. As the city-sized object heads to earth, the rightwing American president (Meryl Streep) at first agrees to and then denies the seriousness of its impending impact. This satirical allegory of media, government, and cultural indifference to the crisis of anthropogenic climate change details the chaos that ensues from an Earth-destroying event.

Lawrence became the film's first cast member with DiCaprio signing on after rewriting McKay's script. Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep round out the ensemble cast. Grande and Mescudi also collaborated on the song "Just Look Up" as part of the film's soundtrack.

Filming was to begin in April 2020 around Massachusetts, but was delayed until November due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The shoot then lasted through February 2021. The result received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the cast but found the 53-year old’s approach heavy-handed.

Despite those reviews, the movie was named one of the top 10 films of 2021 by the National Board of Review and American Film Institute. It also received four nominations at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture - Musical or Comedy, and six at the 27th Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture. The film won Best Original Screenplay at the 74th Writers Guild of America Awards. It also set a new record for the most viewing hours in a single week on Netflix, and went on to become the second most-watched movie on Netflix within 28 days of release.

When a flurry of activity kicked up over the movie’s release, IEUSA acquired a transcript of an extensive press conference held recently. It included cast members Mescudi, Perry, Hill, Streep, DiCaprio, Lawrence, and its writer/director/producer.

Moderator/scientist Amy Mainzer (who contributed to the film) tried asking questions but really just managed the verbal jousting between this stellar cast and its creator.

Q: I have had the great pleasure of working with this incredibly talented cast and crew on the movie where, as an astronomer and planetary scientist, I served as the science advisor on the film.

TP: What a lineup here, man.

Q: Leo, now that Dr. Dibiasky [Jen Lawrence] is over here... Oh, sorry, not quite Dr. Dibiasky. Now that she's contributed all this to science, we need to get her defense scheduled. When would you like to schedule her defense? The committee needs at least three months to plan [laughs].

LD: I think three months is a proper amount of time.

Q: Okay, great. Will you be ready for your PhD defense?

MS: I just broke out in a sweat.

JL: I was so afraid she was going to look at me and say something. I was like, don't do it.

TP: They really call it a defense?

Q: Not like Harry Potter Defense Against the Dark Arts, but sort of.

TP: You're a real astronomer?

MS: She discovered a comet.

Q: It's not hitting the Earth, though. Don't worry.

TP: Really? Oh, wow. Okay, good. That's awesome.

AM: She's the real deal.

TP: I'm blown away. I've never met an astronomer.

LD: And she was imperative in the narrative of this movie. Was our advisor and an unbelievable help. So thank you very much.

Q: Thanks for making the movie. The public perception of scientists has really taken a beating in recent times. As people who portrayed scientists in the movie, do you hope that this movie changes the public's perception of science and the people who practice science?

LD: Adam created this film, which was about the climate crisis, but he created a sense of urgency with it by making it about a comet that's going to hit Earth within six months' time and how science has become politicized with “alternative facts. I was just thankful to play a character who is solely based on many of the people I've met from the scientific community, in particular, climate scientists who've been trying to communicate the urgency of this issue and feeling like they're subjected to the last page on the newspaper.

There's too many other things that we're inundated with. I love the way he portrayed these two different characters. One that is incredibly outspoken, like a Greta Thunberg type of character in Jen's, and mine that’s trying to play within the system. I also love the way he was just incredibly truthful about how we're so immensely distracted from the truth nowadays. And then COVID hit and there was a whole new scientific argument going on there. And it's just such an important film to be a part of at this particular time.

Q: Jen, what do you think about that? You portrayed PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky.

JL: I think Leo said it perfectly. It's just so sad and frustrating to watch people who have dedicated their lives to learning the truth, be turned away because people don't like what the truth has to say.

Q: I appreciate that and think that really resonated with me and a lot of my colleagues in the science community. Adam, what is the mindset going into a film that's viewing such a serious, real-life issue through the lens of comedy? How do you pull that off?

AM: We were talking about the idea we wanted to deal with – the climate crisis – which is so overwhelming. It's arguably the greatest threat to life in the history of mankind. We just felt like you can get… It can almost be like an animal attacking you — It can just be overwhelming. But if you're able to laugh, that means you have some distance. I actually think that's really important. You can feel urgency and you can feel sadness and you can feel loss, while also having a sense of humor.

That was really the intention with this movie. After the crazy last five or 10 years we've all had across the planet, wouldn't it be nice to laugh at some of this and feel the other feelings? So that was the approach, 'cause I think we get hit with the thumping doomsday talk quite a bit. Which, by the way, is totally legit when it comes to climate change. But , it was important that people be allowed to laugh and have some distance. It's also a great unifier. You can't really fake laughter. It's not a political thing. They've tried, but it never really works whenever you try and fake that. So, yeah, that was kind of the thinking behind it.

Q: Leo, you've done actions towards protecting biodiversity and climate change. What encouraged you to take part in a movie that tackles these issues through comedy?

LD: I've been looking for a movie that was about this subject for decades now. But it’s like I said earlier, this is an issue where everyone feels ultimately like what kind of difference can we make?

How can we contribute to this cause? Adam really cracked the code with this-with this narrative. There's so many comparisons that we can make to the climate crisis with this storyline. And, you know, as a whole, it's probably the most important issue all of us could be talking about on a regular basis. It takes artists like this to change the narrative, you know? To create conversation and it’s just an honor to be a part of it, really.

Q: They say science brings us the facts, but art is what allows us to process the emotions and the feelings about it. What was the most important aspect or interesting aspect that you all learned from working together on this-on this film?

JL: Jonah, I think you should take it. What have you learned [in playing the President’s son]?

JH: Well, this is the first time we've met, so I haven't learned that much from you yet, except that you're nice, you're charming. Honestly, I've been friends with Leo for a long time. I've always had mad respect for how much he puts his money and time where his mouth is, in regards to this issue. Not only as a friend but as someone who’s not just talking a big game, but actually walks the walk I have really heavy respect for him.

For me, I've learned how everyone was so bummed the past two years. I got in a room with all these people that are geniuses – some of whom are friends of mine, some of whom I didn't know, but all of whom I respect. It was just amazing to laugh and think and create something in a time where everyone's been stuck in their houses. It was really emotionally meaningful to me.

SM: I came into this project very nervous, because if you can imagine, just like the weight of it and who the cast is. So like the first day, the first moment was really nerve-racking. But watching Adam, watching Tyler, watching Cate, watching Ariana, and seeing how everyone was kind of just like in the element, so laid back and so in tune and, like, comfortable, it made me comfortable.

Even though I was there for, what, three days, it felt like a family setting, and everybody embraced me. You know, it was my first time meeting Tyler who I'm a fan of, and it was so cool. I didn't know he was so tall but I just learned that, sometimes you've just got to relax, go with the flow and just be in your space and be comfortable with shit, you know?

I was just ready for… I heard before when I talked to Kathryn Hahn, who's a friend of mine, and she was telling me about Adam. She was like, "Just be ready for him to throw you anything," And I was like, okay, that makes me even more nervous. But no, it was great. It was a great experience.

Q: It's really fun to see it all come together. Adam, what about from your perspective, working with everybody?

JL: What did you learn from me?

AM: Jen taught me that as much as we all think we're a big deal, there's still a beating heart of a child inside each one of us. And Jen also taught me about justice, true justice.

JL: Where are you going with that?

AM: You can't just put on a mask and go out and topple crime at the end of the day. Honestly, the thing that is beautiful about this movie was that it highlighted just how special collaboration is for me, because we're in the middle of a pandemic, there was no vaccine that time. There’s definitely a vaccine now, and everyone should be getting it. But at that time, there was no vaccine. We all had to wear crazy masks and stay away and have zones and everything. But everyone did it and found a way to be creative, in a way that was genuinely moving and touching.

As for me, I feel like the whole time I've been working in movies or theater or TV or whatever, that's the thing that I love the most. And seeing this group do that was one of the more special experiences I've ever had. Should I be looking at that camera when I answer? I should have looked at you. Sorry, I should have looked at them while I was saying it.

JH: Say it to the people that you're talking about.

MS: Otherwise you don't believe it. Yeah.

JH: It just felt like you were performing. Did you actually learn anything through the course of this movie?

AM: They wanted me to talk about Subway, which apparently has a new 5.99 sandwich.

Q: So the comet in the movie is named after your character. How did this make you feel?

JL: I never thought about it. I think at first it's very exciting, until it becomes, you know, a catastrophe, and then you're named after it…

TP: Something that's [terrifying?]

MS: The end of civilization.

JL: Something that people are really not happy about.

Q: Do you think that your character would have been proud of this, or mostly pissed off, or both?

JL: I think there was probably an evolution. I think at first she was very, very proud of this, and then I'm sure resentment started to build up as people started fearing Comet Dibiasky.

MS: Yes. But scientists want to name the achievement after themselves…

AM: Sometimes it's not always a good thing. Fortunately, in real life, with the asteroids, uh, we would not name one that's actually hazardous after a living person. That's not allowed. Who was the inspiration for your character, and did you try to emulate anyone?

MS: My character? [laughs] There were so many places to take things from, because there's so many preposterous people who've put themselves in public places recently. And shamelessly. It was fun to put together this character that was just pure id, just what her appetite wanted. And about amassing power, money, more power, and more money, and that's pretty much- and nice hair and nails to top it off.

TP: And the Birkin [bag].

SM: And amazing suits.

MS: Amazing suits [Laughs]. But no fellow feeling. Unfortunately, that is the cost of being a public servant now, that you really have to make a big sacrifice. Your family makes a sacrifice, and you have to be willing to do that. It's amazing that we get good people to do it [SIGH]. We need them right now more than ever.

Q: For Jonah and Leo, having developed a friendship and now on your third film together, how do you feel your chemistry affects the production? As you can see, the chemistry is clearly affecting this press conference.

LD: That's right, Django two.

JL: Django. I was like, that was going to drive me nuts.

LD: I'll just start right out of the gate and say he is an absolute genius, this young man, this friend of mine. His ability to improvise and take control of a scene and have the narrative be shifted in the most amazing, colorful ways is a sight to witness and something truly remarkable to experience. He's absolutely a genius. I'd love to work with him on a hundred more films.

MS: Amen. Really fun.

JH: Thanks, buddy. Well, my time to answer. I agree with what he said. Real talk like, I've worked with pretty much all the best actors in the world, a lot of whom are up here right now. And there's been no more loyal friend or anything I've ever made in show business Then aside from that, put all those feelings aside. What you see when they yell action and what he does – truly, no disrespect to anyone – nothing I've ever seen like it. That's all I got to say, hands down.

Q: You two had some of the funniest scenes like the scene in the president's office, when there's this sort of ping ponging back and forth about probability. As a scientist, this is the first time I've seen probability so extensively debated in a movie. And you just completely trashed it in the most amazing, funny way which at the same time is horrifying.

JH: Yeah. Look, I don't like nerds, and I have always been harsh on it. [LAUGH] No, dude, he's the best. I mean, I'm sitting up here with a lot of other of the best, and I genuinely feel that way.

But having made a few movies with Leo and lived with him, he’s the best person. Shuffle that all aside, if I didn't know him and I had to be like, “What's it like to work with another actor that's like who's the best actor to me?” I'd choose him every time.

LD: Thank you, Jonah.

Q: This is for Tyler. In 2012, you co-hosted “Live with Kelly” when the show was in between hosts. Did you use that experience in crafting your character, or any other talk show hosts or friends in the process? Who did you model your character after?

TP: Okay, as fun as that was in that moment, I actually made a couple phone calls to a couple of people who are on morning shows right now, that I admire. Joe Scarborough is one, and Michael Strahan is the other. So I asked them, I actually sent them part of the script. I said, "Why don't you read this and send it back to me on your iPhone? Just tape it." And they did, and I was like, okay, I got some bits here, I got some bits there. Those guys are professional journalists. This guy is the guy I played. So they were very helpful in pulling that off and helping me to pull it off. I appreciate that.

AM: Tyler is being very humble, by the way. Because the big trick with him and Cate Blanchett was that they had to have real chemistry. It was so remarkable to see the two of you within five minutes. It was like you guys had been on a show together for 10 years.

TP: That happens when there's sexual chemistry. She wants me.That was obvious from day one, I'd say, "Oh, okay, I just have to flirt. I get it." She's gonna kill me.

Q: Jen, how long did it take you to learn the lyrics to the Wu Tang song at the beginning?

JL: I keep meaning to tell you, I only just recently.... The song came back on my phone and I was like, "All right, it's been enough time, I'll listen to it." It took a while, it took a couple weeks. And then, of course … something happened with Covid where that ended up being my very first scene at work in the movie. And it was horrifying, 'cause I'm in this huge hanger, and it's so quiet. I don't know anybody. And I had to rap for the Wu-Tang Clan. It was just horrendous. What's in the movie is like five seconds. I really wish I had known that. If I could have foreseen what you would have used. It was the worst day of my life.

Q: That had to have been a really strange experience of being in there in the middle of Covid. I can't even imagine.

JL: Yeah, it was. And everybody's behind masks. It was very embarrassing. Hey, I knew my assignment. I did know every word, I still do.

AM: And you did it very casually, like you heard it.

JL: There's no place to hide, Dr. Doom prepares for the boom [laughs].

Q: Speaking of music here... I personally loved the ballad. I loved the song. As a scientist, how often do we get a song from Scott and Ariana Grande about science and the end of the world? There's a killer line in there [laughs].

SM: It doesn't happen often, no.

AM: No, I loved it. So what was it like for you to work with Ariana and to just go through this experience of writing music about the end of the world?

SM: I met up with Nick Britell and he played me the song. I immediately was like, holy shit, Where do I fit? Do you even need me? How do I approach this? And, he had something written for me. We tried, but it just wasn't working, I was just like, "Maybe it would be better if I approached this like doin' my flavor, and kinda taking that approach." Another thing was really like, okay, this is not me writing a song from the Kid Cudi perspective; this is from DJ Chello's perspective. And they just linked back up. So he's pretty much confessing and expressing his love to her. He's forgetting about the importance of the song in general and is like, "Oh I'm just happy to be with my baby. You know?

I just took this approach of you're on the stage with this girl, you're making this love song, Not a love song, but you're making this song with the love of your life, and it's your time to… You guys just had a huge fallout and everyone around the world knew about it.

Now you guys are coming together. So it was this kind of reunion moment for me. It was intense at first because Ariana is such an incredible artist. And you know, her vocal performance is just stellar. It's like her voice is just amazing. I'm sure everybody can agree. I'm just really happy that we were able to figure it out, and it worked man. I'm really proud of it.

AM: All right, can you do a whole album of science songs?

SM: We can figure this out [laughs]. We can figure this out. We can do a NASA mixtape and NASA mixtape Platinum [laughs].

AM: I can play this for all my classes.

SM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but y'all gotta cut a check though. And y'all gotta talk [laughs].

AM: A science album [laughs].

TP: We were just talking about this, what I find fascinating about this movie and him writing it is, it seems so prophetic to see where we are right now with, uh, NASA sending a rocket to try and knock a comet off of course. I don't know the language, we're astronomers. I thought that was absolutely fascinating it’s happening in real life today, right now as we sit here. Did I dream that? It's really happening, right?

SM: They said it's not life-threatening.

TP: Just to see if we can do it, if we can move one off course.

AM: it was a test to see whether or not an asteroid can have its orbit deliberately changed in a slight way.

TP: And when do we know?

AM: About a year from now, roughly a year. It's pretty fast.

MS: Because it's 2.1 million miles away or something.

AM: Something like that. It's pretty far. But we still have to find the asteroids first, so we like to work on that.

LD: What kind of explosive device are we talking about here?

AM: In this case this thing is just gonna bump into the asteroid. So nothing too complicated. It really is just a bump into the asteroid and trying to slightly push it just a little bit. There's actually an asteroid that's about the size of the comet in our movie named after Amy that's in a harmless orbit. But it's something like nine kilometers wide. But it's about the size of our movie’s comet, right?

Q: Yeah, it's pretty big but perfectly harmless, totally.

JH: Everyone thinks their comet is harmless [laughs]. Look in the mirror for a second. Your comet's a danger call.

Q: Leo, in real life you're active in bringing awareness to environmental problems. Did that make it easier to tap into Dr. Mindy's speech? He's got this really fiery speech in the movie. How did that inform your approach for it?

LD: Very much so. I just have to articulate it again and you know, this climate isn't your field of expertise. But I spoke to you as if you were a climate scientist through the lens of an astronomer. And you were so incredibly helpful in the convergence of these two worlds, which is what Adam was trying to do, in creating this character and the entire movie.

So, we worked on the speech probably 50 times together. And what I really wanted to do was to try to articulate the frustration of the scientific community … how one is sitting there on a pulpit speaking the truth. And Adam wrote so brilliantly, you know, all these other noises sort of drown out the main message.

And so we worked a lot together on, you know, trying to understand the frustration of the scientific community and how one would be in a situation like that of ultimate frustration realizing the world is falling apart. And how do you, you know, take off this sort of professional jacket to cut straight to the chase about the-the truth of this issue. So again, I wanted to thank you for all the great conversations we had. Cause you were really the convergence of those two things for me.

Q: It felt really cathartic watching that speech, uh, especially we had a screening in LA with other scientists, and they were cheering. [laughs] Jen you mentioned that you fan-girled so hard when you saw Ariana Grande. [LAUGH] Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to meet her?

JL: It was shocking. She's so tiny. I'm a huge fan of her music and Scott's. It's just overwhelming. 'Cause our worlds don't normally collide. I just felt like a radio contest winner. I just didn't know how to talk to her. I just did my best [laughs].

Q: To everybody here, which scenes in the movie felt uncomfortably real to all of you? Tyler I want to start with you. Which were the ones that really made you uncomfortable?

TP: You know, just when they were in the Oval Office and Meryl's character is there with her son and just talking about, eh, just dismissing the facts and science. That to me was just very much ringing true because of what's happening especially at the time, and the country where we were with the pandemic and things just being dismissed. And everybody's saying things counter to what the truth is. So for a narrative while people are dying, that was pretty right down the road scary!

Q: How about you Jonah, what did you feel was uncomfortable?

JH: I agree. I just also wanna say, like, Adam walked the craziest tightrope in this movie, which I think is almost impossible and he pulled off. It’s like taking things that are terrifying and using comedy to maybe make them digestible in some way or palatable in some way or entertaining in some way. So I found the whole movie to just be like the truth, both terrifying and hilarious.

When the pop stars are promoting their projects on the show while someone else is talking about the world ending. The topics are all treated with the same weight, without one being more important than the other, like it's all the same. We're all guilty of it too. It’s not like I'm any better. You know what I'm saying? So I think there's something deeply human that he tapped into. It’s terrifying but also the truth.

Q: That's how we connect. How about for you Meryl?

MS: There are a lot of chilling moments. One just — I don't know why — but it really hit me was the scene in the bar with Tyler and Cate when everything's going to shit outside. And she says, “I just want, you know, to get drunk and talk shit about people.”

I know lots of people like that, that's not an unusual reaction. But it kinda chilled my bones. And then the one where they're in the car and Timothée Chalamet ... I don't want spoilers, but he proposes an idea to Jen and she goes, yeah. And it's so clear, there's just no way it's ever gonna happen. You know, but it's just that glimmer of the human dream where we hope something good  is going to happen, even though we know something bad is. And that's sort of the kernel of truth of this is that we push this information away. Smart people, people who don't have a scientific background, everyone pushes it away, because it's just too painful.

I said to Adam when we first talked about promoting it, that you’ve got to give people three things that they can do [LAUGH] so they want to kill themselves at the end. Because it would be great to have three things, if it were only that simple. But one of them is obviously devoted…. For people who believe and understand the imminence of this threat to all our lives __ rich people, poor people, everybody, everything flows from this, every issue of injustice, inequity, everything. If we don't survive, none of it matters.

Q: We gotta make science-based decisions. I think that it's core. That's what this movie is really about. It's important to do that. Science is happening whether we like it or not. Right? [laughs]

That's just what happens. Okay, so let's go to Jovem Nerd from Brazil for the group. And you know, in one scene – continuing on this theme a little bit – Leo's character says that not everything has to be positive all the time. Is this a criticism of our current way of life, the way that we think, our media right now? I mean how do you all feel about that?

AM: I mean he says that line, he says not everything has to be charming or clever ... not necessarily positive. But I do think there's this demand, because there's so much money behind the media with advertising and clicks and apps that there has to be some engagement happening on some level, or people have to have a hot take or be clever. And I love the way ... we must have re-written that speech like 20 times, and it's one of my favorite moments when you say that. Sometimes we just have to be able to say things to each other.

That seems to be the basic line that's been corrupted, that we profitize the very way that we speak to each other through social media, through phones, commercials, shows. Everything is – you know, they know – it's crazy to think about it. I mean they now call it ... they don't call it TV shows or songs, they call it “content.”

It's literally a word from a boardroom. That's how much we've prophesied the way we talk to each other. So yeah, I think sometimes you just have to be able to hear things. There has to be a neutral playing field occasionally that is not brightly lit with sound effects and-and great looking people that have, you know, high focus group test numbers. So that's one of my favorite moments in the movie for sure. And what Leo did with that speech was incredible. You worked so ... he just was tireless with that. We kept going back and back. And your sense of that speech was so spot-on that it was going to be that moment.

MS: And my favorite thing is that you think it's over, and then it regenerates even bigger. It's just-it's just like, he's goin' on way too on this. Way too long.

AM: Do you guys feel like we're so hungry for someone to express real emotion?

MS: Yes, we're mad as hell. And we're not gonna take it anymore [laughs].

AM: Yeah, like, I mean you just see these politicians' speeches in that same cadence every single time. And it's like, will someone be angry or afraid or sad? Like, you're kind of missing it. It's so satisfying when both you guys have your moments. It just feels like, ah, I'm dying for that.

MS: Well, yes, I love Jen's righteous anger. I mean it's just – and her despair.

JL: You don't have to compliment me just 'because you guys complemented Leo [laughs].

MS: Oh, well I don't like Leo, so I'm complimenting you [laughs].

AM: It all really compliments Meryl, so don't worry about it.

JL: I really liked Meryl's incompetence as a President.

MS: And my shoes. but it is a question. How do you make that … how do you make it penetrate? And the thing about music, this song is so great. Because music goes in … it's just in your head. It's not even something that's at a distance now. We have it in here and carry it around. Kids carry it around.

Q: So it's fun to actually have something that speaks to science through music. I mean how many songs are there about geometry?

SM: Well if you consider Cardi B, I mean she's got ... No, I'm kidding.

Q: That's true. It is really powerful. It's a way of communicating that maybe is a different way into the material. Which is sometimes really complicated and dense. And also too, not all that happy, right? How do we take it and process it? As an astronomer working on this subject, there is no comet or asteroid that's heading our way. But hypothetically if there were one, what would be your most immediate action? What would you do if it were the last day on Earth?

SM: I would definitely try to get to my daughter wherever she's at. Now of course, I wanna see my mom, and my sister. But my daughter I gotta get to her, definitely.

TP: What I love is at one point in the movie there's some people sitting around the table, and I think that that is just so powerful. And I think that's exactly what I would do, sit around the table with people that I love and care about, have some wine, and have a great meal. And give everybody cyanide right before it happens.

SM: That's a great plan. I'm comin' to your house [laughs].

JH: I would tweet to make sure that people knew the cool thoughts that I had to say and my opinions on different stuff like movies and stars, how the stars live their lives, what they look like and who they’re dating and stuff.

TP: That's brilliant.

AM: That's so different too, that would be cool to hear about that.

JH: Yeah, I think people in their last moments would wanna read that.

AM: You know, I've always wanted…

JL: He's not wrong. In my last moments I would die commenting on TikTok.

JH: I mean it goes without saying for me – surfing, girlfriend, dog, family, love – all that matters. I also want to give Jen Lawrence props because she's my friend. Sometimes I don't say how amazing and brilliant it was to watch her work. And like, we joke around so much, but Jen, you're a boss.

TP: I agree. Even with that wig you were wearing was amazing.

MS: I loved that wig.

JH: Don't you want to know what Meryl would do if the world was ending? She is Meryl Streep, I'm curious to know what…

Q: Yeah, she is Meryl Streep. So Meryl, what would you do if the world was ending?

MS: I'm sure I would just try to find my grandchildren and be with them. My kids, they've had enough of me [laughs].

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