Director McKay Gives ‘Don’t Look Up’ To Climate Activists

Director McKay Gives ‘Don’t Look Up’ To Climate Activists

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In director Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” a 2021 satire about two scientists who try in vain to warn the world about a planet-destroying comet, scientists’ desperate call to action ultimately fails not working.

But don’t take this as McKay’s take on the power of activism to change the course of the climate crisis, the existential threat to his film.

McKay on Tuesday plans to announce a $4 million donation to the Climate Emergency Fund, an organization dedicated to getting money into the hands of activists participating in protests urging faster, more aggressive climate action. It is the largest donation the fund has received since it began in 2019 and McKay’s largest personal gift. He joined the organization’s board of directors in August.

Climate change is “extremely concerning, extremely scary, and it’s quickly becoming the only thing I think about on a daily basis, even when I’m writing and directing or producing,” McKay said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

From the overthrow of monarchies to labor movements and the Civil Rights Era, activism is an “incredibly kinetic, powerful, transformative” force that has created change throughout history, he said.

The Emergency Climate Fund has awarded $7 million to organizations that support mostly volunteer climate activists around the world. These activists have done everything from marching through the streets of France to urge people to “look up” — a reference to McKay’s film — to demonstrating on the water near West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s boat for need for federal climate legislation.

The fund’s goal is to provide a bridge for more traditional wealthy donors with activists who want to make a statement — two groups that don’t always see eye to eye, said Margaret Klein Salamon, the fund’s executive director and a clinical psychologist.

As for the ending of “Don’t Look Up,” Salamon said it was a “significant psychological, cultural intervention” that put the stakes of the climate battle into stark display.

McKay, for his part, said he was hesitant to cast any direct action in his film. But he sees both the film and the disruptive protest as actions that change culture, which can be an important step in influencing policy. The film, he said, sparked an incredible response around the world from ordinary viewers and scientists who have been campaigning for climate action for decades.

“It was really beautiful to see people who have been fighting this race for a lot longer than I really feel like I see,” he said.

McKay, 54, began his career writing comedy and became known for films such as “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers.” In recent years, his work has taken on a more political tone, although it is still in the realm of comedy – albeit a dark one. He wrote and directed “The Big Short,” about the 2008 financial meltdown, and “Vice,” about the influence of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and is the executive producer of “Succession,” the TV show about a media mogul and his children who want to take over the company.

He says his own climate awakening came several years ago when he read an International Panel on Climate Change report that highlighted the huge differences that would result if the planet warmed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) instead of 1. 5 points (2.7 points). Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It was the moment, he said, that he went from someone who was concerned about climate change to someone who saw it as a “hair on fire” situation.

Over the years, the situation has become more dire, he said, pointing to the drying up of the Colorado River, flooding in Pakistan and the summer heatwave in Europe as evidence that action is urgent.

“I really believe, without any exaggeration, scientifically speaking, this is the biggest challenge, story, threat, in human history,” he said.


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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