Movies & TV

Jonah Hill and Meryl Streep Looked to the Trumps for Don't Look Up

"She's like crying laughing, and then I'm crying laughing," said Hill. "It was like at school where you're not supposed to laugh."
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Jason Orlean is never without his Birkin bag. Not in the Oval Office, not at any campaign rallies, not at the end of the world. In director Adam McKay’s new climate change disaster comedy, Don't Look Up, now streaming on Netflix, Jonah Hill brings the ridiculous character to life, playing the First Son and chief of staff (nepotism, baby!) to Meryl Streep’s President Orlean, a narcissistic, ridiculous leader of the free world.

When PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her advisor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) warn the government of an incoming comet large enough to wipe out earth’s population, the Orlean administration brushes them aside in favor of the, to them, more pressing midterm elections and Supreme Court scandals. All the while, Jason has his designer bag by his side—a choice that the actor says he made for the character himself.

“Since I was a son and I worshiped my mother, the first thing I said to Susan Matheson, the costume designer, was ‘I want to have a Birkin bag,’” Hill said during a cast Q&A in New York in December. “Because he worships the feminine, right? His idol is the feminine.”

Jason Orlean is never without his Birkin.
Photo by NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX.
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But Hill also cited some real-life inspiration for the president/offspring dynamic he and Streep created for their characters. “At the time,” he said, “there was a political figure who I won't name who perhaps had an inappropriate sexualization of their daughter. Right? So I was like Meryl, I have this idea, let’s try it out and see what the bond is.”

Hill flipped that dynamic on its head, playing President Orlean’s son as a doting public servant with a curious habit of always being the first to point out in public his mother's hotness. While it makes for great comedy in the film, it didn’t help Meryl stay in character. “Everything he said—and he's not saying anything that's in the script that I saw the night before—everything he did made me laugh,” Streep responded. “I just have no control.”

“She's like crying laughing, and then I'm crying laughing,” Hill said. “It was like at school where you're not supposed to laugh. We were bad, bad vibes.”

“Everything he said—and he’s not saying anything that’s in the script that I saw the night before—everything he did made me laugh,” said Streep.
Photo by NIKO TAVERNISE.
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In the movie, the Orlean administration eventually turns to Mark Rylance’s Peter Isherwell to save the day. Isherwell is an Elon Musk-esque tech billionaire who believes his company should mine the comet for valuable metals and create jobs on Earth instead of destroying it before it wipes out civilization. It (spoiler alert!) doesn't turn out to be the best plan.

And like McKay’s film as a whole, the Orlean administration paints a hilarious portrait of a world that feels all too familiar.

FromEsquire US

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Lauren Kranc
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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