Meryl Streep improvised the idea for Don’t Look Up’s mid-credits scene. The three-time Academy Award-winning actress stars in Adam McKay’s latest film as the chain smoking President of the United States, Janie Orlean, who is initially indifferent to the fact that a comet is hurling towards Earth, though later publicly recognizes the news in an attempt to divert attention away from a sex scandal. Jonah Hill stars as her son and sycophantic Chief of Staff, Jason Orlean. Don’t Look Up’s cast also includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, and Ariana Grande.
McKay’s third comedy-drama as a writer/director opens with Michigan State astronomy PhD candidate, Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence), discovering a near-Earth object. With the help of her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), they soon realize it is a comet that will collide with Earth in 6 months and cause an extinction-level event. For the rest of the film, Kate and Randall try to convince those in charge to take action and prevent it, to no avail. During a mid-credits scene, President Orlean and billionaire tech mogul, Peter Isherwell (Rylance), emerge from a cryo-chamber thousands of years later on an uncharted planet, where Streep’s character is promptly eaten alive by an unknown creature.
During an interview with Variety, McKay revealed that Streep actually improvised the idea for the movie’s mid-credits scene. Earlier on in the film, Orlean asks Isherwell how she’s going to die and, using a predictive algorithm, he tells her she will be eaten by a “brontaroc.” According to McKay, Streep improvised the question and it was his idea for her to be eaten by the creature. Afterwards, they decided to scrap the original mid-credits scene and shoot another one with the brontaroc. Read McKay’s explanation below:
We were shooting the scene with Rylance, Meryl and Jonah in the BASH control room for the second launch. I’m like, “We should play around. Why don’t you guys talk about something? You never know. It could show up.” And Meryl, who’s such a great improviser, says, “I want to know how I’m gonna die!” Mark, Meryl, and I kind of cleaned it up a little bit. I think every time we said the name of the creature, it changed — and the take we used was a brontaroc. And then after we shot it, I said, “That’s really funny. We should end with her getting eaten by a brontaroc!”
McKay encouraged his ensemble cast to improvise all throughout the production process. He previously revealed that the Oval Office scene was the result of DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep and Hill improvising for two days. It would be difficult to conceive of a better scene to perfectly showcase what Don’t Look Up’s incredible cast has to offer.
Based on McKay’s recent comments, it seems the movie’s mid-credits scene was not that much different than the scene in the Oval Office in terms of how it came together. Both were collaborative, on-the-fly efforts efforts by McKay, Streep, and other actors. Perhaps some of Don’t Look Up’s cast will receive additional recognition this awards season.