Movie stars quarantined in their hotels for weeks at a time. Technicians no longer able to hang around the craft services table during breaks. Dozens of extras, all of whom must be virus-free before they arrive on set.
Even as COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, movies and TV shows are continuing to film across the state. Already this fall, the state has hosted production of the sci-fi movie “Mother/Android” starring Chloe Grace Moretz; the AMC comedy “Kevin Can F*** Himself” starring “Schitt’s Creek” actress Annie Murphy; an HBO Max pilot about the life of Julia Child called “Julia”; and the horror movie “Shrine.”
Amid warnings from local authorities and the CDC about large gatherings, the biggest movie to film in the Boston area this year, the Netflix comedy “Don’t Look Up,” officially kicked off production last week, with a set photo showing off the movie’s silhouetted logo.
Directed by Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Anchorman”) and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and seemingly half of Hollywood, “Don’t Look Up” was originally set to begin filming in April, but is now attempting to make movie magic during the fall and winter months.
Details about the film are being kept very hush-hush at the moment, but here’s everything we know so far about “Don’t Look Up.”
What is the plot of “Don’t Look Up”?
Lawrence and DiCaprio play a pair of astronomers who discover that an asteroid is on a collision course for Earth. When they begin to speak publicly about the imminent danger, they find that no one will take their dire warnings of impending doom seriously.
McKay acknowledged the timeliness of the film’s end-of-days plot in a March interview with Rolling Stone.
“We were scouting a new movie in Boston when this whole coronavirus thing hit,” McKay said. “And the movie is about an asteroid that’s gonna hit Earth and destroy the Earth, and the two scientists who discovered it. … The whole idea is that the president doesn’t understand the science and kind of soft-sells it and the urgency is kind of lost. And so these two scientists have to go on a media tour and kind of get caught up in the social media vortex and TV shows, and they’re just trying to say that, ‘Hey, we’re all gonna die.’”
What stars will be in the movie?
Saying that half of Hollywood is in “Don’t Look Up” is only half exaggeration. Along with Lawrence and DiCaprio, “Don’t Look Up” will also star Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Himesh Patel, and Timothée Chalamet. Pop star Ariana Grande, rapper Kid Cudi, and actors Matthew Perry and Tomer Sisley will also be making appearances. Stars Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, and Melanie Lynskey were also revealed to have joined the cast late last week.
Given differing shooting schedules, some actors may not be in Boston yet. (DiCaprio, for example, was spotted on the beach in LA with actor pal Emile Hirsch on Nov. 6.) But others have made their presence in Boston known: Lawrence took to the streets earlier this month, tweeting a video after she decided to “throw a party for 1” celebrating Joe Biden’s victory.
Where is “Don’t Look Up” being filmed?
Producers are keeping filming locations as secret as possible amid COVID concerns. That said, crews will be visiting multiple municipalities during the shoot — including some that are well outside of Boston, including Framingham — and production is expected to continue through at least February 2021.
How is the film set staying COVID-safe?
A film set for a major motion picture usually requires hundreds of people. With a rumored budget of around $75 million, “Don’t Look Up” is no different. In an attempt to prevent outbreaks, films like “Don’t Look Up” rely on a COVID compliance consultants, a new role that has sprung up on sets as Hollywood resumes work worldwide.
Jamieson Shea, a New England film professional who is also a firefighter and paramedic, is working as a health and safety consultant on “Don’t Look Up.” Shea previously helped to develop and initiate the COVID compliance plan for Netflix’s “The Cape House,” a small-budget movie that filmed in October and November, and worked as a consultant on Miramax’s “Mother/Android,” which started production in September and wrapped in November.
“It’s almost like the bubbles that they’ve created for these productions, it doesn’t matter what’s going on really in the outside world outside of that bubble, because we’re so isolated and so protected,” Shea told the podcast. “It’s kind of a great thing to see happen.”
Can I still audition for a role in the movie?
Earlier this fall, casting director Judy Bouley put out a call for extras for a Netflix film, seeking “people of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities to potentially work as paid background actors.”
Even during a pandemic, the response was immediate, with tens of thousands of aspiring actors applying. While Bouley could not confirm that the name of the project she was casting for, she said her casting team is “thrilled” with the 28,000 submissions they received for the film.
“Everything is going wonderfully on the movie, and I’m so grateful to be filming in Boston,” Bouley said. “We are at full capacity now with our applications. For those of you who have applied, please be patient. The casting department will be casting throughout the middle of February.”