The director of an upcoming Netflix disaster movie has shared how Barack Obama influenced its production, and even sent him script notes.
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The first fictional movie to come from former US president Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Productions, is set to release on Netflix in December. Leave The World Behind, starring Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke, is based on a 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam and is directed by Sam Esmail.
Mahershela Ali as G.H., Myha’la Herrold as Ruth, Julia Roberts as Amanda and Ethan Hawke as Clay
CREDIT: JoJo Whilden/Netflix
However, it seems the former President has had more influence on the production than we might expect, with Esmail sharing that Obama actually suggested script notes for the new Netflix movie. According to Vanity Fair, Esmail said, “In the original drafts of the script, I definitely pushed things a lot farther than they were in the film, and President Obama, having the experience he does have, was able to ground me a little bit on how things might unfold in reality.”
The novel on which the movie is based was featured in Obama’s 2021 summer reading list, and Esmail shared that his appreciation of the book certainly influenced his role in the production of the movie.
“He had a lot notes about the characters and the empathy we would have for them,” Esmail said. He was giving notes as a fan of the book, and he wanted to see a really good film.”
Barack and Michelle Obama, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty
And Obama’s comments clearly didn’t go without impact. Esmail shared, “To hear an ex-president say you’re off by a few details… I thought I was off by a lot! The fact that he said that scared the fuck out of me.”
The movie, which will also star Mahershala Ali, tells the story of a couple who are impacted by a catastrophic disaster while on vacation, and their experience seeking refuge with another family. Leave The World Behind will have its world premiere in October at AFI Fest, and will stream on Netflix from December 8.