Netflix’s upcoming disaster movie “Leave the World Behind,” based on the 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, marks the first fictional movie from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions company. Barack included the novel on his 2021 summer reading list and was personally invested in perfecting the film adaptation, so much so that he sent script notes to writer-director Sam Esmail (best known as the creator of “Mr. Robot” and “Homecoming”).
“Leave the World Behind” stars Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as a couple vacationing in Long Island when a world-threatening disaster takes place. Mahershala Ali plays the owner of the home the couple is renting. The owner shows up seeking refugee from the disaster with his daughter (Myha’la Herrold), forcing the two families to trust each other as the world potentially comes to an end.
“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,” Esmail recently told Vanity Fair about the script notes he received from the former President. “I am writing what I think is fiction, for the most part, I’m trying to keep it as true to life as possible, but I’m exaggerating and dramatizing. And 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.”
Per Vanity Fair: “The filmmaker was more reassured when the Obamas suggested some of his potential plot points were too bleak or unlikely. Most of the former commander in chief’s notes, however, stemmed from what he’d observed about human nature, particularly the way fissures form between people who might otherwise find common cause.”