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Why Leonardo DiCaprio Fought Against Meryl Streep’s Don’t Look Up Nude Scene

Audiences seemed to spend the holiday break catching up on movies that recently reached either theaters (look at those Spider-Man: No Way Home box office numbers) or a popular streaming service. And one of the more popular movies, based on social media reaction, was Adam McKay’s doomsday comedy Don’t Look Up, which has our global community reacting – or, better yet, not reacting – to the threat of a comet heading right towards our planet. Jonah Hill is getting all sorts of raves for playing the clueless and arrogant son of the U.S. President (Meryl Streep), while Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio are hearing their names in the awards race. And then there is Streep’s unexpected nude scene, which DiCaprio opposed.

From here on out, we’re going to get into mild spoilers for Don’t Look Up, so bail out now if you don’t want to know where the dark comedy is heading, and where it ends up.

By the end of Don’t Look Up, efforts to stop the comet have failed. A doomed global society drowns their sorrows, fires guns at the comet, or gathers around a dinner table with loved ones, enjoying their final minutes. But the wealthiest escape in a spaceship, expecting to wake up on a safe planet light years away. They do, and the survivors emerge from pods as naked as the day they were born. We do see Meryl Streep’s president surveying the landscape, and Leonardo DiCaprio pushed back on including even one shot. As Adam McKay tells The Guardian:

She is fearless. And yes, that is a body double. But you know who had a problem with it? Leo [DiCaprio]. Leo just views Meryl as film royalty … although maybe royalty is not a compliment … but as such a special figure in the history of film. He didn’t like seeing her with the lower back tattoo, walking for a second naked. He said something to me like: ‘Do you really need to show that?’ And I was like: ‘It’s President Orlean; it’s not Meryl Streep.’ But she didn’t even blink. She didn’t even bring it up.

Of course she went with it. There’s very little in this world that Meryl Streep can’t or won’t do in the name of a character. It’s why she’s our most-celebrated Hollywood performer, and as Leo DiCaprio says, should be treated like royalty. To a certain extent, I understand exactly what he is saying. A lower-back tattoo on Streep is uncouth. But also, as McKay points out, this is a character, and one that likely would have some lower back “art” from her pre-presidential days. In context, it made all the sense in the world. 

Don’t Look Up is a bizarre comedy. To me, the satire hit far too close to home, and while Adam McKay viewed it as his response to our planet’s ignoring of the climate change dilemma, I substituted “COVID” for “comet” and the doomsday scenario fit just as well. It didn’t make me laugh. It made me terrified for how far we have fallen as a society. By the end of the movie, a tattoo on Meryl Streep was the last thing I was thinking about. DiCaprio’s just a better man than I am, in the long run.   

Sean O'Connell

Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.