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David Sirota is many things: a celebrated journalist and columnist; a political adviser, having worked on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign as a senior adviser and speechwriter; and, as of this morning, an Oscar nominee. Sirota has been recognized alongside Adam McKay in the best original screenplay category for the climate catastrophe satire Don’t Look Up.
McKay told The Hollywood Reporter in December that he’d wanted to write a movie addressing climate change, but had been struggling to conceive a workable premise. Three years ago, his friend Sirota gave him the idea for the Netflix film, which tells the story of how an asteroid hurtling toward Earth is ignored by politicians and society in favor of profit and campaigning. “David made a comment about how [the climate crisis was like] an asteroid [about] to hit the planet and no one cares — and it was perfect,” McKay explained. “I liked it because it could be funny too, and it’s a big, clear idea that a lot of people can enter. That was it.”
Sirota’s comment had been prompted by irritation at the lack of media coverage concerning the ongoing climate crisis, views he presumably shared with his former employer on the campaign trail. Outside of his advisory role with Sanders, his journalism career extends back for decades. He’s the founder of The Daily Poster, and currently serves as a columnist for The Guardian and an editor-at-large for Jacobin magazine. He created the financial crisis podcast Meltdown and appeared as himself in the TV miniseries The ‘80s: The Decade That Made Us and The ‘90s Greatest.
Don’t Look Up is McKay’s third Oscar-recognized film, also nominated for best picture, best original score and best editing, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. His two most recent prior movies, 2018’s Vice and 2015’s The Big Short, each landed directing and writing nominations, with the former also securing a best picture nom and the latter an adapted screenplay win.
Before moving into awards fare, McKay was known for directing comedy classics like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Stepbrothers. He’s also an Emmy winner for executive producing Succession and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All In The Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ and a multiple nominee for his work on shows like Dead to Me, Drunk History and Saturday Night Live.
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