‘Don’t Look Up’: Meryl Streep Improvised Over 20 ‘Gobsmacking’ Takes of the Oval Office Phone Call Scene

Don’t Look Up showed a whole new side of Meryl Streep. Critics and audiences praise the actor for her dramatic roles, but she doesn’t get as many opportunities to explore her comedic side. Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up gave Streep the chance to dig into a whole new kind of role. Here’s a look at the outtakes that she did for the hilarious Oval Office scene.

Meryl Streep plays President Orlean in ‘Don’t Look Up’

Don't Look Up's Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean in the Oval Office wearing a red suit
Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean | Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Don’t Look Up follows Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a Ph.D. student named Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) after they discover a comet hurtling to Earth. They immediately take this information to the necessary authorities, but they don’t anticipate that they won’t be taken seriously. As a result, they launch a media tour to warn the world about their impending doom.

Streep plays President Orlean in Don’t Look Up. The character is a parody of politicians who brush off the global climate crisis. She borrows traits from different politicians to bring this ridiculous character to life. And she still delivers the level of performance that audiences have come to expect from her.

Meryl Streep improvised over 20 ‘gobsmacking’ takes of the hilarious Oval Office phone call scene

The Netflix Film Club YouTube channel released Streep’s Don’t Look Up improvisation outtakes. McKay introduces the video about the legendary actor’s outtakes. He explained how Streep is a “gobsmackingly good improviser,” which she did throughout the movie. McKay said he once asked Streep whether she’s trained in improv, momentarily forgetting all that she brings to a project.

“The scene that we were all excited about was the first Oval Office scene,” McKay said. “Every single take we did with Meryl, she improvised a different phone call at the head of the scene that she was hanging up on. It was kind of a tour de force of improv that I’ve never seen before.”

McKay continued: “I’m not exaggerating. She did 20 to 25 completely different absurd phone calls.”

The video above shows the actual footage that didn’t make it into the final cut. Here are some examples:

  • “You know my son is older than you.”
  • “You don’t want implants. I know I had them, but I had them taken out.”
  • “Look, that’s like a look that’s over. That look is over. You don’t look like a porn star anymore.”
  • “Secret Service cleared the restaurant. We were the only ones in there, and they couldn’t make it the way they like it. No. When I say ‘rare,’ I don’t mean bloody. I don’t want the wait staff seeing the president eating. … OK, I gotta go.”
  • “You want to be a secret servant? Secret Service? Oh! Yeah. Well, I’ve got all these guys.”
  • “The results are what? Oh, no. Do I have to take an antibiotic again?”
  • “How many partners? Are you judging me?”
  • “I’m the President of the United States, you f***.”

McKay further explained that Streep never repeated any of the same jokes in her Don’t Look Up improv.

‘Don’t Look Up’ made it to the Oscars

Don’t Look Up made it all the way to the 2022 Oscars, but Streep didn’t earn a nomination. The film earned four nominations but didn’t win any of its categories. McKay’s comedy got nominations for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music (Original Score), and Best Original Screenplay.

Streep certainly elevated the material in Don’t Look Up. She’s always a marvelous addition to any cast, but she was able to deliver something totally different this time around. Streep once again proved that she’s a chameleon of sorts, blending in with any genre she digs her teeth into.

RELATED: ‘Don’t Look Up’ Movie Review: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence Find Enough Chuckle-Humor in Climate Crisis Satire