Since concluding his presidency in 2017, Barack Obama has taken up a few hobbies. He’s written a bestselling memoir, signed a deal with Netflix to produce films and television series, and created Higher Ground, a production company co-led by his wife, Michelle. His latest gig? Providing notes on Sam Esmail’s latest film, Leave the World Behind.
The movie, which is out now on Netflix, follows two families who are forced to work together amid a nationwide blackout. Leave the World Behind is based on Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name. The film adaptation stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la Herrold, Mahershala Ali, and Kevin Bacon. While writing the script, Esmail consulted Obama, hoping that his perspective would “ground” the story and make it more realistic.
According to Esmail, Obama thought the script was fairly close to how a crisis would actually pan out in the real world. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the director reflected on what it was like to receive that feedback. “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 dramatising,” he said. “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.”
The former president and first lady signed on to executive produce Leave The World Behind last year. As part of the deal, Obama was able to share his perspective on the events that unfolded on screen. “He had a lot [of] notes about the characters and the empathy we would have for them,” Esmail said. “I have to say he is a big movie lover, and he wasn’t just giving notes about things that were from his background. He was giving notes as a fan of the book and he wanted to see a really good film.”