“Don’t Look Up” actor confirms Elon Musk was inspiration for “dangerous” billionaire character

Credit: IMDB and SpaceX

There is a reason why the apocalyptic black comedy film Don’t Look Up is now being considered as one of the nominees for Best Picture in the 2022 Academy Awards. The movie’s message is timely, its satire is frighteningly realistic, and its characters are very compelling, from Leonardo DiCaprio’s exasperated Dr. Randall Mindy to Sir Mark Rylance’s dangerous billionaire tech CEO Peter Isherwell. 

Rylance’s performance as Isherwell is particularly noteworthy in the film, especially considering that the character was obviously based on the template of a tech billionaire. And in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Rylance confirmed that while he looked at CEOs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos for inspiration, his character Peter Isherwell is based in no small part on SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

According to the Academy Award-winning actor, individuals like Musk have very high-minded ideas about what they’re doing, and hence, they do not think that they are bad people at all. Rylance, however, warned that this is also what makes individuals like the Tesla and SpaceX CEO dangerous. 

“I looked at all those fellas. Maybe I should have gone down that more Californian, high-tech thing. But I went for something slightly different. I did read Elon Musk’s book — about half of it. But I certainly thought a lot about that mindset of men and technology being the greatest thing in the universe, that nothing else is a higher force, and anything that nature throws at us, we’ll deal with it. 

“They’re thinking they’re doing good — so there’s that scene where he gets upset when Leonardo’s character thinks he’s just a businessman. These people have very high-minded ideas about what they’re doing. They don’t think they’re bad people; quite the contrary. You get that impression from Elon Musk. They think they’re going to save humanity. I think they’re dangerous,” Rylance said. 

In the film, Isherwell was characterized as an influential businessman who has significant pull on the United States president. His tragic flaw was represented in his insistence to use experimental technology and rockets to address the movie’s main threat. Ultimately, Isherwell’s plan doomed the world, and it was thanks in no small part to the billionaire’s hubris. 

While the award-winning actor’s observations about Musk’s grandiose ideas about saving humanity may be true, Isherwell’s character in Don’t Look Up is ultimately a rather surface-level take on the SpaceX CEO. Musk, after all, tends to be very bold on his targets and ambitions, but he has rendered some serious results. This is quite true for SpaceX, which has brought back the capability to launch American astronauts from American soil to the United States with its Crew Dragon program. SpaceX was able to accomplish this by sheer hard work and caution, and that’s at least partly credited to Musk’s tenacity

Plus, anyone who’s followed Tesla news over the past couple of months would likely conclude that Musk does not necessarily have a lot of influence with people in power. US President Joe Biden would not have taken so long to say the word “Tesla” if that was the case, and the US would probably be looking into the implementation of a carbon tax if Musk really was that influential. 

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“Don’t Look Up” actor confirms Elon Musk was inspiration for “dangerous” billionaire character
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