IT PAYS TO BE A jack of all trades. While Barack and Michelle Obama were never going to descend into obscurity after leaving the White House in 2017, the former President and First Lady of the United States are staying in the spotlight in a way that not many would have predicted. The pair have branched out into the film industry, and our first look into their upcoming project has finally arrived.
Leave the World Behind will be the first fictional film released by the Obamas’ production company, and both are credited as executive producers for the film. With a star-studded cast, high stakes, and a Presidential backing, Leave the World Behind promises a gripping exploration of one of our deepest fears: cyberattack induced mayhem.
Below, find everything you need to know about Leave the World Behind—including when it’ll be hitting screens, and how heavily the Obamas have been involved with the project.
What is Leave the World Behind about?
Leave the World Behind is based on a book of the same name by Rumaan Alam. The book was released in 2020, which seems fitting, as that year provided ample time for the imagining of apocalyptic scenarios.
It’s not being labelled a thriller for nothing. Leave the World Behind will include plenty of the apocalyptic doom and gloom that’s expected of the genre. Although, the narrative will be less concerned with what’s going on in the outside world—as is usually the case with apocalyptic films—and more concerned with the tumultuous relationships of its leading characters, who are forced to co-exist within the confines of a luxurious Long Island holiday home while all hell breaks loose outside—which doesn’t sound all that bad if we’re being honest, it might even be the key to reducing our screen time.
Focusing on a couple enjoying a weekend away with their family, Leave the World Behind will follow their idyllic Long Island sabbatical, which is interrupted by the sudden arrival of their rented holiday home’s owner. Oh, and the threat of the apocalypse—we’ll let you decide which is worse.
Amidst a nationwide cyberattack, the technology we have become so completely dependent on fails, and the quarrelling families must put their differences aside to ensure their own survival, as chaos ensues. Leave the World Behind ticks all of the apocalyptic thriller boxes, and with the Obamas lending some extent of filmmaking expertise, it’s certain to generate interest.
Who stars in Leave the World Behind?
Joining the Obamas in the executive department is director Sam Esmail, who previously rose to prominence as the creator of hit series Mr. Robot. With plenty of star power working behind the scenes, Leave the World Behind also has a hefty helping of talent in front of the camera.
Playing the unlucky couple who wanted nothing more than a calming weekend immersed in the serene environs of Long Island are industry veterans, Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke. Interrupting that dream like a weekend phone call from your boss is Mahershala Ali—who won best supporting actor Oscars for both Moonlight and Green Book—showing up unannounced and seeking refuge from the gathering storm.
A-lister Kevin Bacon also has a role, featuring as a conspiracy-inclined doomsday prepper, who obviously saw the events of the film coming.
Absent from Leave the World Behind is Denzel Washington, who was originally cast in Mahershala Ali’s role but was replaced before filming began after a clashing production schedule with The Equalizer 3 was deemed a deal-breaker.
How are the Obamas involved in Leave the World Behind?
Barack and Michelle Obama are credited as executive producers for Leave the World Behind, and the film is being produced by Higher Ground Productions, a company the former POTUS and FLOTUS founded in 2018. Leave the World Behind isn’t the first film released by the company, having previously distributed kids shows, documentaries and biographical dramas—including Rustin, which is expected to garner awards season attention—but it is their first venture into fiction.
It isn’t known exactly how hands on the Obamas involvement in Leave the World Behind is, but we’d expect the couple have considerable input in regard to what goes on at their company. After all, Barack included the novel Leave the World Behind is based on in his 2021 reading list. Maybe the film was even his idea.
When does Leave the World Behind come out?
Leave the World Behind is receiving a limited-time-only theatrical release on November 22nd before coming to Netflix on December 8th. That’s right around the corner, so get your popcorn—and in case you want to take notes to prepare for a similar apocalyptic scenario, your notebook—ready.