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Barack Obama terrified the director of this Julia Roberts movie

Leave the World Behind was one of the most divisive movies last year on Netflix, bringing together Julia Roberts and big-name exec producer Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is an executive producer on the new Julia Roberts movie Leave the World Behind

You’d think that directing a star as big as Julia Roberts would be the most nerve-wracking thing for a filmmaker to take on. However, the director of Netflix thriller Leave the World Behind, Sam Esmail, had an even more intimidating name on his speed dial in the shape of his executive producer: former US president Barack Obama. Now that’s pressure.

Leave the World Behind starred Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as a couple who head off for a secluded vacation on Long Island, only for strangers (Mahersahala Ali and Myha’la Herrold) to turn up bringing news of a mysterious blackout. It’s aiming to be one of the best movies based on books, adapting a story Obama included on his 2021 summer reading list.

Esmail told Vanity Fair that Obama was very much an active presence behind the scenes and had some considered opinions on what should happen with one of the latest new movies from his company, Higher Ground Productions. It’s fair to say that Esmail was scared to be dealing with someone so influential.

He said: “In the original drafts of the script, I definitely pushed things a lot farther than they were in the film, and President Obama, having the experience he does have, was able to ground me a little bit on how things might unfold in reality.

“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 dramatizing. 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.”

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Being such a fan of the book, Obama was keen to ensure that the film was true to the original story and was as grounded in reality as possible. After all, he has his fair share of experience when it comes to managing complex crises.

Roberts, of course, is a big draw for subscribers to check out the movie. If you want to know more about her, find out how George Clooney bribed Julia Roberts into a rom-com and learn why Julia Roberts doesn’t regret turning down this classic rom-com.