How A Worcester Actor Became Meryl Streep In 'Don't Look Up'

·9 min read

WORCESTER, MA — Worcester native and actor Lin Hult has had a varied career in entertainment — everything from roles in movies such as "Free Guy" to theater productions and King Richard's New England Renaissance Faire.

But Hult's role in the new Netflix movie "Don't Look Up" — a satire about climate change from director Adam McKay — literally gave Hult her most exposure yet.

Hult's main role in the film was as a body double for Meryl Streep, who plays the Trump-like asteroid-denying President Janie Orlean. (Spoilers ahead!)

In the film's closing scene, Hult-as-Streep steps nude off a spaceship onto an alien planet and has a violent encounter with a brontoroc. (That last sentence will make a lot more sense if you watch the movie.) The international press has made hay of the scene — ironic, because a main theme in the movie is the moronic superficiality of the news media.

Born and raised in Worcester, Hult began her acting career while working at the New England Repertory Theatre. She has performed at the The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts, at First Night in Boston and in her own show, "Magic in Motion."

She began acting in TV and film roles about seven years ago, putting together a resume that includes the Whitey Bulger movie "Black Mass," the Hulu series "Castle Rock" — and the Adam Sandler comedy "Hubie Halloween," which was filmed entirely in and around Salem.

Hult spoke to Patch about her experience on "Don't Look Up" and her interactions with Streep and McKay, who spent part of his childhood in Worcester.

How did you land the "Don't Look Up" role?

A casting director from Los Angeles, Judy Bouley, reached out to me regarding this film coming to town. She explained the concept, that Adam McKay was directing it and asked if I would be interested in working on it.

From there, for the body double, it was a matter of submitting several sets of photos from various angles. We had a few interviews on Zoom and then more photos indicating measurements of back, waist, hips, etc. Shortly after, she gave me the news that I had been approved and selected by Ms. Streep for the role.

Did you ever think you'd be doubling for Meryl Streep? Was this something you always thought you could do, or did it only come about because of the movie?

LOL. I never thought about it nor dreamed of it, no. I never thought I would do half of the things that I have done in my life, but it seems that one thing always leads to another. It’s been a fun journey! I had done stand-in for Meryl on"Little Women" for a few days. She would leave the set, and they called the second team to step in, that was the time I would go to take her place on set, so our paths never directly crossed.

Did you get a chance to spend a lot of time with Streep? What was that like?

The only time that I spent with Meryl was on set. When I worked as a White House staffer [in the film], there was no conversation. It was just a matter of all actors getting into place and waiting for direction and the "rolling" to remove and hide the [COVID-19 personal protective equipment] before "action."

When I worked as her body double, it was a closed set, meaning no monitors except for the director’s. I was brought onto the set, introduced myself, and she showed me where she had walked and what she had done in the scene so that I could recreate her actions. I accomplished it in only two takes, which was quite amazing considering I was a bit caught up in self-consciousness and distracted by the circumstances.

Of course, I was absolutely honored that she chose me to represent her character in this scene. And at the same, I was quivering in my merkin due in all part to the fact that I was so uncomfortable being nearly naked. After the second take I got a "good job, Lin" from Adam over the speaker. I gave him two thumbs up, retrieved my bathrobe, shared a smile with Mark Rylance, and spoke briefly with the intimacy coordinator (assigned due to the lack of clothing) before leaving.

How did working on "Don't Look Up" compare to other acting experiences you've had?

Working on "Don't Look Up" was incomparable to any other acting experiences I have had. The fact that we did this in the middle of a pandemic, under COVID-19 restrictions, we were wearing PPE (masks and shields) up until the moment the camera was rolling. I was sequestered by Netflix for the month of December in a hotel suite in Canton.

The only time I was allowed to leave my suite was to go for COVID-19 test every three days or to go to set. Food had to be delivered. I left my gas tank door open in the parking lot, and Netflix had a truck that would come to fill the tank with gas. We had no social interaction other than on Zoom.

We worked right through Christmas. I did stand-in for Cate Blanchett a few days and nights for the situation room scene. As a stand-in, you are second team, and allowed to watch the first team (lead actors) rehearse as you need to recreate what they did for lighting and camera angle purposes. So my Christmas Eve was spent watching Meryl, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett and company work on that scene.

"Don't Look Up" director Adam McKay lived in Worcester as a kid. Did you get to talk to him about living here?

I wish I had that opportunity, but I did not. On a feature film set such as this there’s a seeming army of people — sound, lighting, wardrobe, assistant directors, production assistants, equipment, moving walls, lights, wires and camera tracks, taking measurements, all working together to set up for each shot. There’s really no time to chat. All the focus is on the task at hand.

I was introduced to Adam briefly in video village (a tent set up separately from the set that has equipment and monitors in it) on the way to set. I was able to say "hello" and "thank you." But other than that, he was in video village where he would watch and direct the actors and monitor what the cinematographer captures. When Adam spoke, his direction and comments would come through speakers that were placed in the room where the filming was being done.

Your role in the film helps wrap up Streep's character in a pretty shocking way. How did you think the scene turned out?

Ha ha, yes, "wraps up" is an understatement. I feel that fantastical scene did a great job of driving home the cautionary message of the film in a whimsical way — if scientific realities continue to be ignored/deflected by the industry, the government and the media, there will not be a happy ending. Although those with sufficient power and wealth were able to buy a seat on the spaceship to escape immediate destruction on Earth, in the end their authority and affluence was not able to save them. In the end, the global climate crisis affects us all.

Plus, on a superficial note, that scene seems to be very popular with the media and the public given all the press it’s been receiving internationally. And the level of controversy over the Guns N' Roses tattoo on President Orlean’s lower back is pretty hysterical.

And now you're dealing with some internet fame due to your appearance in the movie. Is that kind of weird, or is it fun?

It’s a bit of both! The fact alone that one’s backside is front and center in one of Netflix’s record-setting, most-watched films ever, with over 152.2 million hours of viewership in one week, is very strange on its own. In addition, the magazine and newspaper articles in which the tattoo is the subject of controversy adds yet another layer of surrealism (i.e., the U.K. Mirror and New Yorker articles with regard to Leo being opposed to the scene out of respect for Streep). And to watch the news travel about the world, Ireland, Finland, etc., and to read the conversations on Twitter and seeing the memes with my buttocks floating around the internet on Facebook and Instagram.

It’s both amusing and odd. It's also an accurate, real life example of what the film is presenting — how the superficiality of the news (in this instance, supposedly Streep’s buttocks with a tattoo) hits the media and distracts society from obviously more significant matters. I do feel that "Don't Look Up" is Adam’s most brilliant work thus far, clearly and entertainingly illustrating just how well over-the-top satire can blend — almost seamlessly — with reality, and I am totally honored to have played a part in bringing it to life.

Any upcoming movies or other projects we can catch you in?

Yes, I recently finished working on an educational period piece called "Lightkeepers," which tells the story of two young sisters who save their Northeast village from British invasion in the 1800s. I play grandmother Rebecca Bates in this film, which was written and directed by Dante D’Amore, filmed at the Daniel Webster Estate in Marshfield, and is now in post-production and should be released this summer.

And just this week, I accepted the role of Catherine Greig, James "Whitey" Bulger's girlfriend, in "Saints, Sinners and Serial Killers," a multimedia staged theatrical performance, written by New York Times bestselling authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. It'll premiere at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston on April 20.

To see more of Lin Hult's work, check out her IMDB page. "Don't Look Up" is streaming now on Netflix.

This article originally appeared on the Worcester Patch