Kevin Spacey Is the Rainforest, Julia Roberts is Mother Nature: Actors Play Nature in Environmental Shorts

When Hol­ly­wood’s for­mi­da­ble pro­mo­tion­al wing dis­cov­ered it could announce a movie by not just telling you a big star is in it, but that a big star is it, they had a decades-long field day with the idea that con­tin­ues, tire­some­ly, to the present moment. Right now, many of the bill­boards up around Los Ange­les insist upon telling me that “Keanu Reaves is John Wick,” but give it a few weeks and they’ll tell us some­one else we know is some­one else we don’t (unless, of course, we buy a tick­et). Con­ser­va­tion Inter­na­tion­al has tak­en this mar­ket­ing trope and spun it into a series of shorts fea­tur­ing “A‑list” actors, the most famous of the famous, play­ing the earth­ly enti­ties with which we should, per­haps, have more famil­iar­i­ty than we do. At the top of the post, Kevin Spacey is the rain­for­est. Just below, Julia Roberts is Moth­er Nature. At the bot­tom, Har­ri­son Ford is the ocean.

“I’m most of this plan­et,” Ford-as-ocean intones with his sig­na­ture (and increas­ing­ly gruff) gruff­ness. “I shaped it. Every stream, every cloud, and every rain­drop — it all comes back to me.” But as Moth­er Nature, Roberts makes impres­sive claims of her own: “I’ve been here for over four and a half bil­lion years — 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t real­ly need peo­ple, but peo­ple need me.” Not to be out­done, Kevin Spacey’s ever-giv­ing rain­for­est issues a chal­lenge to us all: “Humans, they’re so smart. So smart. Such big brains and oppos­able thumbs. They know how to make things — amaz­ing things. Now why would they need an old for­est like me any­more? Well, they do breathe air, and I make air. Have they thought about that?”

You can watch the entire series of films, enti­tled “Nature is Speak­ing,” on a sin­gle Youtube playlist. The rest of the line­up includes Edward Nor­ton as the soil, Pene­lope Cruz as water (o, hablan­do en español, como Agua), and Robert Red­ford as, suit­ably, the red­wood. (You can also see clips from behind the scenes fea­tur­ing Nor­ton and Ford assum­ing their ele­men­tal roles in the record­ing stu­dio.) They all com­bine this con­sid­er­able amount of vocal star pow­er with equal­ly strik­ing footage of the part of the envi­ron­ment from whom we hear, and some­times of its destruc­tion. They car­ry one over­all mes­sage, which Con­ver­sa­tion Inter­na­tion­al has unshy­ly spelled out: “Nature doesn’t need peo­ple. Peo­ple need nature.” Still, it comes off less heavy-hand­ed than most of the envi­ron­men­tal mes­sages I remem­ber from the films of my 1990s youth. If, for the next series, they get Reeves on board (speak­ing of pieces of my 90s youth), can they find a suit­ably laid-back ele­ment to pair him with? For more infor­ma­tion on the cam­paign, please vis­it the Nature is Speak­ing site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Envi­ron­ment & Nat­ur­al Resources: Free Online Cours­es

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Released as a Free eBook and Free Course on iTunes

Har­vard Thinks Green: Big Ideas from 6 All-Star Envi­ron­ment Profs

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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