updated 6/20/2012 10:50:18 AM ET 2012-06-20T14:50:18

On Friday (June 22) the movie " Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World " confronts our worst nightmare: death.

But it's worse than that; it's not only you. All of your friends, family and pets are going the way of the dinosaur.

This morbid scenario doesn't sound very funny -- death, after all, is as funny as taxes, both of which are the only two certainties in life (and both are deeply unfunny) -- so why is the comedic genius Steve Carell starring alongside Academy Award nominee Keira Knightly in what is being billed as a "doomsday comedy"?

DNews Review: 'Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World'

As strange as it may seem, there's humor in the end of the world. But there's also the inevitable depression, panic and mind-numbing chaos that would accompany a 70-mile wide asteroid (with the innocuous name of "Matilda") aimed right at our planet.

But the story of Dodge (Carell) and Penny (Knightly) who "find each other" days before doom is deftly told by director and writer Lorene Scafaria.

This isn't a trashy doomsday movie based upon the terribly flawed myth that the ancient Mayans foretold doom, nor is it an action-packed sci-fi movie featuring nukes, conspiracies and spaceships. It's a charming story about how the majority of us may (or may not) cope after all attempts to save the Earth have failed.

To understand the inspiration behind "Seeking A Friend," we caught up with Scafaria to talk about asteroids, Jake Gyllenhaal and one question: What would you do?

Like a "Pinball Machine"

"I've been thinking about these kinds of themes for so long and certainly there have been a rash of end of the world movies since the late 90s," Scafaria told Discovery News.

For her directorial debut, Scafaria was excited to tackle the story of "everyone else" who waits on the ground while the action-packed doomsday movie unfolds in space -- on the surface of a CGI comet, most likely -- headed by a very small number of chisel-jawed heroes. "The rest of us would be like in a pinball machine trying to figure out what to do with ourselves," she said.

By using Carell and Knightly, plus an excellent ensemble of down-to-earth characters, Scafaria was able to develop a chemistry between the cast so our story could be told.

"I was always more interested in the human relationships and the minutia of the people in the films, like 'The Day After Tomorrow' where I'm finding myself more invested in Jake Gyllenhaal's crush on a girl, not necessarily what was going to happen (to the planet)."

Not a Mayan Doomsday Movie

Although the release of "Seeking A Friend" coincides with the year the much-hyped Mayan "Long Count" calendar will run out -- a year doomsday crackpots seem to be inspired to write a crappy book to make a fast buck -- Scafaria insists that the release date was purely coincidental.

"I sold (the movie) as a pitch ... in 2008, so at the time I had no idea it would come out in 2012 and that we'd get to capitalize on the Mayan calendar as we did," she pointed out.

Wide Angle: Will the World End in 2012?

Interestingly, the movie is set in an undefined period of time, which could be the immediate future, the past, or some alternate (fantasy) timeline. "I always wanted to keep the date very vague of when the story was taking place," Scafaria said.

The only scene of the movie when a date does stray into shot is the expiration date on a bottle of cough syrup in Dodge's friends' bathroom. The year printed is 2011.

Human Contact

So if it's not the Mayans, what inspired Scafaria to write the story of Dodge and Penny (and a scruffy dog called Sorry)?

"I remember after 9/11 I'd moved from New York to LA a week before (the attacks) and I was grounded -- no one wanted me to get on a plane -- so I couldn't come home any time soon and I didn't know anyone where I was," Scafaria recalled.

"I became so desperate for that human contact. I found myself phoning up old friends I hadn't talked to and tried to find an ex-boyfriend!"

Scafaria observed that the impact of the World Trade Center terror attacks in 2001 had a global behavioral impact on individuals, including herself: "It wasn't like I'd lost somebody, but there I was trying to face my own mortality."

So in the movie, she wanted to ask the question: what would people do in the face of a global catastrophe?

"What of the movie begins with that sort of 'Armageddon' experiment failing. If all of that falls apart, how does the rest of the world handle it?"

Carrying On

Probably one of the more striking things about "Seeking A Friend" is the occasional glimpses of normality in the face of certain doom. People mow their lawns, others go to work; there seemed to be a basic human desire for the characters in the movie to hold onto something familiar.

SLIDE SHOW: Top 10 Ways to Stop an Asteroid

One prominent character through the movie is the TV news anchorman who -- despite his dwindling team at the TV station and increasingly unprofessional reporters -- keeps doing his job right until moments before impact.

Other characters, like Dodge, looked to the past to find an old love. "Yes, sex, drugs, rock and roll would definitely be on everyone's mind and I talked to a relative that said they'd search for a high school sweetheart, even though it was 40 years ago, and they're still on the person's mind," Scafaria said.

"Chasing the past seems like what the majority of people would do. I knew there would be a riot, I knew there would be an orgy and I figured that, although I didn't want to speak too religiously, that people would find God, people would lose God."

-- Director/Writer Lorene Scafaria

Ultimately, the movie's bare-bones is all about how people deal with the notion of death.

"I think that death is absurd." Scafaria exclaimed.

"As much as it's inevitable and a 'great equalizer' and something we all have to face, it's nuts! It's absolutely absurd that time stops ... and seeing how different people react to it and their coping mechanisms -- that's also absurd.

"Especially when everyone is facing their mortality at the same time is even more ridiculous -- society breaking down. There's a lot to take in I think."

Asteroid Impacts and Pink Floyd

Although the movie's harbinger of doom could be anything, Scafaria chose an extinction-sized asteroid impact as the way civilization should end. "I didn't want it to be war, nuclear war or something humanity brought upon itself -- I really had no interest in making a statement like that -- I wanted it to be celestial.

"As surreal as it seems, things like (an asteroid impact) are possible -- I follow NASA on Twitter and @AsteroidWatch -- I've always been fascinated with the idea that there's so much larger than anything humans can stop," she said.

Interestingly, Scafaria chose an asteroid 70-miles wide because she saw a video online depicting the global cataclysm that would result should something of that size hit our planet. And throughout the CGI carnage, Pink Floyd was the music of choice. "If you put Pink Floyd to (an asteroid hitting Earth), it becomes kinda beautiful!"

The ending of the movie is as certain as the beginning -- the end really is nigh. But the journey shared by Dodge and Penny is one of love -- two strangers finding common ground on a planet with an expiration date.

"I've certainly experienced death in my life and if someone you love is there (when you die), what more could you ask for, really?"

© 2012 Discovery Channel


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