Why the Red Hydrogen One phone shows up in movies like F9 and Netflix’s Don’t Look Up

Why the Red Hydrogen One phone shows up in movies like F9 and Netflix’s Don’t Look Up
Don't Look Up Netflix

Of all the phones Leonardo DiCaprio could be holding, it’s odd that the Red Hydrogen phone is the one popping up in Don’t Look Up.

Niko Tavernise/Netflix

The new Netflix film Don’t Look Up is filled with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry. But taking up some of the glittery screen time of Adam McKay’s satire about the end of the world is the weird 2017 Red Hydrogen One phone. 

It’s used by Leo and J-Law and sold as the Bash phone by the character Sir Peter Isherwell, played masterfully by Mark Rylance, who feels like he just wandered offstage from delivering a keynote in Silicon Valley.


The Red Hydrogen One is a hefty phone that did not pick up much traction when it was first released.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Don’t Look Up is the second 2021 film to feature the failed 3D screen phone. The Red phone was used by several characters in Fast and Furious 9 and even mounted on Dominic Toretto’s dashboard. But all of these prominent big-screen appearances aren’t the result of savvy product placement. The fact is you can’t buy the $1,300 Hydrogen One. So what’s going on here?

On CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast I asked McKay about the phone being in Don’t Look Up. Turns out, the film’s prop master/SoCal ex-punk rocker, Michael Bates, introduced the phone to McKay.

“I remember asking him early on like, ‘Michael, how are we going to have a phone that doesn’t just look like your standard phones that are out there?'” said McKay. “And he goes, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it,’ And then he comes back with that phone. He goes, ‘This is a whole cellphone that Red cam made. They never released it. Check it out.’ And I started playing with it. I was like, ‘Why didn’t they release this? This is incredible.’ But apparently it’s technically not consumer-friendly.”

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The Red Hydrogen One, despite its mediocre cameras that could film 4V videos (Red’s branding for 3D), looked like no other phone at the time. It has scalloped edges modeled after the lens mount lock on some Red cinema cameras. The phone came in two versions: one made of aluminum and the other made of titanium. In terms of durability, it’s one of the most solid phones I ever tested. If I dropped it, I’d be less worried about the phone and more about the floor.

In terms of its role in Don’t Look Up, I’d say Bates and McKay picked a phone that matches the ridiculousness of their film. Don’t Look Up is available to stream on Netflix starting Dec. 24.