There’s a talented and impressive first time director who broke out at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and you already know his name. It’s Jordan Peele. Yep, that Jordan Peele, one half of duo best known for the Peabody and Emmy Award winning series “Key & Peele” has branched out with “Get Out,” a genre film that will make you squirm in your seat over the fate of its hero and maybe make you think a little bit about race relations too. Although we’d suggest the Sundance hype of a slew of think pieces on the movie might have been a slight overreaction (or not).
Produced by Universal and under the Blumhouse banner, “Get Out”centers on Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a twentysomething New Yorker who is dragged by his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford) for a weekend at their secluded upstate New York home. Chris quickly realizes something about Rose’s parents and their two black employees (Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson) is off and before he knows it is wrapped up in a bizarre scenario he can barely believe.
Peele inserts a good dose of humor, but always plays the scenario as “straight” as possible. This isn’t a parody of a horror movie, this is Peele flipping conventions and allowing People of Color to be at the center of the action, a rare occurrence in the genre.
He took a few minutes earlier this week to talk to The Playlist about his love for horror, the films that influenced “Get Out” and whether he’d ever consider tackling a sequel.
The Playlist: Congratulations on the movie. How are you feeling about the reaction to it?
Jordan Peele: Feeling really good about it. You make something with this sort of controversial premise, you never know how it’s going to go, but everybody that’s seen it has gotten it. That’s really pleasing.
What was your inspiration? Was there one particular idea?
It came of a lot of ideas, but I think first and foremost I’m really interested in the idea of the social thriller. That, to me, is another way of saying that the darkest monster to make a horror movie about is the human monster. We are, when we get together, as destructive, evil, and scary as any sort of fictional demon. This is my first exploration of that notion, and it obviously involves race in America.
Were you a fan of horror and you naturally gravitated to tell the story in this genre or did going in that direction just make sense more thematically?
The answer to the question is I’m a horror fan. It’s my favorite genre. It’s one that I want to make more movies in, and I feel like I’m finally getting to do what I’m best at. I’m a serious horror fan, and a movie that sort of inspired it are movies like “The Stepford Wives”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, and “Night of the Living Dead”. Really, films from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s that had a distinct style to them.
Blumhouse obviously has this amazing catalog of great horror films they’ve made over the past decade. Did you reach out to them first? Did Universal try to put you guys together? How did that partnership come about?
It started with QC Entertainment. About three years ago, I went and had a meeting and pitched the movie. I didn’t think anyone was ever going to make the movie, but I thought it was a neat pitch. This guy Sean McKittrick who I was pitching, he basically said, “Let’s make this movie.” Now, at that point, I wrote the script and maybe about a year later Blumhouse and a few other places had caught wind of it. It was just very clear that this was a perfect movie for Blumhouse because not only do they embrace the pushing of boundaries, but they allow you to make the movie you want to make. There’s a clear path to connect with universal wide-release, which is a real honor and a very coveted position.
I have to be honest, I’m not a big horror fan. It usually crosses a line that grosses me out. While there are horror elements in the movie it seemed like you could have gone in a more gruesome direction at times but you didn’t. Was that intentional? Was that testing? What made you decide to keep it at the level of gore that you did?
Like I said, I like to call it a social thriller. That’s the style of movie I like as well. I like there to be a cerebral element. I think it’s hard to make, but there’s a way to make the thrills and the scares interwoven into the fabric of the script as opposed to just hitting us with violence or gore. “The Shining” is one of the greatest movies of all time, and certainly a total influence in that they have so many images that are terrifying but while at the same time having certain subtlety or obvious artistry to it. That’s my style as well. I’m kind of with you.
Obviously, you mentioned the fact this is a “social thriller.” Are you looking for a certain reaction from the audience ? Would you disappointed if some people who saw it, no matter what their background, were not uncomfortable at times? Would you feel like, “Oh, wait. I didn’t do what I was intending to if they didn’t, sort of, get it?”
That’s hard to say. I made the movie that I thought would be my favorite movie I’d never seen. When it comes down to it, I’m sort of serving myself. That being said, I think the movie is inclusive, and I think that there’s a universality to it. I think the real goal besides for people to be entertained and to enjoy going to the movies to see this, I want what you just said. I think it would be great if many thoughts and conversations were spawned by it. I wouldn’t say making people uncomfortable is the goal. I want to make people entertained. I want to give people a fun time, which sometimes includes a little bit of a tonal challenge.
That’s true. I also don’t think you’ve worked on a project that had so much secrecy or spoiler worries as this one. Has it been hard for you to, for lack of a better word, promote or talk about this movie without spoiling too much?
I’ve got it pretty down I know the movie so well. Every revelation in it is so…It’s a painstaking sort of technique that goes into respecting the reveals, so it’s not hard for me to talk about.
I want to talk to you about Daniel. I feel like most moviegoers might recognize him from his smaller roles in other projects, but this is truly his big break. What made you realize he was perfect for this part?
Daniel, he’s my current favorite actor in the world. I just think he’s so good, so reactive, so connected, but he also had some other qualities that the character Chris needed. One is his relatability, a certain warmth. The audience feels like they know him or that they can see somebody with the same sensibilities morally as themselves. Two, he’s extremely intelligent and perceptive. I wanted to make sure I made a movie where the protagonist does the smart thing on every occasion. We really needed somebody that ultimately the audience could get behind and respect.
My last question for you is it looks like the movie is going to do great at the box office and iss going to be a pretty profitable for everyone involved. Give that potential outcome would you be interested in doing a sequel? Would that be exciting to you, or you sort of feel like it’s a one-off and you’d rather move on to the next film in this genre?
There are several ways to go with a sequel. I’m definitely open to it. I don’t have the answer right now, but I can tell you that I intend to make many more movies in the social thriller category.
“Get Out” opens nationwide on Feb. 24.