This probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – Jordan Peele is a smart guy. And no, that’s not because he is responsible for one of the best psychological thrillers/horror films of the last decade with “Get Out,” but because the man just gets it. He understands how to play the studio game, and uses it to his advantage in ways that many just don’t do. Oh, and on top of all that, he’s also one hell of a filmmaker.
But when he was talking to IndieWire recently at SXSW, he revealed the mindset behind upping the production value for his latest film “Us,” but doing so in a way that still protects him from the larger studio interests, while also turning a tidy profit.
“I was like, look, I want to be able to take my filmmaking up a notch, so I want to be able to make a bigger budget movie,” he said. “But I don’t want to make such a big budget movie that all of a sudden we’ve crossed this line where the risk means [the studio is] going to be fucking with my story.”
The end result? Peele says he asked for about “five times” the budget of “Get Out” for “Us,” which comes out to just over $20 million. With all the blockbuster numbers and awards that “Get Out” earned, it’s easy to forget that the film cost less than $5 million. And with all the hype around “Us,” it’s likely the film will earn back it’s budget (and probably marketing) in the first weekend of theatrical release, even with the inflated budget.
“I had about five times the budget on this one, which by movie standards is still not that expensive of a film,” he said. “That was the key for me. Otherwise, I may not have had my freedom. As a filmmaker, I also thrive with a certain restriction. I didn’t want to overreach with the budget and all of a sudden have a studio being responsible on me.”
After “Get Out,” it’s assumed that Peele was inundated with offers to direct just about every major project at every major studio. Of course, with those $100+ million projects come with many, many strings attached. Sure, you can make just about any of your wildest ideas come to life on the big screen, but you got studio heads, accountants, and marketers all over you dissecting every move.
So, ultimately, it appears that Peele did the right thing. He increased his budget, but not to an absurd amount. He kept his creative freedom. And the filmmaker is about to release a no-compromise film to an eager, and ravenous, audience. See? That Jordan Peele is a smart dude.
“Us” hits theaters on March 22.