Di­rec­tor Jor­dan Peele on the year’s sur­prise smash, Get Out

Empire (Australasia) - - Contents - WORDS CHRIS HE­WITT

We peel back the lay­ers of the year’s best hor­ror with the ap­peal­ing di­rec­tor, Jor­dan Peele.

most vi­brant, orig­i­nal and down­right bril­liant hor­ror movies in years,

Get Out was crit­i­cally ac­claimed, grossed a stun­ning $250 mil­lion (off a $5 mil­lion bud­get), and was a par­tic­u­lar tri­umph for its wri­ter­di­rec­tor, Jor­dan Peele. Af­ter mak­ing his name as a co­me­dian along­side Kee­gan-michael Key in the TV show Key & Peele and last year’s Keanu, Peele switched gears com­pre­hen­sively with this tale of Chris (Daniel Kalu­uya), a young African-amer­i­can man who gets more than he bar­gained for when he vis­its his new girl­friend’s seem­ingly ultra-lib­eral white par­ents out in the sticks. Deal­ing di­rectly with themes of race, iso­la­tion and op­pres­sion, it’s clearly a per­sonal movie for Peele. Did the suc­cess of the movie take you by sur­prise, to some ex­tent?

Yeah. I wanted to make a hor­ror movie that would be one of my favourite hor­ror movies, ul­ti­mately. The most I could have hoped for was that the movie would help gen­er­ate con­ver­sa­tions about the is­sues [in it]. I’m con­tin­u­ally sur­prised with how far it’s gone and how many times peo­ple re­watch it.

Did you specif­i­cally want to cre­ate a movie cen­tred around a black lead?

That was a huge thing. Giv­ing the black au­di­ence, first of all, a char­ac­ter that not only rep­re­sented them phys­i­cally but rep­re­sented the Africanamer­i­can iden­tity, which is a height­ened sense of scep­ti­cism and aware­ness of the dan­gers of putting one­self in a po­ten­tially hor­rific sit­u­a­tion. The African-amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence is a lit­tle bit closer to hor­ror, I think, and a more hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence than we’d like it to be. And the black male iden­tity has been por­trayed with a cer­tain lack of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. For in­stance, the im­age of Chris cry­ing out of pure fear and panic in that one mo­ment in Get Out, that im­age has res­onated. He’s a strik­ing guy, but also be­cause we haven’t, as black men, been al­lowed to be vul­ner­a­ble in that way. It struck peo­ple as a long time com­ing and it goes to a his­tory of our fears be­ing de­nied.

That im­age is so strik­ing that it was used as the poster im­age in the UK.

I was pretty in­volved in the mar­ket­ing. It was im­por­tant to me that the movie wasn’t sold as tor­ture porn. That’s a genre I think peo­ple are tired of. The poster in Eng­land is ac­tu­ally more tor­tur­ous than the one we had come out here.

The orig­i­nal end­ing saw things go very wrong, didn’t it?

On the DVD and Blu-ray we have the orig­i­nally in­tended end­ing which was grim and in­volved Chris go­ing to prison. It’s very dark. It was orig­i­nally meant to be a sober­ing mo­ment and bring us to the hor­ror of re­al­ity. Upon test­ing the

orig­i­nal cut, it was quite clear that the au­di­ence needed some­thing more hope­ful and fun.

You’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion Chris finds him­self in, where he’s one of only two black guys at a party. How much did your own ex­pe­ri­ences as an African-amer­i­can in­form the film?

Grap­pling with the feel­ing of be­ing a mi­nor­ity is a com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence. It even trans­lates to gen­der. Be­ing the only wo­man at a party full of men is a sit­u­a­tion where you’re seen for your iden­tity be­fore you’re seen as an in­di­vid­ual with a soul. Whereas the in­ter­ac­tions aren’t nec­es­sar­ily hate­ful, the ac­cu­mu­la­tion and the to­tal­ity of be­ing recog­nised for what you are as op­posed to who you are takes a toll and puts you in a state that’s very vul­ner­a­ble and very para­noia-in­duc­ing. Which ends up be­ing a per­fect state, sto­ry­telling­wise, for the pro­tag­o­nist of a hor­ror movie.

The rev­e­la­tion in the movie, of a se­cret so­ci­ety ded­i­cated to plac­ing their con­scious­nesses into the bod­ies of black men and women, is bat­shit crazy. But the in­va­sive­ness of what they’re do­ing, the de­hu­man­i­sa­tion of their vic­tims, is in­ter­est­ing. Is that per­sonal to you?

That’s the part of the black ex­pe­ri­ence and the re­la­tion­ship, in this coun­try, of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion that I hadn’t re­ally seen dealt with. The de­mean­ing el­e­ment of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion is it feels like we’re val­ued for the art we bring, the phys­i­cal­ity we bring to sports, the things that we make out of our pain and op­pres­sion are val­ued, but the hu­man­ity and the soul still are not. There was some­thing about tak­ing what’s ad­van­ta­geous and leav­ing the rest that is al­le­gor­i­cal with slav­ery and the pris­onin­dus­trial sys­tem.

Get Out has been talked about as a pos­si­ble

Os­car con­tender. Hor­ror is of­ten sneered at in those terms. Do you even al­low your­self to think about that?

I’m very hon­oured to be thought about in that light. The coolest thing about the dis­cus­sion for me is the idea that hor­ror can be re­spected enough to be in that con­ver­sa­tion. That be­ing said, I don’t have any ex­pec­ta­tions. I made the movie be­cause I felt like we weren’t hav­ing healthy con­ver­sa­tions about race. What Rose­mary’s Baby did for gen­der is what I wanted to do for the racial dis­cus­sion.


Chris (Daniel Kalu­uya) is caught. Right, top to bot­tom: Rose (Al­li­son Williams) and Chris (Daniel Kalu­uya) head to her par­ents’; In-laws from hell Dean (Bradley Whit­ford) and Missy (Catherine Keener); Jor­dan Peele on set with Ge­orgina (Betty Gabriel).

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