JORDAN PEELE ON HOW HIS EDGY DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, GET OUT, BECAME A SENSATION
BEFORE GET OUT, director Jordan Peele was best known for being one half of comedy double act Key & Peele. The closest he’d come to making a movie was co-writing and starring in catnapping caper Keanu with Keegan-michael Key; the nearest thing he’d done to a thriller was appearing (alongside Key) in the first season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo… as comic relief. So you can forgive him for thinking his directorial debut, a thriller in which one black man’s visit to his white girlfriend’s family home turns into a surreally twisted nightmare, might not do well.
“I didn’t know if people would go to see it,” he tells Empire. “I worried I’d be putting the audience through these tense moments and stressful scenes.” But there was something even bigger going on in his head, he adds. “The systematic lack of representation in genre movies of black voices, and voices of the other, had me in serious doubt as to whether or not this movie could get made.”
But life, as they say, is full of surprises. First, Peele was surprised that producers Jason Blum,
Sean Mckittrick and Edward H. Hamm Jr “took a chance” on him. Then he was surprised to watch Get Out not only garner almost universal critical acclaim, but also storm the box office, making $253 million worldwide on a budget of $4.5 million, and become the highest-grossing debut based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history.
However, what surprised him most of all was the way people instantly got Get Out. “I thought the movie would be treated like popcorn entertainment. Then maybe someone would stumble onto some of the messages and themes I was dealing with.
But I just love that people did that instantly.”
The think-pieces came thick and fast, digging into Peele’s modern take on slavery and his tackling of ‘West Wing’ liberal America’s ignorance of race issues, while announcing his film as nothing less than a cultural phenomenon.
Peele is overjoyed by this. “Oh, that’s my favourite thing. If anyone were to ask me why
I was making this movie and what good it would serve, I would have said, ‘Well, if it gets people having a conversation about race that they’d never had before, isn’t that enough?’” Though one take on Get Out did confuse him a little. “Somebody had this theory that it’s in the same universe as Being John Malkovich,” he recalls.
“That Catherine Keener’s character Missy
Armitage is Maxine years later…”
Enjoying the new path Get Out has put him on, Peele is prepping another movie which is, he says,
“in a similar genre, the social-thriller genre. It’s just a space I’m obsessed with.” There’s no plan, he insists, for a Get Out sequel. Although he admits,
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have ideas of where I could take that universe.” Perhaps, Empire suggests, he could cast John Malkovich in a role. “Yeah,” he laughs, “we’ll do the full trilogy!”