THE BREAK­THROUGH

JOR­DAN PEELE ON HOW HIS EDGY DI­REC­TO­RIAL DE­BUT, GET OUT, BE­CAME A SEN­SA­TION

Empire (Australasia) - - On Screen - WORDS DAN JOLIN

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!”

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