Jordan Peele (New York, 1979) spent many years being a well-known face of comedy in the United States thanks to the program Key and Peele. But no one was surprised that he made his debut directing a horror movie in 2017, since he had already shown himself to be a fan of the genre in those skits and a genius to pair it with humor. Let me out He placed him on the international map at breakneck speed and with a style not given to achieving mass phenomena.
‘Us’, the acclaimed nightmare about a deranged United States
Peele’s trick was to put a very entertaining artifact of horror and a strong racial denunciation in the same spoon. And the world swallowed it, to the point that in 2017 he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. “I feel very honored,” the director tells this newspaper about the eternal comparisons with Alfred Hitchcock. He happened to him in 2019 when brand new Us, a satire about class conflicts and fear of the ‘other’, and it’s happening now with nope!his latest science fiction, horror and comedy film, which hits theaters on August 18.
“I want them to just not be able to when they try to compare them,” he admits. And the truth is that nope! It has succeeded, because the only thing it has in common with the previous ones is the leading actor (Daniel Kaluyaa) and the unmistakable hand that rocks the camera. “My big dream is that each person in the audience has a different opinion about what the order of best to worst of my films would be.”
What is “NOP”?
“Nope” is a kind of state of mind. It has a cultural connection to the black experience or the African-American experience, rather, because for a long time we were not allowed to deny ourselves. It’s also what we yell at the screen just before a person walks into a haunted house. I had the feeling that this film could not be summed up better by any other title, because it evokes both a concept and a block buster Of summer.
There is an Asian cowboy and a ranch run by a black family, something that is rarely seen despite the fact that, paradoxically, the first horseman in cinema was black. Have you wanted to deconstruct the typical American western?
I use metaphors and references of the genre at various times. But I don’t see the film as a western, but as a satire on the myth of what the western is in Hollywood. It’s sad that this industry doesn’t recognize its black ancestors, but I don’t think I would have sold this movie to anyone myself ten years ago. So it’s a tribute to everything I love about film and a critique of the exploitative nature of Hollywood and the media in general.
What do you find most toxic about entertainment culture?
Show culture is toxic in many ways. Desensitization is probably the worst of them. The idea that we can pick up our phones or computers every morning before breakfast, see a terrible act of violence hit our face, and carry on with our routine as usual terrifies me. If we obsess over the wrong show, we can distract ourselves from what’s really going on in the world.
‘Nope’ is a cultural concept about the African-American experience, because for a long time we were not allowed to deny ourselves
In Let me out Y Us the racial situation in the United States was a central part of the plot, especially in the first one. Here it appears, but in a more subtle way. Why did she decide to make it this way?
Just. Let me out It was a movie about racism and Us it was a film about class and us against them, which included the theme of racism. I think this movie is about spectacle and about exploitation, although having black leads also intersects with the racial theme, of course. You know? Many times we confuse the representation with turning the typical white characters and making them black. It can and probably will work. But what I like to do in my films is honor the nuances of the black experience as I live it.
One of the things that satisfies me the most about the cinema I make is that, normally, in a horror film you yell at the screen and ask yourself why they don’t call the police when there is danger. When the protagonist is black, his first instinct is not to call the police and we understand that perfectly. In other words: you can’t make a movie starring black people and not have the racial issue come into play. It can not be helped.
How does the political and social context affect your films? Let me out It hit theaters months after Donald Trump was elected and during the promotion he did not dodge the issue.
It’s very interesting, because I think about and make films well in advance of the moment they come out and even so they manage to be current and appeal to things that I hadn’t taken into account at the time of making them. Also, the weather and the world change very fast. For example, I created Let me out during Obama’s term, when racism was a little better disguised. The violent reaction to that era was Trump, and when he was released he was already president, as you say. That means that the political moment in which a film comes out has a very important role in how it is perceived.
In recent years there has been a lot of progress in the rights of animals on set and shows, which makes your film, again, feel current. He even divides it into chapters named after the horses and the chimpanzee that appear. Where does this animal complaint come from?
I am a big fan of animals and the planet. I include animals in all my movies because I love them and they scare me. They scare me because humanity scares me. The way we are able to compartmentalize our emotions when dealing with animals is the main fuel for terror. It is a guilt that many of us repress.
Speaking of horror. He has done something totally different from what we were used to, crossed with science fiction and more similar to Matches in the third phase. What has been inspired this time?
I wrote nope! at the height of 2020 and the pandemic, with all the fears that surrounded us at the time. People said that face-to-face cinema was over forever, that the theatrical experience was dead. And I desperately wanted to make a movie that had to be seen in the cinema. So I started with this feverish notion of creating a show, and as I was writing it, the film essentially became a show and the trappings of it.
But of course Matches in the third phase inspired me a lot, like signals by M. Night Shyamalan. They are directors with a special vision who have taken flying saucer and science fiction stories and brought magic to them. I wanted to throw myself into the ring in one of my favorite genres.
Have you ever said that you always introduce your own fears (like rabbits, in the case of Us). Is there such a personal reference in nope?
nope! it’s about us as people chasing magic. I think when we humans think of a UFO, we think of a different world, an alien civilization that has existed eons before us. Our imagination flies to a place that, whether it’s scary or not, helps us feel like we’re not alone. And no. Something like that suggests that maybe we are a little more alone than we think. I think that is my biggest fear.
Everyone mentions his double collaboration with Daniel Kaluuya, but in this film Keke Palmer steals the spotlight. How did you write his character? What did you want to tell him?
Emerald Haywood is a main character that we haven’t seen before. She reminds me of a lot of women I’ve met, which is exciting. She reminds me a lot of Keke Palmer, of course. But she also represents the part of me that is desperately seeking or seeking attention. She also has a lot of style, she has charisma and she is a boss. I would say that OJ, played by Daniel, represents the other part of my personality, which is more introspective and, ironically, afraid of drawing too much attention.
Having baptized his protagonist as OJ serves as a humorous resource in the film due to the confusion with OJ Simpson. Is it just a comic wink or is there something deeper behind it?
I love the connotation that people give to things. The spirit of the film consists of the toxic attention the show receives. And I felt it was fitting that my leading man, a humble, low-key black horse trainer, had the weight of that show on him because of his name.
He has said that his main goal with the film is to bring people back to cinema and theater en masse. Do you think that, in the current moment of division, that is incompatible with making a really harsh social criticism?
It takes very little to launch a message these days. I don’t know how it is in Spain, but in the US just for putting diversity in a film you already receive a violent and hateful reaction as if you had said something crazy. We try to tell new stories, include new perspectives and do it with new faces, and many consider it a threat. Even if we’re just people trying to make movies.