Between the cultural phenomenon that was 2017’s Get Out and 2019’s similarly freaky mind-bender Us, Jordan Peele quickly made his cerebral brand of subtext-laden social horror a subgenre onto itself. He’s been called a horror mastermind, maybe even the next Hitchcock.
But the comedic actor-turned-writer/director didn’t want to get too comfortable in that box. It’s why his third directorial effort, this week’s eagerly anticipated sci-fi thriller Nope, arrives markedly different from his first two features in tone and scale.
“I feel very strongly I just cannot give people the same thing. That's just not the point of filmmaking,” Peele tells us during a recent Los Angeles press day for Nope (watch above). “It's about getting into an uncomfortable space and the uncomfortable space with this one was truly the scope and adventure of taking on filmmaking with just an absolute reckless abandon.”
More specifically, it meant Peele was going interplanetary. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings who’ve taken over the family business — animal training for Hollywood productions — and discover a UFO lurking in the clouds above their rural California ranch. The film is drawing early comparison’s to Steven Spielberg’s 1977 favorite Close Encounters of the Third Kind — though others have likened it to Spielberg’s shark attack classic, Jaws.
“Spielberg has always just been an absolute game changer for me,” Peele says. “I looked at all the greats, really. I took from all the greats in this one. Hitchcock, [Stanley Kubrick], Paul Thomas Anderson. All these directors that have changed the trajectory of how I think about cinema.” (Newcomer Brandon Perea, who plays a Fry’s Electronics employee who helps the Haywood siblings document the alien activity, confirms to us that both Close Encounters and Jaws, as well as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, were on the list of films Peele wanted him to watch in advance of the shoot.)
Nope also marks Peele’s most ambitious film to date.
“He's really going for it,” says Kaluuya, who earned an Oscar nomination for his breakout role in Get Out. “He's really pushing himself and is really going outside his comfort zone.”
“Outside of the scale, I thought to myself, 'Wow. He really is showing his range,'” says Palmer. “I think the one thing that threads through all of his work is that there's a social commentary piece. There's something larger that he's saying. But he's showing you that he can play in all the different worlds.”
“I'm sure putting out Get Out was probably very hard when there's no context for something like that,” adds Steven Yeun, who plays a former child star now overseeing a Wild West amusement park that neighbors the Haywoods’s ranch. "When it's just brand new, that's pretty difficult. But what does it mean now when he has access to such amazing production? I'm glad that he's able to make things at this scale, too. It’s just really awesome.”
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Nope opens Friday.
Watch the trailer: