Playback: Jordan Peele on ‘Get Out’ and Art’s Role Under a Trump Regime

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
Variety

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast.

On this week’s episode, Jenelle Riley and I welcome back Variety Senior VP Tim Gray for one last round of Oscar predictions before Hollywood’s big night on Sunday. What are the tightest races? Is there a runaway sweep on the horizon or something more varied? Lots of questions. We’ll have answers in a few days.

Later in the show (27:58) I’m talking to “Key & Peele’s” Jordan Peele, whose directorial debut, “Get Out,” bowed at the Sundance Film Festival last month. A horror film with a definitive point of view, it feels like the beginning of a promising career for the comedian behind the camera. Going to Park City was beyond his wildest dreams, however.

Jordan Peele photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

For more, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” below. Check back next week when I’ll be talking to “Logan” director James Mangold, and be sure to subscribe!

“That was surreal,” Peele says of the Sundance experience. “It’s such an honor. I’m such a film geek, such a movie buff, and when you’re dreaming of what it might be like if you get to make a movie, you don’t include, ‘Yeah, you might get to go to Sundance.’ And it was a blizzard! I felt like Scatman Crothers trying to get to little Danny Torrance.”

At the Los Angeles premiere of the film, Peele — who is biracial — said that growing up and filling out paperwork for this or that, when it came to the question of race, he was always checking the “other” box. So it made it a very top-of-mind concept throughout his youth, and eventually he came to consider race a “nightmare,” one that he eventually felt he could translate to the screen in some way.

“Part of the process was I realized I’ve sort of done enough thinking about race, enough work in the comedy space, walking that line of how to deal with race in art, that I was uniquely equipped to deal with it,” he says. “Race in this country and in the world is this human demon. It is a monster that is in our DNA and I just realized if anyone was going to make a modern horror movie about race, it should be me.”

Jordan Peele photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Peele being a huge horror fan to begin with, the transition into the genre was natural. But moreover, his work as a comedy writer flexed similar muscles that were vital when he set about constructing a thriller.

“It felt like the comedy education I got the last decade or so worked perfectly in this film,” Peele says. “I feel both horror and laughter are ways we face our demons, ways we deal with our fears of death. It’s about tension, tension, tension, then release, with a certain pinpoint precision. In a way that’s a metaphor for life and death. We spend our whole lives fearing the ultimate absurdity, which is that this is temporary.”

Among other things we also discuss his referencing of films like “The Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby” on the movie, as well as his take on what the role of comedy and storytelling ought to be under the current regime in Washington. Hear all about that and more — including a generous dose of his Barack Obama impression — via the streaming link above.

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  1. James says:

    Hey Kris – Awards Daily Big Bad Oscar Chart shows you with some predictions that are different from your chart and column on the 21st.

    Screenplay – Manchester (instead of LA LA Land as here)
    Foreign – Salesman (instead of Ove as here)
    Doc Short – White Helmets (instead of Joe’s Violin)

    Which are your final/accurate predictions. I use you for my Oscar pool ballot. : ) Thx! I enjoy your work.

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