Jordan Peele terrified audiences with his cultural phenomenon “Get Out” nearly two years ago. But producer Jason Blum says the scares built into Peele’s directorial debut are nothing compared to what he has in store for “Us,” which will be unleash on theaters next month.
“It’s like ‘Get Out’ on steroids,” the super producer told Variety at Wednesday’s African American Film Critics Association Awards. The trailer for “Us,” which stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke as a mother and father protecting their family from their sinister doubles, also occupied a spot during the ceremony.
Blum, who partnered with Peele on both of his feature efforts, praised the writer-director for his commitment to horror — a genre in which Blum has founded his entire career, with hits like the “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious” franchises.
“He’s incredibly generous and just wildly gifted. What’s really special about Jordan is, he didn’t have a big success in ‘Get Out’ and jump out of horror,” Blum said. “He doubled down on scary with ‘Us,’ which obviously made me very happy.”
Later in the evening, Blum teared up while accepting the Cinema Vanguard Award, which he called the “most important” honor he has ever received. The distinction celebrated his dedication to uplifting black voices in films like “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman.”
“I would like to make something incredibly clear,” Blum said in his speech. “We do not and we have not hired diverse directors to win awards or be recognized in moments like this … We don’t hire women because it’s the right thing to do. We hire diversely because we hire the best.”
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Also among the night’s top honorees was music industry veteran Quincy Jones, who brought the crowd to its feet before and after his speech while dancing along to Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” which he produced. He stressed the importance of representation for black creatives while accepting the Stanley Kramer Award.
“Ours is the culture that the world embraces and emulates,” Jones told the crowd at Los Angeles’ Taglyan Complex. “I learned the power of our culture to bring forth change as a young man, and I, to this day, I try to push my work to this perspective. That’s why I stay engaged, because together, we can do things for the betterment of mankind that we could never do alone.”
The remainder of the ceremony was a mix of passionate speeches, exorbitant thanks and various pop-culture references, including a quip from director Ava DuVernay about the upcoming host-less Oscars, several “Wakanda Forevers” and a message to President Donald Trump from director Barry Jenkins.
“I always end up talking about the president when I get on these stages, so I apologize for talking about the damn president, but I’m going to talk about his a–,” Jenkins joked while presenting the breakthrough film award to “Searching” director Aneesh Chaganty. “And I’m going to talk about him because the director of this film, Aneesh Chaganty, is Indian-American and the star of this film is Korean-American, and yet, here we are at the African American Film Critics Association, celebrating this young man. You want to talk about making America great again? It’s great as hell in this room right now.”
More of the night’s honorees included “If Beale Street Could Talk” filmmaker Jenkins for independent film and screenplay, “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler for film and director, “Support the Girls” star Regina Hall for best actress, “BlacKkKlansman” lead John David Washington for best actor. The remaining recognitions went to “The Hate U Give’s” Amandla Stenberg for breakout performance, “Quincy’s” Rashida Jones for best documentary, and the cast of “Queen Sugar” for best TV drama. DuVernay, Storm Reid and Lakeith Stanfield were among the presenters, with Tichina Arnold serving as emcee.