Jordan Peele Talks Comedy-and Fear- at Q&A for ‘Get Out’

Last Thursday, a big crowd turned out to see the Malibu Film Society screening of “Get Out,” followed by an audience Q&A with writer/director Jordan Peele (perhaps best known as half of Key & Peele, the sketch comedy duo whose eponymous series ran on Comedy Central from 2012-15). He was accompanied by two of the film’s producers—Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick.

When Peele asked the Malibu audience how many had just watched “Get Out” for the first time, he and the producers were astonished by how few of hands  went up. That’s because so many people have already seen it. The movie, which premiered over a year ago at Sundance Film Festival 2017, has made $255 million worldwide at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. Not bad, considering it only cost $4.5 million to make. 

The film has four Oscar nominations—best picture for producers McKittrick, Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Peele; best actor for Daniel Kaluuya; and best director and original screenplay for Peele.

“Get Out” defies categorization. It was often billed as a horror movie, and even a “horror comedy,” yet offers up satire, racial twists and social commentary on race relations. The story begins with the main character, an African American, going home with his white girlfriend to meet her parents at their woodsy estate for the weekend. While there, he senses something isn’t right, and begins discovering things aren’t what they seem. 

“I wrote this as a film that I wished someone would write for me,” Peele said. “I’m mixed race and grew up without realizing that a lot of my creative energy is about having an African American identity, and trying to reconcile what it means to be an African American.” 

He envisioned the story as a “social thriller” along the lines of “The Stepford Wives” or “Rosemary’s Baby,” and spent several years writing it. “Different revelations about what needed to happen in the plot came months and years apart,” he said. 


When asked whether the film was motivated by Trump, Peele said, “Trump’s involvement in politics was one of the signs that we had stopped calling out racism where it was. Even with Trump’s birther-ism stance towards Obama, he wasn’t fired from “The Apprentice” or anything—that was the environment that scared me. I did feel while writing this film that discussing race was no longer as welcome.

“Trump is a xenophobe, a racist, and a sexist,” Peele continued, “and the story of the marginalized became something we had to deal with.”

He went on to say the film is a way to explore the fears some in the African American community feel today.

“My point in making this movie was that I found the horror genre has always been a way to collectively deal with our fears—look at some of the old Hitchcock films, or films that explored our fears of the cold war, toxic wastes and mutations,” Peele pointed out. “I hadn’t seen modern African American fears dealt with in this genre. I felt the African American had not been able to express these fears. We need safe space to deal with our fears—if we don’t deal with our fears, they come out much worse.”

“Get Out” marks Peele’s first time as a director, even though his producers said they “rarely work with first-time directors.”

One of the biggest challenges in directing the film was that the basic premise “rests on a razor wire,” Peele said. “It can’t be too funny or too scary. This movie balances the dark and creepy versus the satirical.”

Interestingly enough, Peele feels that comedy and horror are similar when it comes to directing. “The comedy pedigree paid off for me in doing this” he said. “Comedy and horror have a rhythmic connection and a pattern. Both have a set-up and a visceral reaction.”

 “It’s about unconscious racial tension,” Peele continued. “The way we talk about racism in this country is broken, and there still isn’t a definition of racist or racism that we all agree on. I wanted to pick at the seemingly harmless microaggressions.

“The reason I think this movie works is because the moment you see Daniel (the main character), we’re all him. You’re identifying with Daniel and you see what it feels like to be an African American and experience fears African Americans have in white spaces. Many blacks feel this walking through a white neighborhood at night in suburbia,” Peel described. “Everyone looks at it through this one point of view. That’s the power of the story.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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