Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele, whose movies are known for scaring the holy heck out of people, says his view of the world was shaped by being a biracial man.
Peele, whose new movie, “Nope,” comes out July 22, is the son of a white mother and Black father. His films, which include the critically-acclaimed “Get Out” and “Us,” often have themes about race.
“My race, I think, has informed my entire artistic journey,” he told TODAY’s Craig Melvin in an interview that aired Wednesday from a replica of the “Nope” set at the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot. “And part of it has been trying to reconcile the box and the boxes that this country puts people of color in, and trying to break out of that box.”
Peele, 43, said it’s natural to make race a part of his films.
“I think it’s impossible to make any movie without it being about race, because race is all around us,” he said. “You can’t have Black people in a flying saucer film, and just have it be the same experience. There’s a different relationship.”
Peele, who initially rose to fame on "Mad TV" and later "Key & Peele," also says “Nope” wouldn’t have seen the light of day until recently because of the color of his skin.
“I think this idea of letting a Black director put his vision into a film and commit to it, let’s just put it this way, five years ago, I didn’t think they would ever let me do that,” he said.
“So much of my career before I became a director was marred with this internalized sense that I could never be allowed to do that, that no would ever trust me with money, enough money to do my vision, the way they would trust other people. I felt that that was true. And so here I am, Universal Studios, they’re proving me wrong.”
“Nope” tries to get moviegoers on the edge of their seats, while adding a touch of comedy, but Peele says it’s all about frightening people.
“I do consider it a horror film in that horror is my favorite genre and I hope it honors horror,” he said.
“It’s about a lot of things,” he added. “The first notion that I latched on to when I was writing this movie was this idea of making a spectacle. I wanted to make a flying saucer movie because I just felt like if we can feel like we are in the presence of something other, something ... we feel like that’s real, then that’s just an immersive experience worthy of going to the movies."
“Nope” stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea and Michael Wincott. It reunites Peele with fellow Oscar winner Kaluuya, who starred in Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out,” in 2017. He says Kaluuya is a joy to work with.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. He’s my favorite actor to watch and to work with, as well. We have a shorthand that is just the dream as a director,” he said.
Peele has now firmly established himself as a force in Hollywood, whose movies have become must-see fare. His success has even caught himself a little off guard.
“I don’t know if I knew to really dream this big, but I did. I did,” he said. “When I first came to Universal Studios, as a kid, I was just very enamored with moviemaking. To have a home on a lot, let alone this lot, is just very special to me.”