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About The Production
An American Monster:

Get Out Takes Form

When most audiences hear the name Jordan Peele, they think of one-half of the brilliant duo of Key and Peele and the star of Keanu. An actor known as much for his comedic writing as he is for starring in film and television comedies, Peele is equally accomplished in voiceover work and impersonations. But what many do not realize is that the comic mastermind and Emmy Award winner has long been a fan of a genre of another sort. His directorial debut would occur with Universal Pictures, the studio that had invented the monster movie of another kind, and it would happen with Universal's partner in horror, Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions.

Peele, who got his start as a writer and actor on MADtv, has long been a fan of horror movies and believes that terror and comedy draw from the same well of inspiration...and that both are grounded in our need to explore the absurdity of our humanity. He appreciates the fact that we deal with our troubles and fears through the visceral, cathartic experience that comes from laughing or allowing ourselves to become scared. In sum, if we can master the emotions, we can move through the experience.

The filmmaker offers that this tension and release can be viscerally satisfying for the audiences: "In one, you're trying to get a laugh, and in the other, you're trying to get a scare. It was exciting for me to use everything I've learned in comedy for my favorite genre, which is 'thriller.'"

No stranger to mining the absurd from reality, when he began the screenplay, Peele outlined a premise that was equal parts terrifying and social commentary. The result was Get Out, a provocative thriller that blended humor, satire and horror...and wasn't afraid to tackle the current state of race relations in America head on. "This idea came from my wanting to contribute something to the genres of thriller and horror that was unique to my voice," he says. "The fact that it goes to race goes to the area I've worked in a lot, which is comedy. This was a movie that reflects real fears of mine and issues that I've dealt with before."

Peele imagined a protagonist named Chris, an African-American photographer and artist in New York City who is taking his relationship with his Caucasian girlfriend to the next level by meeting her parents over a long weekend. As soon as Chris arrives at the family's rural, upstate home, he begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems. When he discovers that a number of black men have gone missing in that suburb, his suspicion reveals itself to be more than unfounded paranoia. What starts out as a mundane, obligatory weekend spirals and builds toward a crazy, horrific, thrilling, terrifying, and likewise fun, conclusion.

The filmmaker admits that he enjoys playing with the audience's expectations of what could happen and upending a foregone conclusion. "A big piece of the premise to Get Out is that you have white girl bringing a black guy home, and she hasn't thought through all of the social ramifications of that," Peele gives. "She assumes her family is going to be fine with it. They turn out to be, but there are some subtler works at play that we begin to see a part of something much more sinister."

This series of not-quite-right moments that make Chris more and more suspicious unfold slowly. Whether it is curiosity about the odd behavior of the Armitage's help-or feeling like he stepped into another world during the family's annual celebration of their departed grandfather-Chris realizes that he isn't the one who is going insane. "The trick was to make sure that nothing so crazy happened so fast that we wouldn't believe the characters would stay in this situation," Peele reveals. "The element that starts to alarm Chris is meeting the help, and finding that they're a little off. "They're not like anybody he's ever met."

Still, the writer/director says that it was of the utmost importance for the hero of the thriller to never do anything the audience wouldn't. "I hate that in a movie," laughs Peele. "Especially in a thriller, when you want somebody to just pick up the phone, call the damn cops and get out of the house. That's what I allowed Chris to be-an actual, smart, logical human being-because it is so satisfying."

As do the most provocative of horror offerings-from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead's exploration of the height-of-Vietnam era to Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left examination of the inherently violent nature of humans-Get Out greets audiences with a provocation that is much more than simple entertainment. "This movie is about a lot of things," states Peele. "It's about the way America deals with race and the idea that racism itself is a demon; it's an American monster. It's also about the notion of neglect and the idea that, if we allow ourselves to do so, humans can stand by while atrocities happen." He felt it was critical to mine the genre and discuss how race can have an impact on horror. "It's an important piece of this conversation."

While many would have expected the multihyphenate to make his theatrical debut with a light-hearted physical comedy, Peele knew he wanted Get Out to be his fore into directing. "Writing and directing are easier than not doing both," he says. "The beauty is that they're done at separate times, so you don't have to overlap the responsibility. It's a great advantage to feel the confidence to change something on set, and know that you're not missing what the writer intended."

To help him bring his screenplay to the big screen, Peele and veteran producers Sean McKittrick and Edward H. Hamm Jr.-who have guided many actors making their directorial debuts, including Jason Bateman on the ingenious Bad Words-turned to producing maestro Jason Blum, who has reinvented the genre since he shepherded Paranormal Activity to staggering heights. His latest project, Split, from writer/director/ producer M. Night Shyamalan, recently hit No. 1 for three weeks on the box-office charts, and the distribution deal Blum has with Universal offered Peele his entry point into theatrical distribution.

Blum reflects on his reason for wanting to join Peele on this journey: "Jordan is a unique combination of someone who is incredibly talented and collaborative. I see every scary movie and read every scary script, and never saw anything like this. As for Jordan making the transition, I believe there are a lot of parallels between comedy and horror; they are the two types of genres in which people have physical reactions in the theater. The timing of a joke and a scare-as well as the way you construct both in a movie-are very similar. The combination of that and the way Jordan talked about Get Out gave me the confidence to roll the dice on this movie."

McKittrick first connected with the writer/director through a mutual friend: "I get to thank Keegan-Michael Key, who introduced me to Jordan, mainly because Jordan is obsessed with horror films. He pitched me the idea for Get Out, and I had never heard anything like it. Whether they are The Stepford Wives or Rosemary's Baby, the greatest forms of horror unveil the social commentary that leaks beneath the surface of our society. I immediately said, 'We absolutely have to make this movie.'"

The producer, who cut his teeth in the industry by producing the cult-classic Donnie Darko, was more than impressed with the burgeoning directorial talent he found in Peele. McKittrick commends: "It's been one of the best experiences I've ever had. Jordan is an incredibly hard worker who knows exactly what he's doing. Comedy and horror are such close cousins that he was a master of this before he even came in. He studied horror his entire life."

Blum is the first to admit he is drawn to films that are so much more than linear fare. "Get Out gives you all the thrills and the scares of a great scary movie, but there's more to it," he reflects. "It reminded me of what we did with The Purge, which is a scary, thriller, action franchise, but one that also says something about our society. Get Out works in a similar way in that it delivers everything you want from a great genre movie, but it also says a lot about the world. Jordan has figured out a terrific way to shine a light and talk about race...then take this to a level that's grotesque. The story is very disarming because you are convinced you're going to see certain events unfold in a way that you're used to; in fact, they unfold in exactly the opposite way."


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