Jordan Peele Bests 'Sophomore Pressures' Holding a Mirror Up to 'Us'

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 29, 2019 | Go to article overview

Jordan Peele Bests 'Sophomore Pressures' Holding a Mirror Up to 'Us'


Byline: Lindsey Bahr Associated Press

Jordan Peele's sweet spots as a filmmaker are the "pit in your stomach" moments. That thing that happens when you realize the woman stirring the tea isn't just there for conversation. When you notice that the help is a little off. Or, as in his new film "Us," when you see that the family of four standing in your driveway late at night looks exactly like you.

Peele knows how to get under your skin and stay there, and it's what made him the must-see horror filmmaker of the moment. "Us" is only his second and yet it's been an event-in-the-making ever since it was announced. That's what happens when your debut is "Get Out."

"Get Out" wasn't even finished when the former sketch-comedian started cooking up the idea for his follow-up about doppelgangers, loosely inspired by the "Twilight Zone" episode "Mirror Image." Then the wild success of "Get Out" -- four Oscars nominations, one win (Peele for original screenplay), over $255 million in tickets sold against a $4.5 million budget, and general cultural impact -- put Peele on another level. So by the time Universal Pictures agreed to make "Us," not only did he have a budget over five times higher than his first, but he had his pick of collaborators, too.

"Because of 'Get Out' I was privileged enough to be able to tap the best talent in the industry," Peele said recently.

That goes for stars Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke, who play dual roles as the nuclear American family, the Wilsons, and the terrifying red jumpsuit-wearing and gold scissor-wielding Red and Abraham, as well as the below-the-line talent: Production designer Ruth De Jong, cinematographer Mike Gioulakis and costume designer Kym Barrett.

"I had an amazing team on 'Get Out,'" Peele said. "But this group sort of allowed me to stretch a little bit more."

Duke was impressed by his calm. He knew there were "sophomore pressures" -- he had his own set following his breakout role in "Black Panther" -- but said Peele never brought any of that to set.

"Day one, (Peele) said, 'Before we do anything I just want to let you guys know that I'm here for you. I won't stop until we get the shot. …

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