Legendary producer Norman Lear received a standing ovation when he arrived to share the Produced By stage today with Get Out writer-producer Jordan Peele, even as an odd comment he made about race later in the program drew some nervous audience laughter.
Lear, the 94-year-old liberal icon who’s had more time to think about race – and to speak out in his work and politics against racism – than most people living on Earth today, expressed surprise when Peele, who he was interviewing, mentioned that he is of mixed race, the son of a white mother and a black father.
“Rashida Jones has the same thing,” Lear observed of the daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton. “She’s as white as she can be, but you’re black.”
The audience reacted uneasily, twittering nervously at the peculiar remark. After an awkward moment, Lear regained his bearings. “I just love the mystery of it,” he said, seeming to recognize that few things today are wholly black or white, and not always as they appear.
It was, perhaps, the perfect metaphor for Peele’s hit film and its exploration of the horror genre from a black perspective, with a black protagonist battling a malevolent white family.
“If you’re going to make a movie that connects, it has to be autobiographical, in some way. But this is not my wife’s family,” laughed Peele, whose wife and her family are white.
The premise for the film, he said, came to him in a dream in which he was walking through a bank, and came to slowly realize that all the white people there were staring at him, following his every move. “A woman in a room full of men will have the same experience,” he said, “of being viewed as a woman rather than a human.”
The pairing of the two men on stage at the Fox lot today arose after it was learned at Deadline’s The Contenders conference that Lear was a huge fan of the film. “I waited 94 years to see your film,” he told Peele, “and it was worth every f*ckin’ minute of it. I was transported by it. I’ve never been more touched. I lose words when I think how much this man’s film touched me.”
After the critical and commercial success of his directorial debut, Peele told the creator of All in the Family and The Jeffersons, “the burden and the task is doing it again. You’ve proven that you can do it over and over again. If my career goes the way I want it to, Get Out will be the first of many.”
“It will be the first of many,” Lear assured him.
“You heard it here first,” Peele laughed.
And like the beginning of many love affairs, once the awkward moment had passed, the pair were free to express their true feelings.
“I just love, love, love, love movies,” Peele said.
“I just love, love, love, love you,” Lear said, and although this reporter was seated in the very last row of the auditorium, I imagine there was a tear in his eye when he said it.