With the final voting about to begin for the Best Picture Oscar, Deadline looks at the challenges and the hard road for each of the nine finalists. First up is our AwardsLine cover story film, Get Out.
What led Get Out toward becoming the rare genre film that, on a $4.5 million budget, grossed over $255 million globally and drew the most Oscar nominations of any horror film since The Sixth Sense and The Silence of the Lambs? Jordan Peele’s hit scored four nominations, for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Original Screenplay.
At a hotel in Los Feliz shortly after landing the noms, Peele and his star Daniel Kaluuya are puzzling out the answer to that very question; how Peele navigated a meticulously constructed storytelling track with alterations that including a shocking alternate ending; how Kaluuya delivered a performance carefully metered between an awkward first encounter with the WASP-ish family and friends of his white girlfriend, and the nagging fear that something more sinister lurked beneath; and how the movie’s saving grace was also its secret weapon: assiduous attention to how a black audience would react to each twist and turn in what became a moral compass for a polemic on racism in America that used the horror genre format as its propulsive engine.
WGA Awards: 'Get Out' & 'Call Me By Your Name' Take Top Film Honors; 'Handmaid's Tale' Wins Twice - Complete Winners List
Every movie has challenges; some are more tortured than others. Jordan, you’d won Emmys, but your entire resume is comedy. How difficult was it to mount a thriller with such a pointed political message?
Jordan Peele: I worked on the whole outline and story for about five years. This is while Key & Peele was going on so it wasn’t full-time. And then I pitched it.
To how many places?
Peele: I sat down with Sean McKittrick at QC Entertainment. I wasn’t there to sell this movie, and I certainly wasn’t thinking of directing it. But I thought it was a great conversation starter. I said, “Here’s a movie I’ve never seen before, that no one is ever going to make.” I told him the story. He said, “I’ll buy that movie right now.” There was no script.
When did you become Get Out’s director?
Peele: Halfway through the script, I’m writing the party sequence with Chris and all the old white people. And I was just like, “No one else can direct this. I can’t trust this with anyone else.” I realized I knew what every moment looks and feels like, and that this movie had no wiggle room with tone or character. I went back to Sean and said, “Look, I need to direct that.” And to QC’s credit, they said, “Yeah.”
How did you find Daniel, this British actor who’s a fresh face to most of the audience, who became an American everyman hero?
Peele: It was Black Mirror. I had this immediate feeling of, how is this guy so good and I haven’t seen his work before? The way I can best describe it is, he showed the full range of the two opposite sides of Chris. Different characters, different emotions. The character goes from being quiet, introspective, subdued, with a relatable sense of compliance to the system, and then by the end he explodes and is primal. In the Black Mirror episode, he showed it in just monologue, this primal, frugal, passionate monologue that just feels like a Greek tragedy. And so I knew I needed somebody who could do both of those things, and either one of those, he does better than anyone else.
Peele: Skype. I Skyped him. He was in England. He’s like, “Yo, yo! This script, this script, man! This script!”
Daniel Kaluuya: His impression of me has gotten so much better.
Peele: [Still in Kaluuya mode] “Me and my friends! This is the movie we’ve been waiting for!” So I talk to him like, “Look, this is a movie about the African-American experience and how you relate to it.” I learned a lot in that conversation because first of all I felt like he connected to the same feeling I put into the script. My experience of being the minority in a white space and you’re seen as that minority on the micro-aggressive level, but then on the bigger level, the fear of being in the wrong place in the wrong time as a black man. The one thing he said to me that resonated was, “Black is black.” Like wherever you go, black is black. That came across for me.
I was like, “I’ve got the guy who I’ve already declared is the best actor for this role in his technique, in what he does and who he is.” And now for me to even question and begin to divide black into different categories, as if there is a different experience? One of the things about Get Out that works is the emotion it taps; a fairly universal experience of a black person, the experience of many minorities, which is fairly universal to the experience that women have in navigating male-dominated spaces. And the Sunken Place is a feeling that a lot of people needed to express when our voices are marginalized, taken away or silenced.
The rest was history after we made that connection; had that Skype conversation.
Daniel, the film is about racism in America, and you come at this from experiences forged in England. Why did it connect so strongly with you?
Kaluuya: Because I’m black! No, but in the sense that… there’s stuff that’s weirdly enough left unsaid. Everyone says this in private or kind of communicates it with an eye, a look, at a party. But no one ever really unpacks it and goes, “What is that? Why is that?” Because it’s kind of perceived as a given. This is what we have to go through. And so I really enjoyed the script. He’s just calling it out, like naked, calling it out, like this is this, this is that. I was kind of like, “Oh, wow. I’m not alone.” Because I see that look and how you feel when you don’t communicate something. You still feel alone with it. You still feel like it’s your paranoia. It’s your problem.
And the last 20 pages of the script, the last act, that last 20 minutes of the film… that letting go of that pent-up rage? Personally that’s how I feel, and Get Out for me is about the repression of emotion. It’s like if someone says something that’s kind of really weird and you can’t say, “No, don’t do that.” This character can’t because he’s trying to be a good boyfriend but he’s boiling inside, and it manifests itself in my life and what I’ve experienced, and it would kick off an argument with your girl, or an argument with your mom or your family. It needs to be released. And it was so cathartic to see a script have that release in a context that felt real. It’s fighting back, and here, it’s cool to fight, to be who you are and to survive and to thrive.
One of the first things I said to Jordan was, “Yeah, the message speaks to me,” but most important, he’d done the work, structurally and storytelling-wise. This was great cinematic storytelling, on the page. During that time, I was reading scripts for fun, trying to understand what I like and trying to get better as a writer myself. And here, this guy had done the work. It was exciting, and in parts I was laughing, and then it was, whoa, whoa. It was all those things I felt when I read a great script for an old film. I’d go, “Oh, that’s a great read.” But it already had been made into one of my favorite films. This one was different, because it hadn’t happened yet.
Perhaps the most audacious thing was setting the polemic in a genre film.
Kaluuya: I am a fan of genre, but I love great stories whatever the genre is. It don’t matter where it comes from, it’s like, wherever the truth is at. This was more exciting, because you use the metaphor, and someone will come from the street because they’ve bought into a genre piece, and they’re going to get something else in return. It’s funny to me that people felt this came all quite out of the blue. It is Jordan’s voice. It’s like something that goes viral. The most exciting thing is when someone is about to go into a space and they’re brave enough to go, ‘F*ck it. Let’s put our all in.’
Jordan, who did you have to convince that Daniel was the person to convey this message?
Peele: It was the opening weekend of Sicario; that’s when we auditioned Daniel. He physically already had the role but I had to show his performance, so he came and he honored us with an audition where he crushed the hypnosis scene. It was a beautiful moment, it was undeniable. You could see he doesn’t do anything for the sake of doing something. His specificity in what he chooses to do, you could tell he was into some good, interesting sh*t. One of the things that really stood out to me was, he understood the risk of Get Out and instead of it pushing him away, it drew him closer. I felt like we had this bond of like, holy shit, they’re going to let us make this movie? We’re going to do things you’re not supposed to do in this movie and it could go very wrong.
Kaluuya: I did feel that, when I read the script. I was like, “Jordan is going to get in trouble. This guy is going to get in trouble for this. I need to be around… I need to be there. Because I’m all about trouble.” I said, “Let’s go.”
What in your mind was the worst scenario of what could have gone wrong in the execution?
Peele: In my mind? Black people might not appreciate the depiction of the victimization of black people, which is really happening every day. They might not appreciate that in genre, a format meant to entertain.
You could be viewed as exploiting or satirizing a painful problem?
Peele: If the movie was one note off it could very easily fall into the category where I’m exploiting the pain of the African-Americans, of black people. Obviously another big fear is that white people could find it racist. That all the white people in the movie are villains, so I’m trying to say all white people are evil. Those are two huge problems if we don’t get the tone right. And so the trick for me was first of all, ground it in amazing talent in the acting. You need a protagonist that everybody relates to, understands, is rooting for and feels like he’s a surrogate for them as an audience member. That’s where Daniel was crucial. Not only his skill, but that who he is as a person is a perfect match of natural charisma and talent and the hard work he’s put in. But then also you need to constantly subvert where the audience thinks it’s going and that’s something that I picked up from years of sketch comedy. There’s a way to talk about anything important, in any genre. You just need to make sure that you’re not doing it in such an obvious way that the audience loses intellectual respect for you. If they know where the road is going, you’ve failed before you started.
That paranoia-instilling early moment where the cop stops Chris and his girlfriend Rose, and she gets outraged; Daniel, we see your character trying to keep it together and not allowing things to escalate, with something bubbling beneath. What in your life informed those subtle emotions?
Kaluuya: I’ve been getting stopped since I was 12 years old. I know how that plays. I feel like what you do is, if you’ve been through a worst-case scenario of that and you’re a veteran of that, you have a take on it. And it’s all about pacifying. You don’t have the license to be emotional because you know where that road leads. They see it as a disrespect of the power they’re trying to reaffirm over you. And you understand that dance, so you’re trying to go, cool, cool, cool. And then Allison Williams as Rose, she is exercising her white privilege. She has the right to be emotional and to be outraged in that situation because nothing is going to happen to her. And Chris is like, “All right, cool, cool, cool.” Even that new ending, it’s a powerful message. The old ending was about rage, but the new ending is like if you want to stay safe… It’s all about love, at the end of the day. You have to let go, you have to forgive, and you have to forgive yourself in order for you to keep going and keep fighting, because Chris’s fight is not over, in how he’s going to be treated.
Can you describe the emotions underneath the cool façade?
Kaluuya: You’re feeling, pick your battles. You’re feeling strategic. It’s chess. It’s like, “OK, how do I minimize this whole situation?” And you’re feeling it’s also an impossible situation. Every decision you make, you feel is the wrong decision because a wrong has been done to you. Ta-Nehisi Coates said recently in his Eight Years in Power book: The system is disrespectful, but if you’re disrespectful back, it’s like, you’re the crime. So when they go low you go higher. You have to go, “OK, cool. I’m going to go above it. But when I need to I can bring it.” And that’s what the last act is. When I need to, I can get out and I can fight.
Peele: You’ve been gas-lit to this point.
In what way?
Peele: There’s a certain type of subtle racism that black people have grown to expect and accept on a day-to-day basis. If we were to pop off at everything that felt racist we’d be popping off all day. Another of the most strategic scenes that speaks to that is after Chris has just basically been threatened in this menacing way by Jeremy, Caleb Landry Jones. Chris and Rose are in her room later. Chris is on the computer, Rose is seeing these minor racist things, or we think she is. Being the character we think she is, she is for the first time seeing racism through the context of being in this interracial relationship and what it’s like for him when her dad is saying, “My man, my man,” and her brother is being aggressive, all these things.
And so she’s getting riled up like it’s time to go march. For Chris, he’s like, “Whoa. Hold on. What you’re waking up to right now is everyday life, the best case scenario for me, after I was worried that I could be literally killed here but everything is… OK. It’s just normal, average…”
It’s the Twilight Zone, but not that different from the Twilight Zone that is Chris’s life?
Peele: That’s such an important part of the puzzle. Daniel, do a lot of black people in England yell at the screen in horror movies the way African-Americans do here?
Kaluuya: Yeah, they do.
Peele: So that’s just like this feeling like, “Yo, if a black person was in this movie they’d be out the second some sh*t went down.” It was very important for me, for both of us, that the audience not feel like Chris is betraying that sensibility at any point.
Kaluuya: That’s what I found to be the most incredible moment in this whole process. There were certain direction points where Jordan would say, “Nah, man, no.” And we’d be talking about how the audience would be reacting to a certain action, a bit in a scene like when Georgina walks behind Chris when Chris has gone out for a smoke. Like he knew what they would say. And when I watched it in Atlanta, those exact words came out at those exact points. This movie was made for the audience, and how the audience would react as his mind processes things. So even in a simple scene on paper, like when me and Bradley Whitford are walking out onto the gazebo, it was all about how Chris reacted to the black help. How would the black audience react? Jordan thought about that. Would it be, “Ugh”? It is such a thin line and that has all been a part of this process. Us thinking, what are they going to think? We can’t lose them, we can’t lose them.
Peele: The black audience hasn’t really been thought of, with these movies, but we knew that we couldn’t lose them for one second, and that task was made difficult by the fact that we also need Chris to stay in the situation because of his love for this white woman. And that led to another really pivotal scene, the hypnosis scene.
The audience knows Missy hypnotizes. Chris has already declined, and now all of a sudden he’s invited in to sit down and talk with her. We both discussed it. We had this task of bringing the black audience, and really the entire audience, with us. In accepting why Chris would sit down, when we all know this is not going to a good place. So, the way Chris sits down, the way he engages in this conversation became extremely important. He had to be…
Peele: And realistically polite. She hasn’t revealed herself to be a dark person.
Kaluuya: Sean McKittrick mentioned it recently, that the pivotal bit in that scene is everyone realizes Chris is just trying to be a good boyfriend. I think someone has a noble reason to say he’s just trying to do right by his girlfriend that he loves. Everyone can identify with that, and ask themselves…
Peele: What would I do?
Kaluuya: What would I do?
Peele: Nobody’s going to say, “Nah, I’m going to sleep. I’m out. Thanks for the invitation but I’m out. I’m a guest in your home and I’ve been dating your daughter. I’m out. I’m not going to sit with you and have some tea.” So, that to me… I mean, look, Daniel goes through an amazingly vulnerable place emotionally in that scene, but I think the piece of the puzzle that makes that scene truly classic is how he plays all those things.
He plays the guy who, OK, I’m going to sit but you’re not going to hypnotize me and I’m watching you. And the audience feels like, OK, we’re taken care of because he’s doing what I would do. His guard is up. And then it’s my job as a director to hypnotize the audience before they know it’s happening, the same way we do with Chris. That’s where that teacup comes in.
Kaluuya: And even that moment where she says, “You’ve been smoking around my daughter.” Delivering the guilt. Getting his guard down. And she’s got him because she made him feel bad about something. There’s a lot happening.
Peele: And the place she’s ultimately trying to get him is to the paralyzing effect of guilt. His guilt for not showing up for his mother, years earlier. The Sunken Place is… I always thought everyone has a different Sunken Place, what it looks like. But the feeling is the same. It’s a construct of the mind, built by your trauma, when you were the most paralyzed with fear and guilt. That’s why Chris’s Sunken Place is looking at a television, just like when he was sitting in front of the screen when his mother was dying.
Your attention to how the audience responds to each moment and scare. It always seemed like Hitchcock was adept at anticipating that audience response. How does a first-time director know to do this?
Peele: That’s where the comedy comes in. The first half of my professional career was spent in front of a live audience. That training teaches you to ride the audience like a wave. When I did Key & Peele, because we are live performers, comedians, we know when an audience is going to laugh. It’s almost like it’s in the back of our heads, and that goes for anybody who does comedy. I love the art form of comedy because the audience is vocal. You get something back and you sort of begin to internalize the science of that.
You listen, and alter course based on the reaction?
Peele: It got so that if I was writing a Key & Peele sketch, there’s a live audience in my mind, and I know how they’re going to react or I’m pretty close.
This movie was made for only $4.5 million, which means a compressed shooting schedule. Aside from the ending, what moments changed as you and Daniel filtered the script through this imagined black movie audience?
Peele: It was little tweaks. It always came down to these moments where maybe Daniel would come up to me and say, “But are black people going to be with us here?” And that would send me into figuring out how to make it so that they would.
Kaluuya: I just wanted the script to be the best it possibly could. My friends just watch things with complete logic. So it would be little things. I’d turn to Jordan and go, “Is this logical? Does this make sense?” I’m just here to serve the story, and in a way be invisible so the audience is able to project for Chris to be a surrogate. That is why it was important to ask, are we going to lose black people here? Especially in the party scene. We did a lot of takes with a certain bit…
Peele: You’re talking about when someone says, “Black is in fashion,” and then Chris walks away.
Kaluuya: Yeah. We did takes where Chris is very vocal in that situation. He said, “This is ridiculous, this is bullsh*t.” What ended up being in the film is a feeling that I’m checking out. And so the audience is able to project. “Oh, he’s had enough,” and that motors his next step into the story. He’s not having it. He’s left his girlfriend because he just needs to step out of it. That dialogue is just leading up to a conclusion, a solution. It was just a little tweak here and there. Even in the “give me the car key” scene. That was a long conversation when he was coming down. I was like, “Yo, this guy just needs to get out, just get out.” He knew that Rose had cheated on him, lied to him, so then how did he justify those two spins?
How I justified it was, something that is obvious logically isn’t that way emotionally. You may hear that your girl was cheating on you but when she says it, that’s the real heartbreak. When she admits it. There’s two moments: when you see it, and when you feel it. When he dropped the bag and then she goes, “I ain’t giving you the keys,” it was heartbreaking. There was a conversation that was had on set and then Jordan was like, “Trust me, man. Trust me.” And so in that situation, I thought, I’ll trust him, because he’d done the work and he gives a f*ck. And it’s there on the screen.
For me, it was about, logically, is the audience going to question this guy’s decision, and especially the black audiences he represents? We were on that. I knew it was a short shoot and I tried not to take too much time but if I felt it was important… I felt like there was no point doing all this work if you were going to lose them.
Peele: This was the hardest scene, but also the most rewarding as a director, because the entire cast… it was almost impossible for me to explain how I knew it would work. That was kind of a new thing for me. It doesn’t make sense and it kind of shouldn’t work. We reveal that he knows the real Rose, and then four minutes later, we reveal it again. And everyone in the cast was correctly identifying, how does this work? Often on set you ask your characters, “How do you feel?” Daniel said, “I want to get out.”
We worked together pretty hard and got to this thing Daniel is talking about. It was beyond logic. And I think one of the things that made it click, if I’m correct, is we connected it to the trauma this character has been dealing with his whole life. Not showing up for his mother, and in a sense feeling he abandoned his family. This was a situation where he needed to have a moment with Rose, where she affirms his deepest fears, even if he knew already. He needed that, otherwise he would be abandoning his family for a second time in his life even if there was a small chance that there was a misunderstanding. We talked about other movies, like Donnie Brasco. There’s a point where Al Pacino knows Johnny Depp is a cop. He’s like, “Donnie, if you’re a cop…” and he holds a gun to his head.
We did that scene many times, and Daniel’s side of it, and I believe you stayed pretty subdued and within, and very cautious for most of the takes. And then the final take, which is the take that we used, he explodes at her. And it was just one of those moments where, I didn’t know what we were fishing for, he didn’t know what he was fishing for, but when it happened it happened and we’re like, “Let’s go. Let’s move on. We got it.”
There are many exceptional moments in his performance, but that is my favorite because of my whole concern about that scene and the possibility the audience would say, “Why are we even talking about this? Run!” It all makes sense when you see how he needs to confront her and that that’s why he’s still there. It all makes sense and it’s in the performance.
Kaluuya: You owe it to me, to tell me the truth. Just tell me the truth. I think that will identify with anyone who has been in a relationship and been heartbroken. Just tell me the f*cking truth. And if you found the truth later on you just feel cheated, again. That’s what he was digging for and that’s what I felt when I watched it. That’s what we were searching for. It was like oh, he needs to mine the truth out of this woman he loves.
If your guidepost was, how will a black audience accept each of Chris’s reactions, how surprised were you that the collective white audience completely identified with your black protagonist who was being menaced by these white people?
Peele: This is something I was trying to take care of since the beginning of the project. One of the real green lights for me was The Stepford Wives, and Rosemary’s Baby as well. In Stepford Wives, the men are evil. But I didn’t come out of that movie feeling persecuted as a man. I felt in touch with Katharine Ross’ character. I felt like I was her, during that journey. That introduced me to the power of the protagonist. You can make people give up their identity and take on the identity of this other person. When we got Daniel on board, when I saw the performances, when we edited it, I knew we had accomplished that. I still felt like there might be white people out there who hadn’t seen the movie but had heard about it who might object. But I was confident that when anyone sees the movie they’re on the same journey.
Kaluuya: That is the importance of having film change your perspective. Jordan saw Chris as a three-dimensional human being, first. Jordan is a black man, he knows what Chris has to navigate and the emotions he’s going through. Jordan’s spirit is behind him, translating and communicating his truth and how he sees the world, and the audience goes with it. Because it was so carefully considered and it’s coming from a place of deep work. Someone else is just going to take that on as escapism. You see another horror film where there’s a ghoul, and that’s not the real world. It just shows the importance of different perspectives and giving those people an opportunity to tell their story.
When you shot the final ending—after the first one where he kills Rose and is arrested by the cops and winds up behind bars—which did you think was the right way to end the movie?
Kaluuya: When we shot the second ending I knew it would be the ending, but I was so happy about the first ending.
Peele: We shot the first one and then went back to the second one.
Kaluuya: I just felt like, yeah, that’s what happens. Jordan’s message was about the prison system and about how they’re locking up people.
I watched the original ending on DVD and I thought, this is so strong. But I’m so glad that it wasn’t the ending of the movie.
Kaluuya: But you get the hint of that, with the flashing lights, and that’s the genius of the new ending. And the fact is, in the ending, I didn’t feel that Chris is safe. He has been through this new kind of trauma now and he has to go out into the world. And that’s honest. He will have to process that. This isn’t the last battle he’s going to have.
Peele: That whole process taught me a lot about movies and how I want to approach my movies. The original ending was a very intellectual statement, and it was true, and I think you have to access truth. But I bowed to the audience, and the audience’s experience. Whatever intellectually made sense to us, and to me as an artist, there was something that made sense in the gut of the audience. And that was, we’ve been watching this journey because Chris is going to get out, because we’re going to get our exhale, we’re going to get the catharsis and the exaltation that we rarely get in the real world. And whether or not they knew it was going that way or felt it, that’s what the movie is supposed to be.
What was the difference in the test scores between those endings?
Peele: I think it was one point. Maybe not even. It might have been the same. Which just shows you, test scores are bullshit. Test scores have nothing to do with anything. It’s a controlled experiment where people come in and they’re told that they’re going to be a part of creating a film. It’s not the actual experience. What I did was scrutinize the notes people had, and the ideas in them. Basically any response that someone has with the movie or the script for me, it may not be right but there might be a way to do something so that you never hear that response again.
And there was a collective feeling, from black and white audience members, that the original ending was a betrayal. What I read from it was that it was a betrayal by me, as the writer/director. And by the way, it was. When I wrote it, I had this mischievous laugh, like I was saying, “Ha, ha, fuck you guys. This movie is going to be so subversive that it gives you the truth, at the expense of your experience.” It was also a betrayal of the character Chris, after the audience was Chris through this whole journey. There was a look in his eyes in the original ending that he was resigned to never breaking out of the system. Never truly breaking out of the sunken place. And I realized they were like, “Wait a second. I’ve been him and I’m fighting. He can’t give up.” I remember specifically just wondering—and by the way, people knew that it was true and this is how real life works—but I remember somebody saying, “But he just gave up!” And I realized, that’s what the problem was there.
Kaluuya: A lot of stories are seemingly progressive, but structurally conservative. So, with Get Out and that other ending, he gave up, and the system wins. That new ending is empowering, like if we come together we will fight. And, love wins. The storytelling structure with that new ending is radical to me. It’s actually forward movement. Just that end note changes the whole context of what we’re trying to say and that’s why I feel this movie was discussed the whole year. What I’m realizing is that people have been resigned to conservative structures in storytelling and entertainment in most films. What is the insight, what is it actually saying in its heart? The aesthetics here are new age and forward thinking. Does it make the person that’s marginalized feel empowered? And I feel Get Out does.
Leave it to a first-time director trained to be sensitive to audience needs to put aside his own political belief to realize after you took the audience on a great ride, you didn’t have to crush them with a reminder how the real world is for black men and incarceration.
Peele: The statement still was that the real world is the real horror. We come out of this horror/science fiction plot where some things feel real and then some things feel invented, but at the end, you see how the biggest holy shit horrific moment in this movie is the cops showing up when they do. And then the beauty of the ending we have now is we get that message, but instead we get this hero. My initial feeling of trolling the audience was, I wanted to make that movie for the black audience member who has been yelling at the screen for this shit to be realistic, for the character to be smart the whole time. What I wanted was to give them the movie they were asking for. But there are problems with that sensibility. His friend Rod tells Chris, “Look, you’ve got to figure shit out. I’m not coming up to the country to save you from a witches’ coven.” Which is like the kind of stereotypical white thing to do in the movie. I wanted to serve that movie where he doesn’t come because he said he wasn’t going to come and he’s a self-respecting black person, and I don’t care how good a friend you are with somebody, if you know they’re getting killed by a secret society, odds are you’re not driving up there. So, I wanted to kind of let that part sink home too but in a positive way that it still sinks home. And by the way, the other change with the ending is, in the original one, he does kill Rose. So he succumbs to the monster of hatred.
As opposed to loosening his grip, realizing he can’t do it, watching her hateful smug smirk as she sees the flashing police lights, and seeing she’s not going to win, this time.
Peele: We both thought he could have done it, but chooses not to and the reason he chooses not to is because he doesn’t want to let her take his humanity. There’s a difference between violence as a means of survival and violence as a means of hatred and revenge. She was bleeding in the road and his decision was to let her have the same fate his mother had, to bleed in the road.
I hadn’t even thought of that…
Kaluuya: And that leaves him with guilt of what he’s done, leaving her there, because he’s done it again.
You told Deadline in an early interview that the original ending came from your frustration with the idea that, because we had a black president in Barack Obama, racism was solved. Despite all kinds of flashpoint events around the country that said otherwise. So you guys and your film get Oscar nominated, as does Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, and Mary J. Blige and Dee Rees for Mudbound. I’ve seen press reports wondering if this means the #OscarsSoWhite crisis is over. Does this showing mean, problem solved?
Peele: If Mary J. Blige wins Best Supporting Actress, I’m good for another few years.
Kaluuya: No more drama!
Peele: I’m kidding. The #OscarsSoWhite conversation is always going to be an important concept for us to think about. But I do feel it’s also important that the right nominations happen. What I’m trying to say is I don’t want the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to take away from the fact that the black people who have been honored by nominations absolutely deserved their nominations. What I see this year, the representation of the nominations does not feel to me like it’s involved in the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, at all. Daniel earned that sh*t. Mary J. earned that sh*t. Octavia earned that sh*t. So it’s kind of a complicated…
Peele: Denzel earned his. I don’t want Denzel coming after me, man.
Kaluuya: Except to be in your next movie?
Peele: It’s an important conversation because we have to demand progress and we have to demand that people who deserve it aren’t shut out. But as we see with so many of these movements, so often we’ll take a step forward and then two steps back later, take a step forward and two steps back later. So we can never get complacent that we’re past the systemic racism until we have justice on all levels. From the level of justice where people are killed by police to adequate representation in the industry.
Daniel, you’re an up-and-comer after Sicario and Get Out, and Black Panther has just been released. How are you feeling about the future, and the idea that it might be better for a black actor than it was three years ago?
Kaluuya: I think this now is the business that it was supposed to be. I think the old business was wrong. That’s it. I’m appreciative, I’m honored, and it’s amazing what’s happened for Jordan and me, but we’ve got work to do now. I’m here to work. It’s not a game. The way we feel is, the Oscars has been evolved toward the way it’s supposed to be. That’s how I feel. This is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s more true to what the world looks like, and we keep going from there. How it has been has alienated people. But we don’t now go, “Oh, no. Now it’s cool.” We are here because Jordan put in the work, and so did I. Let’s keep doing the work.
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