A secret Sundance screening of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut “Get Out” thrilled audiences in Park City on Monday night. Turning a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” premise into horror with a healthy side of social commentary, “Get Out” centers around an interracial couple (Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya) going home to meet the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener).
A very special former “Girls” intern was in the audience; Malia Obama got to enjoy a recurring joke that one white character “Would’ve voted for Obama a third time.” In a conversation after the screening, Peele introduced producers Sean McKittrick and Jason Blum, cinematographer Toby Oliver, and Whitford before answering questions from the adoring crowd.
“This was something I felt like was really a missing piece in the genre,” Peele said of his horror influences. “One of my favorite movies is ‘The Stepford Wives.’ It’s a real classic, and the way it dealt with the social issues in regards to gender… I just thought, ‘Hey, that’s proof that you can pull off a movie about race that’s a thriller, that’s entertaining and fun and a wild ride.'”
Peele had the idea of giving race “The Stepford Wives” treatment during Barack Obama’s 2008 primary race against Hillary Clinton, when it seemed that women’s civil rights and black civil rights were pitted against each other. He described the initial pitch as, “So here’s a movie that’s never gonna get made.”
Peele thanked Universal Pictures for “having the fuckin’ balls” to back a movie with such a strong political point of view:
For awhile, when we had a black president, we were living in this post-racial lie. This whole idea of, ‘We’re past it all.’ For me, and for many people out there, all black people know: ‘No, there is racism. I experience it on an everyday basis.’ The party scene is kind of how we experienced racism for awhile. This movie was meant to reveal that there’s this monster of racism lurking underneath these seemingly innocent conversations and situations. It’s been fascinating watching the last few years develop, because now the movie is coming out in a very different America than it began. And I think it’s more important now and I think it’s going to be far more interesting now.
As for the transition from his Emmy-winning sketch show on Comedy Central, “Key & Peele,” to writing and directing a classic horror film, Peele made the jump easily. “Horror and comedy are very linked for me; they’re both about getting a physical reaction. One is a laugh, one is a scare.”
“Get Out” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2017. It opens in theaters nationwide February 24. Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.