Rod at the Police Station
The conversation started with a scene from late in the movie, when Rod (Lil Res Howery) goes to the police station to report that his friend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been kidnapped — specifically, by white people who brainwash black people to become their sex slaves. (At least, that’s how Rod understands it.) As he explains the situation to a stone-faced detective (Erika Alexander), her demeanor gradually changes. Chris shares a photo of another kidnapped African American (Lakeith Stanfield), explaining that he has been dressed up in fancy clothing unlike his usual appearance. “He didn’t use to dress like this!” Rod exclaims, and she shoots back, “I didn’t use to dress like this.”
The scene culminates with the detective dragging in her peers to hear Rod’s story so they can all enjoy a laugh. “Oh, white girls,” she says, “They get you every time!”
The exchange suggests what it must have been like for Peele to pitch his movie’s premise for the first time. However, McKittrick said it went much smoother than that. “My first response was, ‘I’ve never seen that movie before,’” he said. According to Peele, “it was so personal to my experience that I had to make it.” He sang the praises of Howery’s comic timing, especially in the moment where he’s attempting to express a dire situation and met with derision. “White people are the villains in this movie,” Peele said. “There’s an uncomfortable energy I’m wielding here. The only way it would work was if there there was something to balance that out. Rod was the release valve. It was important that he would bring levity, but he wouldn’t be telling jokes.”
“Do They Know I’m Black?”
The first time we meet Chris and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), they’re making plans to visit her parents at their country mansion. Chris brings up the elephant in the room. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. It’s an early window into the racial tension of their relationship, which transforms into a literal nightmare once it becomes clear that Rose is in cahoots with her family to brainwash her new boyfriend. The dynamic between the couple sets the stage for the drama to come, but also conveys the chemistry between them. “As his girlfriend for most of the movie, she’s trying to get him to stop being so closed off,” Williams said. “We were charting that arc as a decoy arc for the movie, and had to create it realistically as actors.”
According to Kaluuya, they mapped out their relationship through a series of rehearsal sessions. “Jordan just let us go and improvise,” he said. “Both of us have a background in improv, so we were very much in the moment.”
For Peele, the early scene was crucial. “The entire movie lived or died on us wanting this couple to succeed, which is a tricky task because at the same time, it’s one of these things where if she’s too slick and perfect a girlfriend then the audience will be on to it,” he said. “With this scene, it was important to find the awkwardness of their relationship, the off-balance moments, and really make a couple that we can relate to.”
“Now You’re In the Sunken Place”
On the first night at the parents’ home, Chris encounters Rose’s eerie psychotherapist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) after dark and she hypnotizes him. The resulting sequence is a mesmerizing immersion into “The Sunken Place”: Chris collapses into another plane of awareness, drifting away into a black void within his own mind, where Missy can keep him locked away as long as she wants. The scene is a masterstroke of editing, performance, and sound design that apes Chris’ sense of disorientation and become a pivotal moment for the movie’s tonal shift into scarier territory.
When Blum read the script, he said, he had no idea what Peele was trying to do. “I was utterly baffled by it,” he said. “I totally did not get it on the page. But I believed that he did.”
Peele envisioned The Sunken Place as a simple empty environment — a basic green-screen effect — so he could convey the concept with scant resources. “Part of it is very minimal and abstract because it needed to be,” he said. “I wrote toward that.”
But he had bigger ideas on his mind. “It became this symbol for the marginalization of minorities, of black people,” he said. “I felt like I was writing the movie to address the specific marginalization within the genre that has loyal black thriller audience members yelling at the screen, ‘Get out!’ And no matter how loud you yell at the screen, you can’t get that representation. The white character on the screen does not do what you’re trying to get her to do. It became this metaphor for this darkened theater where we’re relegated to sitting in the seat, but don’t get our story.”
Rod Calls Ro Ro
Late in the movie, Chris catches on to the family’s scheme and is knocked unconscious. When Rod calls him, Rose picks up, but she’s no longer Chris’ supportive girlfriend. We now know that she’s been playing that part as bait to bring him into the house. But the scene finds Williams in a dual role: On the phone with Rod, she has a giddy, carefree tone, as she attempts to seduce a new target. But in the house, she remains expressionless, and the contrast between her face and her voice becomes a jolting punchline.
The “Girls” actress was tackling her first feature role, and Peele cast her after watching her perform “Peter Pan” live on NBC. The casting choice was a coy means of subverting expectations. “I knew the audience would have this connotation with Marnie and ‘Peter Pan,’ so we could pull the wool over their eyes,” he said. On set, the cast and crew referred to the character’s hidden evil dimension as “Ro Ro.” Peele pitched this scene to her as a tricky proposition. “We had this idea that she’s an insect, with no soul,” he said. “What if your physicality was Ro Ro and you were this scary woman, but your voice had the full emotion of Rose? I honestly didn’t think she could pull it off — this idea to be dead physically and yet sound like you’re full of life. I mean, try it.”
For Williams, the character “is always playing roles, so she reverts back to this middle school, puberty-less person who sits on her bed and listens to ’80s music and eats Fruit Loops. We still did it in this weird way where she’s totally precise about everything. She has this cool-girl look but everything is in place, every hair, her posture. We just thought that would be a fun, psychotic part.”
“We Handle Shit”
“Get Out” ends with a dramatic escape sequence in which Chris flees in a car, only to be pursued by a rifle-toting Rose. Eventually, he manages to turn one of her slaves against her, and he contemplates choking her to death even as she bleeds out. Then the lights of a police car reflect on his face. It’s a terrifying moment: Just when Chris seems to be in the clear, we’re poised to see the cops come for another innocent black man.
But no — it’s Rod, Chris’ best pal and a TSA agent for the ages. “I’m T-S-motherfuckin’-A,” he says, in a now-iconic moment. “We handle shit. Consider this situation motherfuckin’ handled.”
However, “Get Out” originally ended on the exact tragedy briefly implied by the car lights: Chris gets arrested and goes to jail. When Blumhouse test-screened it, audiences revolted. “It was clear when we were showing it to people that they needed a hero, and an escape,” he said. “They didn’t need a reminder of how fucked up that world was. Everyone — black and white alike — was like, “Come on, man, you take me through all that and he doesn’t get out?’”
Blum and McKittrick cobbled together funds so Peele could go back and shoot a new ending. “Kudos to these guys for letting me go unlock the funds to fix this problem,” Peele said. “That moment when the car arrives, the audience does all the work of the original ending. You already know it, which is so much more powerful.”
Watch the “Get Out” trailer below, courtesy of iTunes: