'Get Out' director Jordan Peele says there's lack of imagination in Hollywood
Jordan Peele explains the importance of social relevance in genre content and the need to invest in diverse content
Jordan Peele has come a long way since his days on Mad TV and acting alongside Keegan-Michael Key in Comedy Central Sketch series 'Key & Peele.' The 39-year-old had slowly begun transitioning into more serious roles, turning out in the first season of FX anthology series 'Fargo' before going on to helm his own film 'Get Out.'
The horror film proved to be an unprecedented success, grossing $255 million on a $4.5 million budget and earning Peele an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It put the New York native on the map as one of the up-and-coming stars to look out for, and Peele has since kept himself busy with a host of other projects.
Besides acting as a producer on HBO series 'Lovecraft Country,' a drama-horror television series based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, Peele will also be directing 'Us', a horror-thriller film starring Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke. He also has four other current or forthcoming series at six networks or platforms, a brand-new first-look deal at Amazon Studios, an animated feature and a Spike Lee joint with his name on it. Quite the meteoric rise for someone who, even as recently as a year ago, was regarded most highly as a comedian.
If there's a theme or a pattern that has become apparent from his recent works, it's that he tends to gravitate towards horror. To support his ambitions, he set up Monkeypaw Productions in the mold of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. In a recent interview with Variety, he opened up about how he aimed to combine smart genre entertainment and social consciousness in a fun package.
The conversation would always be about 'Get Out' which, at its core, explored the myriad levels of racism prevalent in the country and delivered a stinging critique of American society, but did so in a crisply-packaged and thrilling 103 minutes. "'Get Out' is the beginning of a movement of representation in a genre of social relevance in fun movies — of elegant, artistic movies that also can have great box office potential," Peele said. "It’s the same in television. I think people recognize that if you’re going to make something in this subgenre, we’re the experts."
"Genre is important to me because that’s what I love to watch. Every now and then, a drama will really get me but, for my money, I look to cinema, I look to television as an escape," he continued. "And that means an escape from reality. I think one of the things that we try and do is provide an escape for our audience — but to not let that allow us to shut our eyes to what’s really going on in the world."
Peele was also passionate about the need for the industry to invest in diverse content. "There has been a lack of imagination in Hollywood, which sets us up to bring in really new, creative ways of storytelling," he clarified. "The imagination, especially, when we talk about representation, has been dull."
"For years and years and years, there’s this preconceived notion that diversity presents a struggle for projects. Well, the truth is, we haven’t invested in diversity. We haven’t invested in artists. So there’s a lack of courage, and I think, when you take leaps and you bring courage and confidence to projects, it works," Peele added. "I think when you entertain first, you can get at something socially profound or intellectual much easier. I think people prefer a story to a lecture or a history lesson. At least I do."