“Comparing me to Steven Spielberg would not only make me the happiest man, not just the filmmaker, but it would also fill the boy who spent a summer without bathing at the beach because of ‘Jaws’ with satisfaction, and that another, who is the same, who used one of his summer vacations to watch the sky in case an alien ship appeared overhead full of lights. ‘nope!’ It is my tribute to that cinema that was magic, to that wonderful Spielberg of ‘Encounters of the Third Kind’”.
Jordan Peele (New York, 1979) has made it possible in this his new, third, film as director and screenwriter, also inscribed in the fantastic (“Terror and science fiction are the best possible genres. genres and become more sincere”, he points out) after the successful ‘Let me out’ (2017) and ‘Nosotros’ (2019). A luminous film, a ‘Jaws’ with a flying saucer (we won’t do any more spoilers, even if there are any) and a small and heterogeneous group of people who decide to hunt him down.
it happened in hollywood
The action of ‘Nope!’ (“We’ve gotten used to saying ‘nope’ to everything we think can’t happen or will never happen to us”, explains the director about the meaning of the title to our readers) It doesn’t take place in deep America but on the outskirts of Los Angeles. “It was a decision in line with what’s on the script about how Hollywood has made a spectacle of everything without any measure,” he observes. “I wanted to talk about the lie of a Hollywood that prefers a computer generated animal (or a person; we are on our way) to a live one. Of a Hollywood that sees what there is of possible business and show in the extra or, in the unknown, instead of understanding it, respecting it and even fearing it. We are no longer afraid of anything because the unknown is a challenge that only serves to talk about it, photograph it or film it and sell an exclusive to a TV channel or a website (pay attention to the bleeding bump that the film gives to TMZ). Or appear on Oprah’s show, as the protagonist intends.
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the mystery of the cinema
The Haywood brothers (Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar for ‘Get Out’, and Keke Palmer) raise and train horses for movies (less and less) and television commercials following in the footsteps of their father (Keith David, present in ‘The Thing’ by John Carpenter) and his grandfather, Hollywood’s first black horseman stuntman. “I wanted to honor that school and that lineage of those who are not named when Hollywood history is written”, Jordan Peele gets excited. “They were the real heroes, and I kind of try to make them that in ‘Nope!’ embarking on a hunt for that flying saucer that hides behind the clouds and sneaks up to do its thing. The idea of classic Hollywood saving the world seemed like poetic justice to me. I have a theory that the end of the world has a lot to do with the disappearance of a type of stories that were told, of a type of comics and novels that were read; of a cinema that was taking place. It had a lot to do with being open-minded about the unknown, the mysterious, the supernatural, or coming from a distant planet. Today, everything has to be a show since King Kong was captured on an exotic, uncharted island and brought to New York to be a Broadway attraction. We cannot strip our lives of mystery. Not our movies.”
roll and roll
Jordan Peele wrote the script for ‘Nope!’ during the confinement of the year 2020. “I wrote and wrote without knowing if we could go back to shooting as before,” recalls the director. “I had the advantage that it would be in large open spaces and with a small team, but I didn’t want something small, but, as I have told you, reproduce again that magnificence of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. Luckily 2021 was a little better and we were able to build all the sets, starting with the Western theme park, Jupiter’s Claim, which runs the character of Steven Yeun (key to the climax of the film and, for those who are not in a hurry with the titles of final credits, protagonist of an affectionate gag/wink to… ‘Desmadre a la Americana’) and then continuing with the main house of the Haywood farm that has a recognizable air between Gothic and that of Reata, Rock Hudson’s mansion in ‘ Giant’ (George Stevens, 1956). I once read that John Ford loved to shoot away from the producers and the Hollywood executives, and even though we were relatively close, and even though I was the producer, I felt that freedom of being away from the noise and in a separate universe to roll, roll and roll.”
lights in the dark
The ones that the exquisite Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (the original ‘Let Me In’; ‘Interstellar’; ‘Tenet’; ‘Spectre’…) has gifted our eyes, beginning with night and day skies that seem only the blue waters of the sea where Spielberg’s shark played with the crew of the barge that had gone to capture him, but a large, white cinematographic screen. “I know I repeat myself,” laughs Jordan Peele on the other end of the phone line, “but The essence of ‘Nope!’, apart from the fact that it is a horror film with the aspect of a science fiction one, is that I am talking about cinema and how it is still capable of lighting up life, spurring on fantasy, moving us and making us be very scared if necessary. There’s a lot of western in it, but it’s not a western. Yes, it talks about pioneers, about people who love horses and lives outdoors, but above all it talks about the deep connection that the characters have with the land, with the (pronounced in Spanish) territory. ‘nope!’ It is also a border story: that of a modern world with its cities (Los Angeles and Hollywood) and nature just around the corner abandoned to its fate. Border between our world, our planet Earth and other galaxies, other planets and possible life forms. Border between the fantastic and the rational. Borders, then, between light and darkness.
Horses, a pig and a monkey
Three animals (irrational… or not) are the main protagonists of the film, beginning, of course, with the horses whose names divide the film into chapters (except one). “Horses represent just because, and besides being photogenic and the most American thing you can put in a feature film, freedom. And on top of the obvious metaphor, there is the fact that horses, when they were brought to America by the Spanish conquerors, were confused by the indigenous people with creatures from another world, between divine beings and chimeras only seen perhaps in dreams. It is not strange that the flying saucer has such a curious relationship with them… and that those who read this before having seen my film would not advance.”
The pig is a very crazy and very ‘Twister’ moment that reveals that Peele is still a crack comedian. Instead, the monkey, Gordy, is a chimpanzee who has a sitcom in the 90s and that in one episode (the last one before the series was cancelled) he went crazy and traumatized Steven Yeun’s character forever. “Gordy is my pound of flesh of pure terror and the nightmare that completes this story. I hope they suffer as he deserves.”
commitment to terror
“I am not going to stop making, producing or consuming horror movies”, is blunt who sponsored the new resurrection of the legendary series created by Rod Serling, ‘The Twilight Zone’ or took us as a producer to the other history of the United States which was the magnificent ‘Lovecraft Territory’. “I have a commitment, if not to say a blood oath, with genre cinema and I am going to continue with it until the public says enough is enough. And maybe then it will continue anyway. It doesn’t matter to me that there is a part of the public that stays only with the critical and social component of my stories and values that more than the skeleton of a scary story. If those social and whistleblower aspects work so well, or so it seems to me, it’s because they’re in a horror story about a weird community, evil doppelgangers, or some sort of flying saucer acting like an unseen predator. Underestimating the mechanisms of horror movies or science fiction will always be a mistake and will have me openly against it”.
a summer of fear
The conversation with Jordan Peele could last longer if it were up to him, but his schedule was busier than that of Werner Herzog, who was going to play the role that Michael Wincott has finely played, that filmmaker obsessed with extreme documentaries and who survives on advertising , but that in the hunt (with a mechanical camera, not electronic) of the mysterious artifact finds some moments of glory worthy of the Robert Shaw of the already often cited (rightly so) ‘Jaws’. “I hope this is a summer of fear like the one I mentioned when I was a kid at the beginning of this conversation”, you want before you say goodbye. “That we look at the sky in a different way, that we do it with the same curious gaze that we had as children and discover in it that we don’t know everything about this piece of rock in which we revolve around a sun that we don’t know too much about either. I hope people return to theaters and if possible they want to stop by this place where horses, riders and normal beings face the extraordinary that is titled ‘Nope!’”.
sydney and the western
Two posters for two westerns preside over the Haywood office, both starring Sidney Poitier: ‘Duel with Devil’ (Ralph Nelson, 1966) and ‘Buck and the Faker’ (Sidney Poitier, 1972). “It is my tribute to the genre and above all to Poitier, the greatest reference that we African-Americans have, especially those of us who dedicate ourselves to cinema”, clarifies Jordan Peele. “He left us at the end of last year when we were immersed in the filming of the film.”
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