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At the start of 2017, Jordan Peele was just a comedian who had walked away from a successful TV show.
What we didn’t know then was that Peele had a new story to tell, translating his anxieties into his directorial debut, Get Out. For Peele, 38, who also wrote and produced, the hit thriller was the realization of a dream that surpassed all expectations.
EW caught up with Peele, one of our Entertainers of the Year, as his big 2017 came to a close to discuss his success as a filmmaker and what the future might hold.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Beyond ticket sales, what was your personal measure of the film’s success?
JORDAN PEELE: The movie was always about filling this void in the conversation. I felt like the way we talk about race was and still is broken, but if this movie could help generate constructive discussion that involved new ideas, that would be the coolest thing.
This was your first film. When did you finally relax, knowing things were going well?
That first weekend it came out was Oscar weekend. I remember feeling nervous, like “Oh, no. The Sunday of the weekend my movie is coming out is when all film lovers will be home.” When I discovered that box office grew from Saturday to Sunday, I knew that it was clicking and working. That being said, just getting the movie finished and liking the movie itself was the big exhale. Nothing really beats that. I was kind of like, “[Even] if this things flops, I’ve got one of my favorites, in a way.”
Was there a moment when you realized that some of the film had crossed over into the pop culture lexicon?
I would get tagged on Instagram with this art, and I noticed that there was more and more and more. Most of the art was primarily inspired by the idea of the Sunken Place, which I think is the element that resonated the most. It’s something that the movie kind of brought to the lexicon, like you said.
Has this experience changed how you want to approach the rest of your career?
It just allows me to trust myself a little more. There was a long time where I felt like this felt was going to be something I would love, but I didn’t have any assurance that it would actually work or be supported. I feel like now I can commit to my instincts and work faster.
I wrote Get Out not necessarily as something to get made. I wrote it more as something that would be fun to write and something that would help me get better as an artist. So there was no deadline that I was giving myself. Now that I know that this kind of movie works, I can give it more purpose. Like, I know that I can get it made, so let’s move forward with that goal in mind, instead of it being this ongoing project that who knows if anyone will ever see it.
How’s the next movie coming?
I’m writing it now, an idea I’ve had for a while. I’m pretty obsessed with this social thriller/horror genre.
Which part of your Get Out experience do you most want to replicate?
I want audible screams. I want audible laughs. I want tears, and I want cheers. Something that makes people say, “You’ve gotta see this movie in the theater.”