Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?
“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”
Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer. After a day at the beach with the Tyler family (which includes Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), Adelaide — who’s haunted by a lingering trauma from her past — becomes increasingly more paranoid that something bad will happen to her family. As night falls, the Wilsons see four figures holding hands and standing silently at the bottom of their driveway… (Did shivers just go up your spine?)
Peele didn’t have to give a hard sell to recruit Oscar winner Nyong’o for his leading role. “He was on my wish list of people to work with,” Nyong’o tells EW, adding that she was a huge fan of Get Out. “The very fact that I have not done anything like it was appealing, because it promised growth and excitement and new territory.”
To prepare, Peele gave Nyong’o 10 classic horror films to watch so they would have “a shared language” when filming: Dead Again, The Shining, The Babadook, It Follows, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Birds, Funny Games, Martyrs, Let the Right One In, and The Sixth Sense.
Then the filmmaker had some fun bringing Nyong’o together with her Black Panther costar and former Yale University classmate Duke to play his all-American couple. “I could see signs of them flirting online — they’re both flirts in general — you could see the couple in them who would want to be together, so the chemistry is just on,” the filmmaker says.
Duke, best known as the brawny, imposing M’Baku in Black Panther, laughs when he hears Peele’s description of his relationship with Nyong’o, but does agree that their shared history allowed them a natural closeness and shorthand when portraying the Wilsons. “It was important for me to not come off as a warrior in this film,” Duke says, and he describes Gabe as a Homer Simpson-esque patriarch — a lovable dad, but flawed. “He’s very sporadic and impulsive, he’s the husband and the alpha, and I think that leads to some of the conflict that is in the marriage when we meet the Wilsons.”
Nyong’o and Duke are accompanied by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, who play Adelaide and Gabe’s children; Peele describes the young actors as having a “relative fearlessness when it comes to horror and dark, creepy stuff.” Peele and his cast are tight-lipped about the horrors that befall the Wilsons, but Peele does reveal one key detail: The monsters in his movie are called the Tethered.
All we know is that the Wilsons most certainly suffer a holiday from hell. Nyong’o says “it turns into this relentless nightmare that taps into [Adelaide’s] deepest fears and ours as well — the idea that we might be our own worst enemies.” Catch us biting our fingernails as we eagerly wait for March.
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