It’s been more than a year since Get Out was released in theaters, but the film’s remarkable run isn’t over just yet: Writer-director Jordan Peele has just won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first black screenwriter to receive the accolade.
“This means so much to me,” Peele said as he accepted the award. “I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible, I thought it wasn’t gonna work, I thought no one would ever make this movie — but I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie people would hear it and people would see it.”
He also thanked “all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie,” the film’s cast and crew, wife Chelsea Peretti, and his mother, “who taught me to love even in the face of hate.”
He then expressed gratitude for everyone who saw the film. “To everybody who went and saw this movie, to everybody who bought a ticket, who told somebody to buy a ticket, thank you — I love you for shouting out at the theater, shouting out at the screen, let’s keep going. I love you all, thank you so much.”
After his on-stage acceptance speech, he posted another, more succinct reaction on Twitter:
Peele was considered to be in the thick of a very tight race: He won the equivalent WGA award over fellow Oscar nominees Lady Bird and The Shape of Water, but Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was notably ineligible with the guild and wound up winning the corresponding BAFTA. Still, Peele’s highly original effort seemed to best fit the spirit of the category, and it’s been rewarded accordingly.
This was one of three Oscar nominations Peele earned for Get Out; he’s also a Best Director nominee and shares in the film’s Best Picture nod as a producer. The former Key & Peele star drew raves for his innovative and timely horror-satire, which traces what happens to a black man (played by Daniel Kaluuya) when he’s invited up to stay with his wealthy, liberal white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend.
Backstage after his win, Peele discussed being a part of one of the most memorable times in black film history. “Oh my God, it’s a renaissance,” he said. “This is something that… I almost never became a director because there was such a shortage of role models. We had Spike, we had John Singleton, we had the Peebleses, we had the Hughes brothers, but they felt like the exception to the rule. I’m so proud to be a part of a time, the beginning of a movement where I feel like the best films in every genre are being brought to me by my fellow black directors. It’s very special and I think that goes for all areas of inclusion. But it’s quite clear with the work that Ava’s doing, that Ryan’s doing, F. Gary Gray, Barry… this is a very special time.”
He also touched on the power of validation, when it comes to being an Oscar-winning black filmmaker. “I didn’t know how important this was,” peele explained. “I always wanted this, but the campaign is grueling, and there are times when I questioned what is it all about? You’re watching your own, your last jump shot for a year, and as an artist, that doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right to be complacent and to feel like I’ve done anything too special to reward myself. When the nominations for this came together, first of all, when the nominations came out, I had this amazing feeling of looking at the 12-year-old that had this burning in my gut for this type of validation, and it instantly… I instantly realized that an award like this is much bigger than me. This is about paying it forward to the young people who might not believe that they could achieve the highest honor in whatever craft they want to push for. You’re not a failure if you don’t get this. But I almost didn’t do it because I didn’t believe that there was a place for me. Whoopi Goldberg, in her acceptance speech for best supporting actress for Ghost, was a huge inspiration to me and when I got nominated, one of the first things I did was reach out and call her and thank her for telling young people who maybe doubted themselves that they could do it. So I hope that this does the same and inspires more people to use their voices. “
In addition to Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards, Peele’s film beat out the acclaimed rom-com The Big Sick.
For the full list of 2018 Oscar winners, click here.