Nestled into the leafy hills of Universal City, CA lies a cul-de-sac called Colonial Street — a set of seemingly innocuous suburban houses which have served, over the years, as the location for shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
It was against this backdrop that Universal Pictures decided (with no small amount of irony) to hold a garden party in honor of their recent smash thriller GET OUT — a film that takes place in a similar-looking location and argues that, perhaps, garden parties just like the one being thrown in GET OUT’s honor are nothing to celebrate.
Leave it to Hollywood to take a great artistic achievement like GET OUT and use it as an excuse to take novelty photographs, drink free booze and eat fancy cheese — which, when I visited the buffet table (in a metaphor which perhaps filmmaker Jordan Peele would appreciate), had a wasp on it.
I’m an awkward partygoer. That’s my burden, particularly in an industry which may not necessarily run on social gatherings, but is certainly lubed by them. Regardless of the optics, the event was a well-intentioned — and by all accounts successful — attempt to celebrate Jordan Peele’s justifiably acclaimed and enormously financially successful directing debut GET OUT, which is now available in Digital HD and scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray on May 23.
The party was preceded by a presentation of several scenes from GET OUT, which stars Daniel Kaluuya as a black photographer visiting the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) for the weekend, and enduring what could be the uncomfortably casual racism of the so-called “progressive” upper class white culture, or could — very easily — be a giant red flag for something much more sinister.
Peele was in attendance, along with Kaluuya, Williams and producers Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick… and together they offered some insights about the film’s production.
Much of the discussion revolved around the sort of minutiae that primarily amuse horror trivia fans — for instance, Peele revealed that he has not one but two subtle cameos in the film: as the voice-over actor who says “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” (a Morgan Freeman impression, left over from his stint on MAD TV), and as the voice of the dying deer… because “not even a real deer noise could beat my deer.”
But more dramatically, Peele also discussed in great length his original, infinitely more cynical ending of the movie — a scene which will be available on the aforementioned home video release.
The film was originally supposed to end with our hero in prison — but after some difficult test screenings, Jason Blum encouraged Peele to come up with a more satisfying finale. “It was very clear,” Peele explained. “The audience was saying they didn’t like the ending, and for me, it is ‘give the audience what they want.’ So I was just very glad, very honored, that Jason was going to give me more money to shoot an ending that worked.”
The debate continued, however, as to how to give GET OUT a more optimistic ending without undermining the film’s confrontational themes about race. “The ‘eureka moment’ for me, after we showed it, was realizing that we could get the effect of the cop showing up, and have the audience go through that, and then I could put ‘AIRPORT’ on the side of the car and have it also be Rod,” Peele said. “So that realization… it took me a little bit to get there, but once I got there I realized that’s the right ending.”
GET OUT isn’t the sort of film that, following its theatrical release, simply crawls out onto home video and then gradually fades away; people are going to be talking about this film for years to come.
GET OUT was a runaway financial success ($206.3 million off a $4.5 million budget, via Box Office Mojo), so it only stands to reason that, with no small amount of prodding from the press (cough-cough-it’s-my-job-cough), the filmmakers were talking about the movie’s future… which, most would assume, includes the possibility of a GET OUT 2.
“I hope we’re going to make one,” Sean McKittrick told me in one of the creepy suburban façades. “I would love to.” The producer adds that there has been “no official conversation,” but “we’ve been joking and half-joking about sequels and prequels to GET OUT since the initial conversation over a pitch of GET OUT.”
In another, equally creepy skeleton of a house, Blumhouse CEO Jason Blum told me, “We’ve managed to do sequels to almost every one of the hits that we’ve had, and this is the first movie where I just cannot imagine what the sequel would be. So if Jordan came up with an idea of what he wanted to do as a sequel to the movie, of course we would do it… but I’m not encouraging him to do that, I and I really can’t conceive of what it would be.”
“I don’t think it’s the kind of movie where you push Jordan to come up with another one,” he went on. “If it organically happens, it happens, but I don’t think anything good would come of forcing it to happen… and I don’t think that’s always the case. There are plenty of directors where I’m like, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta make one.’” He recalled the difficulty he had convincing James Wan to make the sequel to INSIDIOUS: “It was very hard to get him to do the second movie,” he continued. “Oh my gosh, we had to fit it in this crazy situation, it was very dramatic.”
So it’s up to Jordan Peele… and as I soon discovered while we awkwardly conversed near some tiny sandwiches (hard-hitting journalism: bread was a little dry), the writer-director is already thinking about it.
“Look, I feel like there’s much more depth to the world [of GET OUT],” Peele said. “I would only deliver the audience a sequel if I felt like I was going to beat the original. So you know, I’m on the case. I’m on the case.”
Meanwhile, Peele is hard at work on more social thrillers in a similar vein — which he will create as part of his new first-look deal at Universal Pictures — and he’s well aware of the pressure that comes with following up on GET OUT’s enormous success.
“You know, here’s the thing… when they say you gotta try and top [the success of GET OUT],” Peele explained, “it’s like yes, in some ways, but for me that can mean a bunch of different things. I don’t want to try and make the same movie again. I want to make a very different movie — a movie that utilizes some of the same things that worked for me about GET OUT, but a completely different movie.”
Don’t expect Jordan Peele to — as rumor had it — direct a live-action remake of the anime classic AKIRA… even though bigger-budgeted movies could very well be in his future.
“I think [I could do it] if the story justifies it,” Peele said. “AKIRA is one of my favorite movies, and I think obviously the story justifies as big a budget as you can possibly dream of. But the real question for me is: Do I want to do pre-existing material, or do I want to do original content? At the end of the day, I want to do original stuff.”
With quotes in my pocket and a bellyful of so-called “homemade Twinkies,” I finally backed away from the party at Colonial Street. That’s when I noted — to my horror — the car from the opening of film, an ominous helmet perched on the hood, radio blaring “Run Rabbit Run.” If that’s not a sign to GET OUT, I don’t know what is.
So I fled as fast as my bad knee would take me — away from the awkward social gathering and into the noxious nightmare of Los Angeles freeway traffic, wondering if perhaps, just perhaps, I should have also tried the flatbread. Perhaps I’ll never know.