Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated thriller “Us” hits theaters in two weeks.
The acclaimed director’s buzzworthy follow-up to his 2017 hit, “Get Out,” which made Peele the first African-American screenwriter to win the Academy Award for best original screenplay, is expected to be equally suspenseful.
Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star as Adelaide and Gabe Wilson, a couple who visit their beach house in California with their two children only to be terrorized by some unexpected visitors.
The twist? The visitors, known as “The Tethered,” are actually versions of themselves.
Nyong’o described the film as a “relentless nightmare that taps into [Adelaide’s] deepest fears and ours as well — the idea that we might be our own worst enemies,” in an interview with EW.
The trailer, which premiered in December 2018, doesn’t give too much away but showcases the horrifying moment of realization that the monsters are mirror-versions of the four main characters.
“They look exactly like us. They think like us. They know where we are,” Nyong’o’s character, Adelaide, says about “The Tethered” in the film’s trailer.
Peele spoke about the concept of the film and the idea of having mirror-image monsters with the Wall Street Journal.
“We’re living in a messy time. A dark time. And I think there’s plenty of blame to go around, but what I don’t see happening enough is people looking at their own part in this dark turn,” he told the publication.
“It’s so much easier to blame the other,” he continued. “It connects to something in human nature, and to a duality in the history and present of this country as well: this fear of the outsider.”
“This movie was a way to say, ‘What if the intruder is us? Maybe the monster has our face, and we’re so obsessed with some unrecognizable monster that we’ve been blinded to the real one,'” he added.
His inspiration for the film was the 1960 Twilight Zone episode, “Mirror Image,” in which a woman believes her doppelganger is out to get her.
“It’s terrifying, beautiful, really elegant storytelling, and it opens up a world. It opens up your imagination,” he told Rolling Stone in January.
He also spoke about the fears he is attempting to harness from the audience in the film.
“Invasion movies — whether it’s a home invasion or The Birds or UFOs — pull from fear of the outsider,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
“Right now we’re in a time where that fear is very thick in the zeitgeist: fear of North Korea making a bomb, fear of immigrants,” he continued. “But we’re realizing that the terror is homegrown, too.”
He also shared what events impacted his creative process when writing the screenplay.
“Writing this movie, I thought a lot about 9/11. Where we are now as a culture is very connected to that scar,” he told the outlet.
“In the most literal ways: There’s discussion of banning people from entering this country that’s this residual trauma from that day,” he continued. “We have values that we claim this country is about, but we have a dark side that is the opposite of those values.”
He emphasized how self-reflection is instrumental in creating change, which he hopes will translate in the film.
“I wanted to channel some of that dark space: to say that you can have invading others that are truly resorting to evil means, but if we’re not asking how we got ourselves here, from all angles, we’re doomed to rinse and repeat,” he told WSJ. Magazine.
The director also wants viewers to realize that the film is not entirely about race.
“It’s important to me that we can tell black stories without it being about race,” he told Rolling Stone.
“I realized I had never seen a horror movie of this kind, where there’s an African-American family at the center that just is,” he continued. “After you get over the initial realization that you’re watching a black family in a horror film, you’re just watching a movie. You’re just watching people.”
Nyong’o jumped at the opportunity to take part in the thriller.
“He was on my wish list of people to work with,” she told EW. “The very fact that I have not done anything like it was appealing, because it promised growth and excitement and new territory.”
She said in order to delve into her character, she needed to get more insight into Peele’s mind.
“Jordan layers his stories with images and themes and creates this intricate tapestry in the storytelling, so I needed to sit with him and mine him for as much information as possible,” she told WSJ. “My performance had to be specific; otherwise it would be chaotic.”
The actress also spoke about how helpful the director was throughout the process. “When we first met, he asked a question no other director has asked me to date: ‘What’s your process and what do you need from me?'” she told the outlet.
“It revealed how empathetic he was, and that manifested in the way he conducted his set—he was always articulate about what he wanted, but also very adaptable,” she added. “I feel like we sculpted these characters together: He’s passionate about his vision without ever being precious.”
Nyong’o’s co-star and on-screen husband, Duke, who also starred with her in “Black Panther,” hasn’t spoken much about his role — but he did give fans a small glimpse into his character.
“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,” he told EW.
On “Us” following up the tremendously successful “Get Out,” Peele said the audience will likely see a difference.
“In some ways there’s more I’m offering for the audience to unpack in this film than there was in ‘Get Out,'” he told the Journal.
“I do like to give the audience enough to figure it out, if they were to watch the movie enough, but I feel similarly to David Lynch in that I don’t think the audience needs to know everything,” he added. “The key for me, as a director, is that I need to know everything, because the audience can sense it if I don’t. The beauty of Lynch’s work is that you can leave fulfilled and, at the same time, clueless as to what it was about.”
He said that the film also differs from the 2017 breakout film, in that race isn’t purposely the central element, where race was the primary focus of “Get Out.”
“I feel like it proves a very valid and different point than Get Out, which is, not everything is about race,” he told Rolling Stone, “Get Out proved the point that everything is about race. I’ve proved both points!”
“Us” hits theaters March 22, 2019.
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