On Monday, as the town buzzed about new box office records set by Us, the film's 40-year-old director, Jordan Peele, was not wiling away the hours in a Universal lot bungalow fielding congratulatory calls from studio execs. Peele was on a cramped stage in East Hollywood at improv mecca Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the starriest guest yet for the school's new conversation series.
Budgeted at $5 million, the film became a cultural phenomenon, earning north of $250 million worldwide and winning Peele an Oscar for best original screenplay. He saw his status in Hollywood change almost overnight. With the success of Us, he's now well on his way to joining the rarified ranks of blockbuster auteurs like Christopher Nolan and personal hero Scott.
But there are other kinds of power, and Peele plans on wielding his judiciously. One way is to continue putting black faces on the screen in leading roles. "The way I look at it," he explained, "I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, 'I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.' And they say yes."
"I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes," he said, nodding over to his moderator pal Roberts. "But I've seen that movie." The line drew loud applause and shouts of agreement. "It really is one of the best, greatest pieces of this story, is feeling like we are in this time — a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false."