Jordan Peele, the award winning actor, director and screenwriter has been making waves in recent years for his thrillers and horror movies with leading black casts tackling racism and society head on in.
When he was younger, being biracial, with a white mother and black father, he never felt like he particularly fit in anywhere and admitted he always felt like an outsider growing up in New York.
He became known for his Comedy Central show Key and Peele which featured sketches centered around racism, homophobia and gender. The show was successful, winning two Emmys and a Peabody for ‘racially charged issues and ideas like no one else on television’.
Despite his acting ability, it was his directing and screenwriting skills that brought the 41-year-old to international acclaim when he wrote and directed psychological thriller Get Out in 2017, which was his directorial debut.
The revolutionary horror/social thriller centered an African-American man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, which leads to a struggle to escape captivity and exploitation.
It first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival before going on to make $255 million at the box office gaining him several notable nominations, including an Oscar nomination for Best Director. This marked Peele as only the fifth African-American to earn said nomination.
Peele lost out on that category but did go on to win in the screenplay award. Controversy surrounded Get Out losing certain nominations at the Oscars due to the fact that it had anonymously been revealed that some older Academy members had dubbed the film ‘not an Oscars film’ despite never having seen it and other voters felt ‘turned off’ by the film’s attempt to ‘play the race card’.
Peele’s response was to come out with American horror film ‘US’, another box office hit surrounding a black family dealing with their demonic doppelgangers attempting to kill them.
Peele was not the first black director or screenwriter to rock the boat with his style or messages in his films but he has arguably become one of the most successful.
His unapologetic attitude to showing racism and casting black leads in horror movies (an almost unheard of choice, unless to be killed off or to be used as comic relief) opened up a whole new conversation about race and casting choices in film.
Peele’s work creates optimism for a future in the film industry where black actors are not shoehorned into stereotypes and token characters. His films prove that people want to see black talent celebrated and given the creative freedom they deserve.
When Peele first wrote Get Out he never thought it would be produced let alone see the success it earned. He now has his own production company Monkeypaw Productions where he aims to produce the stories of underrepresented people and has the exciting opportunity of remaking 1992 horror/slasher film Candyman, coming out next year. It is undeniable Jordan Peele has become a catalyst for change and a beacon for what hopefully is an entirely new era of Hollywood.
Featured image credit: Cullen Tobin, Vanity Fair