Today, we're highlighting an icon for Black History Month who's one of only three filmmakers ever to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. He's Jordan Peele, and the film that received those nominations was the 2017 critical and commercial horror hit "Get Out."
How You Know Him
He was the creator of social horror thriller "Get Out," which told the highly creepy story of a Black man (Daniel Kaluuya, nominated for Best Actor for the film) who visits his white girlfriend's family, only to gradually discover a truly disturbing secret about them and the local townspeople. It was Peele's directorial debut, a massive worldwide success, and earned $255 million on a $4.5 million budget.
His follow-up, "Us," which followed a Black family being terrorized by folks who look exactly like them, was another gigantic horror hit, earning another $255 million, this time on a $20 million budget.
Beyond those two thrillers on the big screen, Peele is currently the host and producer of CBS' revival of sci-fi horror series "The Twilight Zone."
But even for those who prefer the funny to the scary, Peele's an established comedian known for his Comedy Central series "Key & Peele" (2012-2015), which he created alongside frequent collaborator and fellow funny guy Keegan-Michael Key. Before their days on that series, both were featured performers for years on tv's sketch comedy "Mad TV."
Their (His) Life So Far
Peele was born in 1971 in New York City, to Lucinda Williams, a white woman from Maryland, and Hayward Peele, Jr., a black man from North Carolina. He was raised by his single mom on Manhattan's Upper Side, and then attended Sarah Lawrence College, where he met future "Key & Peele" co-writer Rebecca Drysdale. Two years into college, he dropped out to form a comedy duo with Drysdale.
Peele further honed his comedy chops as part of Boom Collective in Amsterdam and The Second City in Chicago.
By 2003, Peele earned a spot on "Mad TV," which was then entering into its 9th season. There, he and Key developed their chemistry together, with Peele becoming highly known for his celebrity impersonations, everyone from Morgan Freeman to Flavor Flav to James Brown.
After leaving "Mad TV" in 2008, Peele worked on various TV and film projects, and reunited with Key in 2012 for their acclaimed Comedy Central series. The series was a hit and gained notoriety online, with lots of sketches going viral.
Key & Peele produced and starred in their own comedy feature, "Keanu," in 2016. A year later, the filmmaker directed "Get Out," and has since said he'll likely remain behind the lens because it's a lot more fun for him.
In addition to his two directed features so far, he's also produced, amongst many projects, Spike Lee's Academy-Award nominated "BlacKkKlansman," and HBO's hit "Lovecraft Country."
The Movie to Watch
Jordan Peele's "Get Out" was a breakthrough, breakout hit for a reason. It's plenty scary, and really entertaining. It also makes some key points about latent racism and does so in a fascinating way. We don't want to give anything away, but see this A class genre film if you haven't. And if you have, see it again. It's endlessly watchable as both a popcorn movie and an important social statement. Peele was the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the movie. With his talent on display here, it's an easy bet that it won't be his last.
What's Up Next
Peele and Key will reunite again for stop-motion animator legend Henry Selick's upcoming "Wendell and Wild," which casts the duo as demon brothers going up against their nemesis, a demon-busting nun, and her two goth teen followers.
And on the way is another horror project, a sequel to the 1992 classic, also called "Candyman," which finds Peele in the producer's chair once more, and is set for release on August 27, 2021.
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Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.