Nope — Jordan Peele’s latest project, which follows a sibling horse training duo, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, who encounter a mysterious force over their California ranch — has left audiences guessing about its secretive plot ever since the film’s first trailer dropped in February. It turns out, his cast had many of those same questions when they first read the script.
“I just thought to myself, ‘What? So what’s he saying, for real?’” Palmer admitted at the movie’s world premiere in Los Angeles on Monday. “With Jordan, you can never really watch any of his stuff on the surface, but that first watch always is a little surface because you don’t know what you’re looking for. So I was like, ‘I know this is a surface first read, now I’m ready to talk to him about what I’m really supposed to do.’”
Co-star Steven Yeun said he had a similar reaction: “I had a lot of questions, but what was really fun was, as I read it, I had a quick discussion with Jordan and we just went into it.”
For Peele, the story was much more clear, and was something he first thought of five years ago, he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s been growing and evolving ever since then, and now I have a movie that is bigger, bolder and more special than I thought it would be even in the beginning of it,” he said.
Though Peele launched his directorial career on horror films, Nope also features sci-fi and action elements, which Kaluuya said in his THR cover story inspired him to channel Bruce Willis in his performance. For their parts, Yeun said he channelled Willy Wonka and Joel Osteen, while Palmer looked to both her dad and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future in “how lovable that character was and his natural curiosity and zest for life.”
And as his movies have always created a flurry of audience conversation, Peele said that he hopes the talking points around this project “kind of surprise me. I’ve done my part and created something of a spectacle, created something of a story about how people consume spectacle, so now I’m ready to listen and kind of see how it falls. I’m very proud of it.”
“The relationship to attention” is explored heavily in the film, Palmer confirmed, and looks at “the way we exploit ourselves and one another unintentionally — what the balance of that is, when do we say when? When is going too far?” Added Yeun, “I hope it’ll make [audiences] think maybe why we want to be seen so much, but I get it. It’s a lot to unpack.”
Inside the screening — held at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre with an A-list roster of attendees, including Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, John Boyega and Steph Curry — Peele celebrated his cast, calling Kaluuya “my favorite actor in the world, my partner in crime” and Palmer “the wind beneath the wings of this film; she’s our everything and she’s going to blow your mind.”
“Just to give you a little bit of a sense of what you’re going to see, because it’s fucking crazy — I wrote this movie in a time that we still exist in, where I think many of us would agree it feels like we’re in the middle of a bad miracle,” Peele told the crowd. “It’s a reflection of all the awful and spectacular horrors that we’ve been living through. If you thought you were going to get a complete escape from the horrors of the world, sorry, it’s not that.”
The writer-director continued, “It was very important for myself and everyone telling this story that we also told a story about love and adventure, and joy and happiness and agency. In the end, what we wanted to do here, simply: we wanted to make a big summer blockbuster.”
Nope hits theaters on Friday.