‘Nope’ Stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer On Being The Summer’s Biggest Cinematic Spectacle

The third film from Jordan Peele has the writer, director, and producer going full sci-fi/horror this time around.

If early social media reactions have anything to say, Nope has writer, director, and producer Jordan Peele going three-for-three with another horror-filled thriller. Hitting silver screens nationwide today, the film follows his modern classics, including 2019’s Us alongside Get Out, which surprised audiences in 2017.

Speaking with Associated Press in promotion for Nope, Peele felt the film about a brother and sister attempting to capture footage of an unidentified flying object causing terror around their Santa Clarita ranch comes at the perfect time.

“I feel like this is the first moment that anyone would ever allow me or anyone to make this movie,” Peele told AP. “And so I had to take advantage. I had to go as big as possible. I was like: ‘Let’s go.’”

Nope has Peele reconnecting with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, who has since become a Hollywood A-lister from roles in Black Panther to earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. According to Kaluuya, the goal this time around wasn’t to top what they did together in the groundbreaking film.


Image supplied by Universal Pictures/Monkeypaw Productions

“I don’t compete,” said Kaluuya to “Not even with myself. It’s art. It’s about how you feel and where you are at that moment in time. When you start putting a sports model with an art model, it doesn’t really make sense. In art, there’s no winner and loser. There’s just stuff that makes you feel something.”

Peele recently called Kaluuya the Robert De Niro to his Martin Scorsese in a recent interview with Empire, and the comparison makes sense if the reception for Nope says anything.

Kaluuya plays OJ Haywood, the descendant of the unknown Black horse jockey featured in Eadweard Muybridge’s 1887 photographic study, which many dub the first motion picture. When the film begins with OJ’s father (played by storied screen veteran Keith David) dying after getting hit by a random object that falls from the sky, it prompts the film’s question of “What’s a bad miracle?”

RELATED: Daniel Kaluuya Not Returning for ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

Standard of Peele’s meta-level storytelling abilities, Nope has the Haywood clan serving as Black horse trainers for Hollywood films that reach back generations. Kaluuya rode horses throughout the film, which took a lot of preparation which he accomplished in such a short time.

“I did a lot of training cause I only had three and a half weeks to get ready,” said Kaluuya. “So every waking day, I went to trail rides with a group of friends on the weekend. I went to the ranch a lot. I even hung out with the Compton Cowboys and did a lot of work with them.”

According to Kaluuya, his biggest attraction to Nope was the brother and sister narrative.

“I hadn’t really seen this before,” described Kaluuya. “Like a Black man and Black woman that love each other platonically and in the same family as the central narrative of a big budget film. This was amazing.”

Playing Kaluuya’s on-screen sister of Emerald Haywood is actress, recording artist, and overall multi-hyphenate creative Keke Palmer. Palmer said that she was simply a fan of the British actor before they even met and hit it off instantly after he invited her to dinner.


Image suppled by Universal Pictures/Monkeypaw Productions

“It was very classy of him to invite me to dinner, just to meet one another before we started filming,” said Palmer. “I wouldn’t have thought of it because I didn’t wanna be too invasive. Once the ice was broken, I invited him to hang out with my friends and me for a little kickback, and we had a good time. And so, right then and there, I saw that we had great baseline chemistry. We had a good time, kind of like every weekend he would be throwing something, or I would be throwing something. We naturally really liked each other and took that energy to refine it for our characters.”

If OJ is the quieter sibling attempting to keep his father’s ranch running, Emerald is looking to become a Hollywood influencer any way she can. This leads to Nope’s other theme of attention and chasing that viral moment that one can capitalize on, whether they be good or bad. As both OJ and Emerald try to capture the “Oprah Shot” of this UFO, the unexplained entity is literally terrorizing the surrounding area.

As a master of social media herself with 11.1 million Instagram followers alone, Palmer understood Nope’s commentary on exploitation and how far people will go to be the first person to get a spectacle on film.

“The movie speaks a lot about exploitation and how easy it is for us to exploit ourselves and others because of all this access we have,” explained Palmer. “A lot of times, you’re not living in the moment, and I think we all have fallen victim to that. It’s just kind of human nature. So I think in those times where I’ve seen the hoopla around the balance of my creativity, that’s when I have had to pull back.”

As a millennial herself, she understands that fine line everyone has to ride when interacting with social media saying, “The way we were introduced to it, no one really knew how to use it or what it was used for, so we all have to find it ourselves.” And as one of the few who has gone from child star to growing up in the spotlight to become an adult phenomenon, her statement makes sense. Nope, which has a serious sub-plot within, definitively speaks to the dangers of being a young, budding star like Palmer once was.


Image provided by Universal Pictures/Monkeypaw Productions

The Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun plays Ricky “Jupe” Park, a former child actor whose career is upended by a devastating on-set tragedy leading him to do anything for fame. Palmer understood the anxiety that comes with growing up.

“I think the biggest anxiety of transitioning from child to adult star was dealing with people’s expectations of me,” said Palmer. “When you’re a child entertainer, you’re still a child. Everything is based on you being a child, and you’re gonna grow up one day. My conversation, my perspective, and things that I'm into are naturally going to be different because, you know, it means you’re not into the same things you were in middle school that you are into now being in college. I'm really grateful that I did not allow it to stop me from growing and experiencing things because everybody deserves to explore and try new things. They should never feel like they have to be who other people want them to be.”

RELATED: Jordan Peele Reveals New Details About ‘Nope’

Over the next couple of weeks, they’ll be plenty of op-eds and editorials dissecting every ounce of Nope, which makes the film a spectacle within itself. One thing is for sure; it’ll most definitely revolve around the nation’s constant need for spectacle and the reactions that follow.

“I think modern culture and things like clickbait are fueled by the spectacle,” said Kaluuya. “That’s a big thing that the film explores with the UFO. Something that isn’t for you that could harm you. You want to get closer, and you want to control it or tame it like a horse. A horse is a spectacular creature to tame and ride but is it a good thing? Is it a thing that serves you? Does it serve the horse? Nope has a lot of that, including the spectacle of space, attention, and our addiction to both.”

Watch the trailer for Nope below:

The film is in theaters nationwide.

Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based entertainment and tech writer documenting the intersections of pop and digital culture. Follow him at @UralG on Twitter.

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