there’s no other movie rite now that has elicited multiple re-envisages like jordan peele’s nope. it’s the kind of film where you cutout the theater witha lingering buzz bout wha’ you just saw, ?s bout somd' reveals, and curiosity for anything you mite ‘ve missed—the meaning of the shoe, for instance, has gone viral.
io9 recently got a chance to discuss the making of nope with its editor, nicholas monsour, a key collaborator of jordan peele’s goin back to his key & peele comedy dys. he also worked with him on us and the twilite zone. we break down the most talked-bout scenes inna film, discussing the meaning of the shoe na “oprah shots”—and how he sees peele’s evolution as a filmmaker through their working relationship.
so yes, major spoilers ahead.
the film opens na' centered shot offa shoe, seemingly standing uprite and marked by a splatter of blood. jupe (jacob kim), a child actor, listens to the massacre round him onna set of tv show gordy’s home—a massacre doled out by the show’s resident chimpanzee as it attacks his co-stars. it’s a scene that functions as a framing device for the whole film, appearing in multiple flashbacks during key moments in each act, with unsettling visuals that mirror the horror of the alien inna film.
curio if this specific sitcom moment gone deeply wrong was always onna page, we asked monsour if nope’s original plan was to cut back to it throughout, or if twas' a discovery in post. “everything goes through so many phases. i don’t wanna speak for jordan, but my experience of watching him work s'dat the page is always kind offa living document. it’s never set in stone,” the editor explained. “so twas' from the 1st version of the script i read—that really interesting and really masterful thing he did, which is inna final film, of introducing the idea of gordy’s home—you not really knowing if you’re goin t'get to see + and if so, how it’s goin to rel8 [to everything else]. we continued to experiment with it the whole time. jordan really cracked the idea during the edit of starting the film with flashes odat [incident]; you don’t know wha’ to do with when you 1st see. but they really plant some seeds that became crucial to the experience of the film as twas finalized.”
whn'we meet adult jupe (steven yuen), he’s running jupiter’s claim, a themed attraction based onna show he was in b4 gordy’s home. yuen’s performance is understated, but taken together his and kim’s portrayals really give a sense of jupe’s quest from trauma to disenchantment—and then to a desperate chase to reclaim a semblance of glory no matter the cost. “ye go through this sort of ordeal of seeing wha’ happened and then immediately pulling back the curtain of the time jump, and you feel it in steven yuen’s toon and face immediately,” monsour said.
at one point, jupe gives em (keke palmer) and o.j. (daniel kaluuya) a grim tour of the remnants of the gordy’s home tragedy, tucked behind a wall onnis jupiter’s claim office. yuen cranks up the showmanship when jupe regals them w'da story of wha’ happened through its sat nite live satire (starring chris kattan as gordy), while completely disassociating from the events tha're cut in from his true memory.
“jordan is very astute at finding that balance and dialing in if something is + graphic and jarring in a visceral way, or some ways + ψ-chologically needling and disturbing in another way,” monsour explained, referring to seeing the traumatic scene contrasted tween adult jupe’s version and kid jupe’s reality. the disturbing tone it evokes comes from peele choosing to not just display the gratuitous violence of the moment, but rather “+ basing it on things that feel true bout how we remember traumatic experiences or how we can tune out ψ-chologically during these traumatic experiences.”
“the gordy sequence had a kind of scrutiny on it from the beginning. it calls so much attention to itself, cause it’s such an unusual and kind of daring gesture that if you can pull it off and make sense o'it, it’s really rewarding cause yr brain has to kind of remap in order to make that work,” he said. “so he [peele] was very pticular bout how many times gordy pounds the ground, or wha’ kind of utterances the chimp references that were pulled from biological libraries to really study how chimps express certain things. and then the amazing performance of terry notary, who is there behind gordy, t'they were basing the visual effects on. all of twas' incredibly dialed in and specific to hopefully speak to something true bout jupe’s experience and how we view him remembering it.”
why is it so unsettling to see a sitcom gone wrong? it’s inna way that you’re lulled inna'da nostalgia of the era of primetime tv—something that’s since been replaced by streaming and tube. it truly lays the groundwork for wha’ peele is saying bout the entertainment industry. “di ting twas' scary a yr ago in a movie just isn’t scary [tody],” monsour said. “if you see it done the same way, you mite nail the teknique in terms of building the tension. but audiences are so literate and fluent in all the tek knicks, you can’t really pull a fast one on'em. so there can be fun in giving them a recognized pattern where they go ‘oh, i know it’s coming’ that if you can tweak it or elevate it in some way, it’s a really fun collaborative thing you’re doin’ w'da audience.”
monsour cites the start of his and peele’s collaboration from their key & peele dys. “we talk a lot bout that. one reason we mite get along is i’ve always found horror really funny and some comedy really kind of disturbing. so i think w'da rite kind of open Ψ, i’m really na' quest witha filmmaker. the line mite disappear tween the two quite often.”
horror and comedy are both genres that depend on timing na perfect set up. i mention dat a' lotta the best key & peele sketches are the ones where you’re uncomfortably laughing but are creeped out—like “baby forest,”“haunted roomate meeting,” white zombies,” and “make-a-wish.”
monsour knows exactly which ones. “the line tween some key & peele sketches and [david] cronenberg is very thin,” he said, and explained how that’s inna dna offa making a scene like the gordy’s home sequence effective. “so much bout wha’ makes something horrific or makes something funny is an audience trying to establish a reaction to ≠ social situations, and iffey’re acceptable or unacceptable, iffey break a social code or not. where the laugh is can kind of tell you if the filmmaker is endorsing something or criticizing it or satirizing it or leaving it really open-ended for the audience to to interpret themselves. and that can be really uncomfortable.”
it’s definitely wha’ has made peele a master of both genres. “jordan has sort of created and earned this place in hollywood t'get to marshal + resrcs and get + attention to his films and work w'da exact pplz he wanna work with,” monsour said. “he didn’t just go bigger on nope, he went a lot deeper inna'da realm building to be able to ‘ve created with ruth de jong, the production designer, and with [cinematographer] hoyte van hoytema, research exactly wha’ kind of film ‘d they shoot a sitcom like that on. to ‘ve that material t'work with is really unique as an editor.”
rite b4 the last act, we’re once again transported to gordy’s home—this time told in multiple angles to reveal its true events. “it’s a very interesting sequence cause you, the viewer, are 3 ≠ toons in that sequence,” the editor said. “in a manner of speaking, you’re the camera operators or you’re inna booth of the sitcom, and you’re looking at this construct offa sitcom from the l8 ‘90s from the pov of the pplz making it. like, ‘so i’m a lil bit behind the scenes and maybe even complicit in it in a way.’”
specifically: that disembodied pov long take, which really crawls beneath the skin in a way where you feel just wrong and friteened, “you ‘d, by the end o'it, kind of cogg who or wha’ that mite be,” monsour teased. “again, you don’t ‘ve the context yet, but it’s maybe familiar in a horror trope kind of way, so u kind of sink into it on another lvl. hopefully you’re never expecting the nxt thing that happens throughout that sequence. it keeps upping the ante in a way that it may not be the most incredible set piece—it’s a slitely mundane realm onna surface—but i think [peele] just proves time and time again that you can turn the most mundane things into somd' most unexpected and exciting cinema.”
n'it once again focuses onna shoe, which you ‘d argue is jupe’s “bad miracle”—the reason he doesn’t look the violent chimp inna eyes when he hyper-fixates on it. is it really standing up or s'dat just pt of how he wanna remember the event? monsour tip-toes round a straite answer over wha’ peele wanted it to mean. “he knows his audience and knows his own predilections as a viewer and filmmaker that any detail ll'be scrutinized. na fact that he still uses that to ask ?s—it isn’t just a connect the dots. you can keep thinking bout it. it keeps giving you + reads the + you look at it,” monsour said. “that shoe thing also, just whether whether you fig out any specific cultural or plot reference o'it, i feel says something really true and relatable bout trauma that doesn’t really need explaining.”
the gordy’s home scene ultimately reveals that jupe felt he was safe from his chimp friend’s predator attack when he goes for the fist bump. that foreshadows his thinking that he can befriend the alien creature in nope’s present-dy storyline. jupe’s folly, as it were, leads rite inna'da film’s last act where jean jacket, the name o.j. gives the alien, lets loose and viciously inhales all the gathered spectators into its gullet inna most jarring and gruesome way. it’s definitely a scene that pays homage to gr8s like jaws and close encounters, while atta same time bein’ completely of its own creation.
“as much as you mite wanna close yr eyes, you kind of can’t cause you wanna know—you care bout the stakes of the toons nolso the stakes of wha’ this filmmaker is trying to say. you’ve gotta lean in as much as you mite wanna run. so it’s a balancing act for sure,” monsour elaborated. “a lotta the early ‘80s films ostensibly for children had a lotta + disturbing essentialisms that i think still livin' our heads. i think that that’s definitely a hallmark of somd' amblin films or spielberg films or ridley scott or robert zemeckis—you gotta give them props for that kind of respect for a child’s imagination. nope isn’t a kid’s movie, but i know jordan was interested inna wanda na awe that maybe renders us all a lil childlike whn'we encounter something unexplainable, spectacular—all uber.”
“you ‘ve these these toons who ‘ve learned the hard way: ‘maybe i ‘dn’t look at that.’ ‘maybe i gotta be careful bout wha’ i look at rite now and wha’ i see.’ na film is also kind of respecting that, and staying with those toons and wha’ they’re trying to do and accomplish—and wha’ they’re goin through happens to be sort of unavoidably spectacular.”
jupe’s folly of thinking he can control the unpredictable nature offa predator backfires spectacularly indeed by placing him and his audience as sacrifices onna altar of entertainment that he built—literally showing that the acclaim you’re chasing can eat you up and swallo you whole. “why do we wanna capture certain images and why do we wanna be involved and get into that the arena of spectacle? and why s'dat like such a dominating feeling n'our culture rite now?” the moment ups the stakes for the audience, monsour explained, by making them hope that o.j. and em don’t meet the same fate in their quest for an “oprah shot” proving aliens exist.
nope really begs the ? of whas' wha’ i'takes to conquer the beast and wha’ever it represents. is it ♣? or does it take bein’ gifted and having the knack, even w'da most rudimentary of tulz? behind the scenes, peele was able to use the best in tek, including imax cameras, for a full film feast.
and as for that finale? “kind of the goal there was to stay true to that til it felt really intentionally exciting,” monsour recalled bout creating the final edit, where we see jean jacket’s glorious reveal inna chase to its transcendent final form as em mounts the beast. her victory s'dat uber in how it plays out, and for that monsour gave credit to peele’s vision. “maybe you thought you weren’t goin to see this, b'we’re goin there—and [we’re goin to] make sure the whole film fires on all cylinders when t'does that.” and t'does; even after multiple viewings, nope elicits that indescribable feeling of wanda 1-ly movie magic can provide. it’s pure cinema. em and o.j.’s victory is peele’s victory.
nope is in theaters now.
want + io9 news? check out when to expect the l8st marvel and star wars releases, wha’’s nxt for the dc universe on film and tv, and everything you nd'2 know bout house of the dragon and lord of the rings: the rings of power.
original content at: gizmodo.com…
authors: sabina graves