There are plenty of times Jordan Peele’s horror movies have elicited the word ‘nope’ from audiences. In both Get Out and Us, Peele managed to shock viewers with terrifying metaphors, emotional character arcs and tense jump scares, which have combined to cement him as a force of nature in the horror space.
For his third film, Peele has gone one step further and just flat out named his entire movie Nope. But for star Steven Yeun, there was nothing the actor said ‘nope’ to during his time working on the film.
“I think for my part of the film I was just really enamoured with Jordan’s process and the way in which he brought me into it, so I felt quite safe making this film,” Yeun told Gizmodo Australia.
As for whether his character, Ricky “Jupe” Park, will still be safe after the events of Nope, that’s a different story.
Nope follows the Haywood siblings (played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who are struggling to support their Hollywood animal wrangling business as their family ranch is haunted by unexplained phenomena. This leads them down a rabbit hole of obsession as they attempt to capture these strange occurrences on camera.
Jupe is the Haywood’s neighbour who owns the nearby theme park Jupiter’s Claim and has his own ideas for exploiting this mysterious force in the valley.
“I think the difficulty of the film, if there was any, was in letting go to this character, who also kind of lets go to other people,” Yeun said, explaining that his greatest challenge was a relinquishing of control.
Jupe as a character is directly informed by a tragedy he endured while working as a child actor on a popular family sitcom.
Yeun said that it’s the trauma of not only what Jupe witnessed in his youth but also the impact of “being consumed by the public” that lead the character to where he is in Nope.
“I think maybe the thing that he takes from that [event] is: is he choosing things of his own accord or are they chosen for him? I mean that’s a larger question for all of us, I guess, but that’s something I thought about with Jupe a lot,” Yeun pondered.
Nope is a film that is a self-reflexive experience in a lot of ways as it plucks many of the aspects of the film industry and throws them into a big-screen blockbuster
Yeun agrees that the film represents “this paradox we live in” but that many of the themes in Nope are applicable to any industry.
“I think there’s well-meaning humans and individuals that have great intentions to do something beautiful for all of us. And then there’s business. Sometimes those two things don’t really mix too well,” he said.
These layers of socially and culturally relevant meaning are a trademark of Peele’s style of horror and it’s something that Yeun thinks makes Nope truly scary.
“The metaphor is a little bit more disillusioned,” Yeun explained. “It’s no longer a monster to pin everything on, instead it’s a little closer to us and so there are layers removed.”
“The scariness comes in that it’s a little bit closer to our faces and our beings than it previously was before,” he said.
Nope releases in Australian cinemas on August 11.