Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut, Get Out, is not a movie that’s easy to put in a box. There are laughs, thrills and scares alongside genuinely intimate and dramatic scenes. Peele can get a big laugh and a scare in the same moment, without the two ever clashing. Tonally, Get Out is eclectic while being solid as rock and a part of the credit goes to the cast.
A part of what makes Get Out effective as a thriller is that before things get progressively worse for Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) during one terrifying weekend, Peele and the cast makes you believe in these characters. They feel like a real couple, so when there’s danger, it feels real. Like Peele, the actors have little trouble navigating the different tones at play in Get Out.
Williams, who you can now see in the final season of Girls, recently spoke with us about her experience making the film, her character’s pretty nutty arc, and how a team on the same page can do their best work. Get Out is a tough movie to discuss without spoilers, which this interview does contain. There are warnings below, but you might be better off reading the interview once you’ve seen the film.
The film balances some different tones. On the page, was it clear how to play it?
Yeah, very clear. You know, it’s hard for me to remember specifically because Jordan and I got on the phone pretty immediately after I read it. There wasn’t much time between reading it and talking to Jordan about it. It’s hard for me to remember before I knew precisely what was coming what did I think of it. Jordan and I spoke extensively about the specificity of it in multiple ways that you can surmise without me giving [anything] away because there are spoilers. It was very, very important that we all be on the same page, tonally, because it kind of lived or died by that. If we missed that, if someone was playing a very different vibe than the rest of us, it would be been mortifyingly off. Then you’d have that nightmare scenario where people are laughing at the wrong moment.
That makes sense. Even when Chris and Rose are in the bedroom at the beginning and she says “My dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could,” I thought, “If that came out a different way, it might change how you think about that character.”
Yeah, that’s a really good point. I could totally see her from the beginning all aspects of her. I could just see very, very clearly. I guess some less than others, but that scene was always very clear in my mind. I’m not used to that. That’s so quick. With Girls, I had years to get people to know who Marnie is. I just have one shot of me looking at pastries and then me in that scene with him. You have to kind of trust their love and be invested in their success as a couple and feel like they are a functioning real couple in today’s America.
What conversations did you have about their relationship to make them a believable couple from the start?
We didn’t really talk about it specifically, although we talked a lot about how physically they were very close in the honeymoon phase where you are a little PDA, even in front of your parents, and you’re really excited about it. Also, that Rose would be doing that as a way to project her protectiveness and how she feels about him to her family. We also kind of talked about how he has a tendency, Chris, to shut down whenever conflict comes up. He’s not very conformable voicing concerns emotionally. We kind of came up with this arc that’s happening between them which is like, “Don’t do that. Don’t shut down just because they don’t agree to whatever crazy theory you have about what’s going on. I’m just being logical.”
[Minor spoilers begin]
You have the arc of Rose becoming aware racially, awakening so to speak. Then you have the arc of trying to get Chris not to shut down and to commit to her finally and actually open up to her. That scene at the waterfront, that’s a completion of both. You have Rose really understanding what he’s been up against racially, seeing the strain that it’s had on him. Then you also get him committing to her. Then you get her finally choosing him over her own family. When they walk back to the house, we needed the audience really on their side so they’d be rooting for them to get out unscathed.
[Minor spoilers end]
That’s a really good, intimate scene. How was it shooting that scene? What’s Jordan Peele like as a director on a day like that?
That was our first day of shooting, weirdly enough. I know Daniel and I were just talking about that earlier. It feels like forever ago because we’re so close now. We had just met basically. We’d gone on a retreat as a cast. Jordan didn’t talk much because it was emotionally intense, but he would come by and give a little bit of direction here and there, but mostly he kind of let us play with it and find the scene. I instantly felt like he was so good and our communication was really strong. We had been in touch a lot about the movie before meeting. We had done some rehearsing already. We were all kind of very much on the same page.
Most importantly, we all showed up to do the best job we could and none of us were doing it for anything other than our total love for this story and our desire to have it told. When you have people with such clear motivations, I think you get really good work.
I’ve interviewed [producer] Jason Blum a few times, and for some of his movies, they gotta move fast and don’t have time for too many takes. What was your experience like on a Blumhouse production?
I felt like we had what we needed. Jordan was really efficient. It was a really, really strong crew. Everyone was working really quickly and well, which isn’t always the case. I’ve known Jason for a long time, so I’ve always been a great admirer of his model, although I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on the other end of it. Honestly, I completely respect the way he does this because everyone has aligned interest. If you keep cost down, those actors are being compensated mostly afterward. You don’t want to waste any time. You’re all very, very focused.
I loved the experience of it. Again, I think that comes from … I loved high school plays. I love that feeling of comradery and family and working towards the common goal and all that. It really appeals to that sense of we’re all in this together. Let’s just do the best job we can as quickly as possible. I really didn’t want it to end. Even though I was excited to get back to my home, I really was sad to say goodbye to everybody.
[Major spoilers begin]
That last costume that you wear in the movie is fantastic, with Rose revealing her true form. What conversations did you have with the costume designer and Jordan about what she should wear for the third act? Was that outfit described on the page?
No, it wasn’t on the page. That was something that I kept having this thought that in her true state. In her true state, she just wanted everything to be just so. That was the phrase that got stuck in my head, “just so.” I was just picturing someone who kind of stopped maturing at the age that she started performing her duty as a member of this family and thus is kind of weirdly androgynous and stilted and also just wants to be as blank a slate as possible when she’s not working so that she can transform into other people. I thought the best way to do that was to wear something that felt like it could belong to Jeremy, her brother, or that it’s hers but it’s just kind of old.
I loved that it was also perfectly pressed and that her bangs were gone and her eyes are a different color. I loved the idea that she just was dying to brush her bangs out of her face or … it’s been driving her crazy and she’s like, “Ugh I can’t.” When he’s not looking she’s like, “I can’t fucking wait to get this off. I’m so sick of it.” I just loved the idea of her as a retriever and a shapeshifter. I wanted her to be just when she goes back to her normal place, I just wanted her to be really blank.
Get Out is now in theaters.
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