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Jordan Peele's journey from comedian to acclaimed horror director


Prior to 2017, Jordan Peele was most famous as one half of the popular Key & Peele comedy duo. The last thing we expected was for him to try his hand at horror directing, but after seeing Get Out, we are very glad that he did.

His breakout horror hit mixed black comedy with a chilling look at race relations, making a star of Daniel Kaluuya and winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in the process. This month sees Peele in the director's chair for the second time with the release of new horror Us.

In anticipation of this, we are taking a look at his journey from popular comedian to critically acclaimed director, in just two short years.

Who is Jordan Peele?

Jordan Peele is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer and director. Born and raised in New York City, Peele was interested in performing from a young age.

After graduating from school, he went on to attend Sarah Lawrence College, dropping out after two years to form a comedy duo with Rebecca Drysdale, his college roommate and future Key & Peele writer. Peele is married to fellow comedian and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Chelsea Peretti, with whom he has a young son.

What comedy shows has Jordan Peele starred in?

Before the directing bug kicked in, Peele's interest was primarily in comedy acting. Starting in 2003 he became a cast member on Mad TV for five seasons, before leaving the show at the end of its thirteenth season.

Around this time Keegan-Michael Key was also a featured performer, and the two went on to demonstrate great comedic chemistry. Peele performed many celebrity impersonations during his time on the show, including favourites such as Morgan Freeman and Forest Whitaker.

After exiting Mad TV, Peele and his former Mad TV cast-mate went on to star in their own Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele. The series ran from 2012 until 2015 and was hugely successful with viewers, spawning a number of viral videos. Our personal favourite?

Key & Peele won the comedy duo two Primetime Emmy Awards, including an award for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series in 2016.

What movies has Jordan Peele directed?

Although Peele co-directed surreal 2016 comedy Keanu with Keegan Michael-Key and several others, he made a bigger impact with his solo directorial debut: the satirical horror film Get Out. The movie is the story of young black man Chris whose visit to his white girlfriend's outwardly, even overly, friendly family takes a horrifying turn.

The film garnered positive critical acclaim, with particular praise for Peele's direction and screenplay, as well as the performance of breakout star Daniel Kaluuya. Get Out also proved to be hugely popular with audiences, grossing over $255 million worldwide to become one of the most profitable movies of 2017. It was chosen by Time magazine as one of the top 10 films of 2017, and gained Peele significant attention as he developed his career as a director.

The film received four nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, with Peele being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He went on to win the award for Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first black screenwriter to win in this category.

What is the story of Us?

Given the success of Get Out, you may wonder how Peele is going to top this. The answer comes in the form of Us, a psychological horror film with an impressive cast including Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave and Black Panther), Winston Duke (Black Panther) and Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale).

Also written by Peele, the plot centres around an African-American family whose holiday takes a dark turn after being confronted by a group of doppelgängers known as the 'Tethered'.

What is Jordan Peele working on next?

In between Get Out and Us, Peele has kept himself busy. As co-producer for Spike Lee's BlackKkKlansman, the 91st Academy Awards saw him nominated for his second consecutive Best Picture award. (The movie also walked away with the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.) 

And just last month Weird City, a comedy series co-created by Peele and Charlie Sanders, made its debut on Youtube Premium. Following his announcement in early 2018 that he intends to retire from acting, we cannot wait to see where Peele's creativity will take him next.

It's been rumoured that several Key & Peele characters will be getting their own movies. In March 2015, it was announced that Key was to reprise his role of Mr Garvey in a feature-length release, with Peele portraying a substitute teacher. More recently, Peele expressed interest in developing a film around his popular character Wendell Sanders.

The next two confirmed roles for Peele could not be more different. First up comes the revival of the science fiction series The Twilight Zone, on which he serves as the narrator. If that's not your kind of thing, it may help to know that he is also set to lend his voice to Disney-Pixar's Toy Story 4, voicing new character Bunny opposite old cohort Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky. 

Getting back to horror, Peele has been confirmed to produce a remake of horror classic Candyman with his company Monkeypaw Productions. Set to be directed by Nia DaCosta, the film has recently cast Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman) in the starring role and is set for release on 12th June 2020.

Us is released on 22nd March, so tweet us @Cineworld if Jordan Peele's latest chiller is on your must-see list.

Hannah Dixon is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.