Us director Jordan Peele says he’s unlikely to cast white male leads in future films. Since grabbing the attention of audiences during his early days on FOX's long-running sketch comedy series MAD TV, Peele has fallen into the role of the consummate artist, working as a comedian, actor, producer, writer and director.
It was his work on Get Out - the 2017 racially charged horror film debut he wrote and directed - that not only gained him mainstream acclaim, but also earned him a best original screenplay Oscar. Overnight, Peele went from being a well-known comedian to the first black recipient of a best screenplay Oscar – a veritable game changer in terms of his career and arguably for black filmmaking in general. Here was a talent who had arrived in a big way, right in the middle of a controversy surrounding the lack of minority inclusion in the making of films, and the annual awards ceremonies that failed to recognize the few who were included.
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With the release of Us - Peele’s follow up to Get Out - now obliterating box-office records and earning the distinction of the second highest-grossing opening for an original live-action film, THR has reported that during a conversation at L.A.’s legendary Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, the red hot writer/director revealed that he's unlikely to cast any white male leads. Peele was met with applause and shouts of agreement when he stated to the standing room only audience that:
"I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I've seen that movie. It really is one of the best, greatest pieces of this story, is feeling like we are in this time - a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false."
Ever since its release, audiences have praised Us, and the film’s ability to terrify with its unrelenting pace and downright creepy onscreen depictions of the Tethered – a brutal population of doppelgangers who want everything that the earth’s current population has denied them. The film differs from Get Out in numerous ways, but one major difference is that it doesn’t try to implement notions of race into its narrative. Instead, Peele has given audiences a spectacle of true horror movie proportions – one in which its lead characters just happen to be black. In this way, Peele has already begun to single-handedly change what many would argue has previously been a film industry that's only interested in black casts when the focus is specifically on race.
Perhaps numerous reasons and catalysts can currently be pointed to as an explanation for Hollywood beginning to change its outdated ways. And while small pockets of people might argue that Peele shouldn’t be discounting potentially casting a white male lead at some point, the fact of the matter is that Peele's right. He has seen that film before, as we all have. Like him or not, his arrival marks a definite turning point – not just in Hollywood inclusion or race relations, but in cinema as a whole. With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that he's the game-changer that so many have been waiting for.