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Candyman producer Jordan Peele on how 1992 original helped pave way for his horror career
After two flicks under his directorial belt, Peele has become synonymous with using cinematic horror as a way to explore tough themes of race and sociological inequality. Had it not been for Tony Todd's hook-handed performance as the dreaded Candyman in Bernard Rose's 1992 horror classic, Jordan Peele may never have made his masterful foray into genre.
"I think the reason I love the original Candyman is, for better or worse, it broke us out of the box," he told Empire for the magazine's June 2020 issue. "A Black monster was pretty revolutionary. If there was no Candyman, I don't know that there would be a Get Out."
Almost three decades later, and Peele is now executive producing a reboot/reimagining of Candyman from Little Woods director Nia DaCosta.
Peele, who also co-wrote the project's screenplay with DaCosta and Win Rosenfeld, was busy working on Us when the film was coming together, but admitted to Empire that even if his schedule had been open, he probably wouldn't have been a good choice to helm it.
"Quite honestly, Nia is better to shoot this than I am," he said. "I'm way too obsessed with the original tales in my head. I probably wouldn't be any good, but Nia has a steady manner about her, which you don't see a lot in the horror space. She's refined, elegant, [and] every shot is beautiful ... I'm so glad I didn't mess it up."
By "original tales," the filmmaker may be referring to "The Forbidden," the story by Clive Barker on which Candyman is based. Peele characterized the 67-year-old writer, whom he met with during production, as "wonderful and mysterious."
Set in the modern day, Candyman 2020 centers on Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a young artist who may or may not be the baby saved from a firey death in the 1992 movie. Whatever the case, Anthony is being haunted by the eponymous entity after returning to the gentrified neighborhood of Chicago's Cabrini Green, a place where the terrifying myth first took hold.
In the last 28 years, a lot has changed, especially the concept of an African American antagonist.
"How do I tell a story with a Black villain in a world that has exhausted the villainization of Black people?" Peele asked. "And yet, this is a piece of representation I crave as a horror fan. And in the past, when we were made monster, it was a monster without empathy. For this monster, Tony Todd built a character that was a force, and had a charisma, and gave me a sense of power as opposed to a feeling of otherness."
As DaCosta explained in the last issue of Empire Magazine, the '92 version is, for all its iconic nature, still a bit flawed in terms of its depiction of race relations. She described the upcoming movie as "taking ownership" of that narrative, something that Peele echoed in the publication's latest issue.
"I think the story deserves another look because there's a lot we've learned since the original came out," he continued. "It's very tricky to bring the Black experience into horror in new ways. There's a piece of the puzzle here, that is to view this spectacle from the other side of the mirror. That is the Black perspective."
We imagine his use of the word "mirror" is a cheeky nod to the fact that a person can summon Candyman by saying his name five times into a reflective surface.
Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, and the OG Daniel Robitaille himself, Tony Todd, will co-star in the new film, which ignores the canon of the two sequels from 1995 and 1999.
At the moment, Todd's role is being kept under the tightest of wraps.
Originally scheduled to open in theaters this summer, DaCosta's Candyman was pushed to Friday, Sep. 25 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.