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‘Nope’: Jordan Peele unties the mystery of the movie's freaky shoe that just won’t drop

Think of it as Jupe’s most traumatic ‘bad miracle.’

By Benjamin Bullard

Even at 130 minutes, Nope is the kind of movie that could easily have run longer to unfold every mystery that descends on its desolate, windswept setting. There’s an enigmatic link with the faded childhood celebrity who lives just up the hill, a strange character from the trailers who doesn’t even appear in the final film, and — in one of the movie’s most wrenching scenes — an everyday object that appears to defy the laws of physics.

That object, of course, is the shoe that perches perfectly balanced on its heel, toe pointed skyward, in the 1990s studio where a chimpanzee trained to star in the fictional TV series Gordy’s Home goes murderously bananas on the set. With the show’s actors scattered and cowering, and the animal lingering to bathe in the bloody aftermath of his rampage, the young version of Steven Yuen’s Jupe character — played by Jacob Kim in the childhood flashback scene — spies the shoe from his under-the-table hiding spot.

Scared as he is, young Jupe can’t help but be awestruck through his fear as the lone sneaker does a seemingly magical balancing act…while the monkey ravages a body nearby. And to deepen the mystery, it’s not the only time Nope beckons viewers to consider why the gravity-challenged footwear just won’t drop. The shoe is one of the first sights that greets the audience in the movie’s opening moments, and turns up again later when Yuen’s adult Jupe reveals that he’s kept the sneaker as a haunting Hollywood piece of memorabilia from his younger acting years.

For Nope director Jordan Peele, the physics that explain why the shoe won’t fall over aren’t nearly as important as the strange reverie it induces. Speaking recently with Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Peele said the inexplicable moment marks Jupe’s own encounter with the kind of “bad miracle” that Otis Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) ponders earlier in the film, reflecting on the unfathomable circumstances surrounding the tragically freakish death of his father, Otis Sr. (Keith David).

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“The shoe represents a moment of where we check out of the trauma,” said Peele. “And Jupe — he zones in on this little shoe…that has landed in a precarious, odd situation. And this is the moment he disassociates. So the shoe for me is, in essence — in one way, it’s the impossible shot; it’s the impossible moment…It’s a bad miracle.”

Peele has previously hinted that fans will get a chance to explore more of Nope’s unresolved questions in the future, whether through a potential sequel film or perhaps by some other means. One of those is sure to be the story behind “Nobody” — an enigmatic character who’s teased in a pre-release trailer, but completely absent from the final film.

“There’s a character that people are growing more and more interested in, seen briefly in the trailer…but he’s not in the film,” said Peele. “And yeah, I would imagine, yes, there will be some discovery about this character.”

Peele hedged when asked to outline his plans for the potentially-budding franchise, saying only that he’s currently at work writing for his next project. But he teased to The New York Times last summer that Nobody’s story “has yet to be told,” and that fans are likely to “get more answers on some of these things in the future. We’re not over telling all of these stories.”

Nope is now streaming around the clock at Peacock — along with tons more scary-good sci-fi movies.