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Jordan Peele Explains the Nope Chimp Scene

Digging into one of the wildest moments in Jordan Peele's sci-fi horror film.

By Josh Weiss

It's been a little over a month since Jordan Peele's Nope arrived on the big screen and audiences continue to dissect the film, particularly its deeper subtext commenting on our culture's unhealthy fascination with ghoulish spectacle. One scene that viewers continue to discuss without fail is the spine-tingling flashback to the day Gordy suddenly snapped and killed and/or maimed the actors on the set of his popular '90s sitcom — save for young Ricky "Jupe" Park, of course.

Sure, it's a goosebump-raising set piece that proves Peele's mastery over the horror genre, but what does a horrific chimpanzee rampage have to do with a mysterious alien entity sucking up horses and people in a lonely California desert town? Wonder no more! Speaking with Empire for the magazine's October 2022 issue, the writer-director-producer explained that, "It's about exploitation. It's about feelings of rage at the industry." 

Nope Chimp Scene Explained

Hollywood's longtime practices of exploitation and erasure are both core tenets of Nope, which aims to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the anonymous Black jockey (the great-great-great grandfather of OJ and Emerald Haywood), whose legacy as the first movie star has been completely overshadowed by a white man: Eadweard Muybridge

"Jordan talked to me a little bout about his career in the beginning," said Terry Notary, who provided the motion-capture for Gordy. "He said, 'People take advantage of animals and people, and Gordy's sequence is important because it kind of represents my early career as a performer.'"

NOPE (2022) VFX

Notary, whose simian credits also include Kong: Skull Island and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was the director's first choice for the role. "I've seen most of those videos. I have a whole library of trained animals and animal attacks ... I didn't want to play evil," the actor continued. "It was just, 'This is what I do! And I'm sorry about that. I know I'm probably upsetting people, but I can't help it. You are forcing me to do something that I don't do normally, and I've reached my breaking point.'"

"We fear Gordy, but we don't hate Gordy," Peele concluded. "I think there's an interesting thing happening for the audience there."

Is Gordy the chimp real? 

To get an optimal performance out of Notary, the filmmakers constructed an oversized version of the Gordy's Home set. "So when he was performing, it was literally as the size of a chimpanzee," Production VFX Supervisor Guillaume Rocheron explained during a recent interview with SYFY WIRE.

"So when he climbed on the sofa, the sofa was 30 percent bigger than normal, so you had to climb on it like a chimpanzee. We created that whole environment to really capture a performance that is as interactive as possible."

Nope is currently available to rent on VOD.

Originally published Sep 2, 2022.