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'Nope': Jordan Peele's alien horror flick is 'a commentary on something grander,' teases Keke Palmer

All we know for sure is that aliens factor into the story. Beyond that, we're clueless.

By Josh Weiss
Keke Palmer in Nope, written and directed by Jordan Peele.

Aliens descend upon a remote desert town in Jordan Peele's upcoming horror flick, Nope, which arrives in theaters this July. But as with everything the writer-director has put on the big screen thus far, it's not just about aliens, or serving as a loving send-up to the B-Movie classics of the 1950s. There's always something else at play in his films — a deeper, subtextual lesson about the current state of our society, however ugly it may be (a storytelling choice that would make Rod Serling very proud).

What that didactic takeaway could be is anyone's guess, and the cast refuses to give anything away. "The film itself is what Jordan usually does: a commentary on something grander," star Keke Palmer said during a recent chat with Entertainment Weekly. "It uses the horror genre as a way to [examine] what we are all running from, or what we all get so totally obsessed with, how it defines us, how it brings us to the edge."

Palmer steps into the role of the great-great-great granddaughter of the man who famously rode a horse in the first-ever motion picture. She owns and operates Haywood Ranch, the only Black-owned horse-training business in Hollywood. While not much else is known about the character, the first teaser trailer did have her sum up the title of movie quite nicely: she looks up to the sky in abject terror and nopes the hell out of there.

"What I can say is that my character is kind of a combination of many cool character archetypes," Palmer continued. "Who you believe she is in the beginning, she continues to grow throughout the film and becomes someone else. I'm excited to just represent a really cool character that is not solely defined by their complexion. I think Jordan has done a great job in all his films of talking about something. Get Out, obviously — a lot of that had to do with a conversation around racism, but then Us is about class, and with Nope you'll take whatever you take from that. But I just love how with everything he does, while there will be Black leads, the gag isn't always that you're Black."

The actress initially tried to get cast by Peele by sliding into the director's DMs on social media, but "he never read" the message. In the end, it was the director who reached out with a casting offer through her agents. "It felt so collaborative in a way that I had never experienced before, partially because he got the actors involved at the inception of the idea," she added. "He talked to me through the process as he continued to write and develop these characters. It was very much based off what he was learning from myself."

Steven Yeun, who plays another member of the town besieged by an extraterrestrial presence, teased "a totally different vibe" when compared to the filmmaker's previous two efforts. The Walking Dead vet seemed to hint at a sinister reflection of the cosmic optimism on display in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters on the Third Kind. "It's about something different — the themes are totally different, and the tone is totally different," the actor explained. "This has a lot of '70s tones, which I think is exciting."

The film also marks Peele's second team-up with Daniel Kaluuya since Get Out, which nabbed an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay. Kaluuya plays a key operator of Haywood Ranch. Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria), Brandon Perea (Doom Patrol), and Michael Wincott (The Crow) co-star.

Nope lands on the big screen Friday, July 22.