Jordan Peele made a name for himself in Hollywood thanks to his comedic efforts like sketch comedy series Key and Peele and the action movie send-up Keanu, only for the filmmaker to blow audiences' minds with Get Out. The film's exploration of racism in America within the narrative of a horror movie, all while incorporating Peele's signature humor, resulted in one of the most unique theatrical experiences of 2017. Peele's follow-up film, Us, landed in theaters earlier this year and delivered another blend of humor and horror that also reminded us of the inner darkness that we and those closest to us all possess.
The filmmaker enlisted Tim Heidecker to help pull off his latest project, who himself is no stranger to blurring the lines between absurdly hilarious and darkly disturbing. Heidecker's breakout opportunity came in the Adult Swim series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, leading to a number of projects across various mediums, including films like The Comedy and Entertainment, TV series like Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories, and web series like On Cinema at the Cinema and Decker.
ComicBook.com recently spoke with Heidecker about his experience collaborating with Peele, his own personal horror influences, and what his own movie-rating show would likely give Us.
ComicBook.com: The big question that everyone has had since Us came out, which you've probably been getting asked about since, so it's time to set the record straight about how many bags of popcorn the film would have gotten on On Cinema at the Cinema.
Tim Heidecker: Well, we have decided that this movie does not exist in the On Cinema universe. But I think if it did, it would get a firm five.
Anyone who's familiar with your work knows that, while some of it is more straightforward comedy, there's a lot of darkness that shines through that frightens people, leaving them unaware of whether they should even be laughing at what they're experiencing. Do you find that horror movies influence your comedy?
I think they do. I grew up watching all the classics, and I think people like David Lynch and obviously Stanley Kubrick, with The Shining. But I don't go too deep into the slasher stuff. Maybe when I was a kid I did, but when it comes to the horror and un-comfortability of Tim and Eric, I think that's coming more from the David Lynch school. Just this unease, leaving reality a little bit and creating a dark psychedelic experience. Obviously with Bedtime Stories, we were looking at The Twilight Zone and that kind of social commentary with a little dark tension, but we always like to make it funny too. So maybe it's just a new thing.
Another constant in many of your projects is that you take a direct creative lead, either as director, writer, producer, or star. What was the collaborative process like with someone like Jordan who was crafting this experience and asked you to take part in the project?
Well, it's a relief to just fall into the arms of Jordan, and say, "Oh, OK, you want to be in this movie? All right, I'm a happy camper. I'll show up, and do whatever you want me to do." I love doing my own stuff, but it's much more stressful and much more work. And so, if I can be put in the best possible hands, and also, which I found out pretty quickly, I found him to be a super cool, easygoing, collaborative guy. It's just the best possible scenario.
So I think Jordan and I both speak the same language with comedy and movies. And so, there's a weird thing that happens, where you don't end up talking too much about the intentions and the process. It's just like he's excited to get to play with me, and it becomes recreational. And I'll try some stuff, and he'll give me feedback, and we'll fool around. He just made such a comfortable environment, where I felt comfortable, first of all, just with the crew.
Everybody felt like ... sometimes you walk onto a set and nobody knows who you are, and you're feeling a little bit like you're furniture, or a prop, being used. And this was not that at all. It was like, "Come into the director's tent, and stay. Come whenever you want." And I felt comfortable making jokes, and keeping it light. And I think that's important, especially, more important on a dark serious movie where you don't make it into this glum experience. So I found it to be very collaborative and just a really positive experience.
Given his success with Get Out and the political impact that had, and with Us also exploring some really intense real-world themes, were you at all apprehensive to get involved?
I remember reading it in a meeting with him and being like, "This is going to fuck people up. This is pretty crazy and dangerous a little bit." And he was excited by that. And I was excited that he was excited. I think the only concern in the back of my head, I'm sure in everyone's head, is he's got a lot of pressure to follow up Get Out with another great movie. And when you read a script, I think when you read any script, there's just no way to know if that script's going to translate into a great movie. You can hope and do your best, but in the wrong hands, you give that script to the wrong director, and it could go a different direction for sure. So I think the only fear was like, "Oh, is this going to be like everybody coming out of the woodwork saying, 'Oh, he was a flash in the pan,' or 'Get Out was an anomaly' or something." And those are the risks.
It's admirable the risks he takes to do the movie he wants to do, and he proved, I think, that he's extremely talented and that Get Out isn't a fluke. And I think most people agree with that. So that was the only thing you think about. And also, I don't want to be responsible for this not being a good movie. I think Elisabeth Moss said to me at the [South by Southwest World Premiere], we just looked at each other, and she was like, "We didn't fuck up his movie." So I think that's the only thing you work about and think about.
You mention that Lynch is a big inspiration for some of your work and something like Bedtime Stories refuses to be restricted by a genre, while projects like Get Out and Us are much more clearly horror. Has this experience potentially inspired you to want to pursue more distinctly "horror" projects in the future?
I take whatever I can get as an actor. Of course, I consider everything carefully, but it comes down to who's making it. I think it's really important to work with people I want to work with, or feel like I would get along with, and making sure I'm not showing up in a pro white supremacist movie or something. I definitely make sure that I'm not getting in the wrong company. But other than that, I think I separate my own work from my acting career, as like, I consider the acting career a job that is fun to do, but I'm not too attached to the films as far as I'm only doing movies that I'm going to agree with 100%, or anything like that. But I think Eric [Wareheim] and I have always talked about trying to do a straight horror movie, or something that feels like it doesn't have to be as entrenched in comedy. So I think it would be a fun exercise for us to try to do that.
And as far as any of those more personal projects go, is there anything we can look forward to on the horizon?
I mean stuff's bubbling; I don't have the authority to announce it right now. That's all I can say, but stuff is bubbling.0comments
Us is out now on Digital HD and lands on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand on June 18th.