Haunted by an unexplainable and unresolved trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide feels her paranoia elevate to high-alert as she grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family.
After spending a tense beach day with their friends, the Tylers, Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway. Us pits an endearing American family against a terrifying and uncanny opponent: doppelgängers of themselves.
Set in present day along the iconic Northern California coastline, Us, from Monkeypaw Productions, stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband, Gabe (Black Panther’s Winston Duke), and their two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex) for an idyllic summer getaway.
We were on the scene for the New York City premiere where we talked to some of the film’s stars on the red carpet.
The Knockturnal: With so many ideas and themes going on, how did you manage your ideas and thoughts going into this project?
Jordan Peele: You write them down and you try and make sense of them and they’re kind of all over the place, and you try and find the thread. You just don’t throw anything away, but you’re trying to look for the pattern in your ideas.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a council that you consult with on going from idea to paper?
Jordan Peele: Anybody that will listen. I value everybody’s opinion, whether or not it’s my fellow producer or just somebody I meet on the street. I will value what they have to say because ultimately I’m trying to make a film for everybody.
The Knockturnal: Talk to me about how this project came into your lap.
Sean McKittrick: Jordan called and asked me if I wanted to join him on another ride, and I said, “Yeah.”
The Knockturnal: So when he sent you the script, what was your reaction?
Sean McKittrick: I was not shocked that it was amazing. It was very surprising how ambitious it was, and just even reading the script made my head spin. I was really digging into the meaning of the film just in the script phase. So very exciting.
The Knockturnal: What was the hardest part in terms of producing?
Sean McKittrick: Well, not necessarily hard, it was a very tricky movie to pull off, but I guess just helping Jordan balance the tone of the film, because it’s an explosion of ideas and you’re trying to hold on, and you’re trying to hold on to Jordan’s mind and creativity, which is its own feat to keep up with him. So that’s probably the biggest challenge is to come up with ideas that he loves, is always the most difficult challenge and the most rewarding challenge when you actually love something you came up with.
The Knockturnal: How was working with Jordan?
Sean McKittrick: Well, it’s easy because Jordan’s incredibly collaborative, so the whole team of producers and filmmakers and department heads and cinematographer and everybody had ideas, and Jordan would sponge them all in, and the ones that aligned with his ideas were the ones that came out. So it’s a dream process for a producer to work with a filmmaker like him.
The Knockturnal: What do you think people will take away after seeing the film?
Sean McKittrick: Well, I hope, for one, that they are entertained and they’re terrified, but also I hope they walk away from the film thinking about how we as a society are our own worst enemies and look inside ourselves and what can we be doing better to make the world a better place?
The Knockturnal: First Get Out, now Us. When Jordan Peel calls, what does he tell you?
Michael Abels: He doesn’t tell me anything. It’s all a big secret. He asked me if I was available at a certain time when the film would be in post-production. That’s when composers work mostly is during post-production. And then he called me when the script was ready because he wanted me to read the script because I usually start by reading the script and then just writing some music based on what the script suggests to me. And then, after I read the script, he tells me some of the things that he thinks are important in the script, so if it’s themes and how he thinks that might be expressed musically. And then he lets me show him what I got.
The Knockturnal: When you first read the script, what was your reaction to it?
Michael Abels: I thought this was really scary and this is a great idea, and he’s done it again.
The Knockturnal: What were some of your ideas for the music?
Michael Abels: Well, so he and I talked a lot about duality because that’s one of themes of Us. And so I was looking at instruments that may not go together, like in the score you hear a violin and you hear a thing called cimbalom, which is an instrument that’s very twangy sounding and you don’t usually hear with violin, and then you hear a choir. Then you also hear a lot of sound designy sort of rumbly sounds that may not even be music. So there’s a lot of juxtaposition of expected and unexpected sounds.
The Knockturnal: Where did you make the music?
Michael Abels: Well, thanks to modern technology, we were able to do a lot of it in-house, like literally in the house with virtual instruments and digital mock-ups. But then, we take those mock-ups and we go to a studio, a wonderful scoring stage, and there’s a giant string orchestra that plays all those things live and makes it sound even better. And the singing, of course, too. But then, some of the instruments that you can’t really place, those are sort of sound design, those are in the box. They’re created. They sound larger-than-life in a musical version of CGI if you will.