“Keanu” is a new movie from the team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, that opens nationwide on Friday.
When Rell’s (Jordan Peele) beloved pet kitten, Keanu, is stolen, he and his cousin (Keegan-Michael Key) set out to find who stole it and rescue it. They may have bitten off more than they can chew.
A portion of the film takes place in a “dive bar strip club” and what better place to do the interview with the stars of the movie than in one of the best dive bar strip clubs ever, The Clermont Lounge. I interviewed the stars of the film, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man and Jason Mitchell, who were in town to promote the film.
Mike: Why should we go and see “Keanu”?
Peele: First of all the movie is crazy. It’s got heart; it’s got a kitten in a do-rag. It’s got Method Man and Nia Long in it. We wrote our favorite movie and then waited for the studio to say “We need to make this film.” I guarantee that it’s our heart and soul. We put everything we could into this movie.
Key: You’re not going to see another movie like this. It’s got the right amount of weird to it combined with the right amount of conventional movie making to it. You get everything you need from it, but it’s also not like anything you have ever seen. You can see another movie that is a “paint by numbers” film, or you can see our movie. Our movie has a different feel to it, and I guarantee that.
What was your inspiration for writing the film?
Peele: The inspiration for the movie was all the movies that we grew up with. We are huge cinephiles. I’m not seeing a lot of movies that I like. I wanted to do a shout out to movies like “True Romance.”
Key: “Raising Arizona.”
Peele: “Three Amigos.”
Key: “Thelma and Louise.”
Peele: “Beverly Hills Cop.” I feel that they don’t make that type of movie anymore, where they combine the best parts of action films with comedy and creating something new.
Key: There is a tone in films that you just don’t see anymore. Films where they are hysterical, but the bullets are real. We just don’t see that anymore. We wanted to make a movie that is grounded and crazy at the same time. That’s how they used to make them. One of my favorite movies of all time is “Midnight Run” with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. It’s the perfect example of the movie I was talking about. Where you are laughing hard at the movie but when people get punched in the film, you know it’s real. We were always saying, “Why don’t they make them like they used to?” Well, then we went, why don’t we make them like they used to.
Can you talk about using the George Michael song in the film?
Peele: One of the best scenes in the film is with that song. Keegan is a big fan of George Michael. His character is pretending to be a thug so that he won’t get shot by the gang. He is sitting outside waiting with three members of a gang and they are looking through his music. Jason is hilarious in this scene, just killed it. You hit Keegan hard in that scene.
Key: Yeah, you hit me like seven times. The first two takes were not acting. What’s funny in that scene is by the end of it, everybody in the car is singing to George Michael. Jason, were you a George Michael fan before that scene was shot?
Jason Mitchell: I was not. I highly respect him but no, I was not a George Michael fan. In that scene, there was a lot in that conversation that my character could relate and come on board with. So by the end of the scene, we were like George Michael is really with it.
Coming from a sketch comedy background, what was the biggest challenge to holding an audience’s attention for more than just a few minutes but for almost two hours in a movie?
Peele: Yeah that’s the hard thing. You can’t go too crazy too fast, or you will lose the audience and the story.
Key: Yeah, it’s a plot issue. It’s got to be a story that goes from point A to point Z while still captivating. Why should an audience go see a movie about a cat that has to be saved? Well, every part of that plot, we feel is solid. You can string all the funny stuff in the plot along the way but just make sure that the storyline gets resolved. Sometimes sketches have plots and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes in a sketch you just say, let’s screw around for a few minutes and then get out.
When you wrote the script, did you have Method Man in mind to be the protagonist?
Method Man: Nope!
Peele: When I was writing his part, I was picturing “New Jack City.” I was picturing Wesley Snipes, but I would never pick Wesley to be in my pictures because he might smack me in my face.
Key: To Method Man’s credit, he just took the role and made it his own. He walked into the audition; he had the lines down. It was six pages of lines.
Method Man: No it was nine pages.
Key: And he had it down. He walked in and said let’s do this.
Method Man: They had their scripts in their hands, and I said, nope, we aren’t doing that! Put those scripts down.
Key: And he was early and took this role by the nuggets and wouldn’t let go. After the auction and he left the room, we all looked at each other and said: “Wow that just changed the game!”
Method Man: When I heard Key and Peele, I was sold on it right there. I knew I was in good hands.
Jason: Same here! You got to respect guys that are ready to go through that process with you. When I walked into my audition and saw those guys there, ready to be funny and dedicated to make the project the best, you got to love that. You have to be ready to swing for the fences because they will do the same.
Method Man: And we knew that our parts weren’t there to just be a glorified backdrop. Our characters were there for a purpose.
When did you decide to transition from the small screen to the big one?
Key: We have always had that plan. We are huge movie fans, and part of what propelled us into this profession was the passion for the movies that we used to watch. I think about sitting next to my father and watch the delight on his face when we were watching “Star Wars.” Watching what that could do to an adult was amazing, and I never thought I would be able to do that because the people that created those films were wizards.
Peele: Getting the opportunity was the hard part. It took us fifteen years to get there. It took that long to get people interested enough to want us to make a movie. As soon as that happened we were like; we are all in.
How did you get Nia Long involved with the film?
Key: Similar to these guys (pointing to Method Man and Jason). People that we don’t know will come up to us as Key and Peele fans, and as soon as they do, we got them. She was perfect for the part. She was in so many films that were important to our lives. By having her in our film, we are honoring what made us want to make films in the first place.
Jason: And she still looks great!
Peele: We got her to do some things in this film that are just so out there. We got her to go further and crazier than she has ever gone in a movie.
Key: And she was so happy to do it.
So what was it like working with the cat?
Method Man: No one ever asked me in the audition if I liked cats. If I had been asked, I would have said: “not really.” I’m not into to animals that much but I do think that cats are smarter than dogs. So when it came time to dealing with the cat, it was no problem. It was like dealing with any other actor. The cat that I dealt with the most, her name was Clementine, was easy to work with. She mostly laid there and fell asleep a lot.
Thanks for talking with us today and we wish you great success with the film.
“Keanu” opens nationwide on Friday, April 29th.
For more of Mike’s interviews and reviews click here