Get Out director Jordan Peele reflects on his time as an actor, comparing the feeling of watching himself on-screen to a bad form of masturbation.
Jordan Peele, the Get Out and Us director, has an interesting explanation for why he doesn’t like to watch himself on-screen. Although he’s known, these days, for helming two films that helped bring the horror genre to new heights, Peele got his start as an actor. He was a regular cast member of Mad TV, appearing in 94 episodes, before co-creating and leading Key & Peele with Keegan-Michael Key.
Peele hasn’t played many characters in recent years, joking that his absence stems from a bad job offer. In 2018, Peele revealed that he had been selected for the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie, a gig that eventually went to Patrick Stewart. In more recent remarks, speaking with Get Out’s Bradley Whitford, Peele got more serious about why he’s walked away from acting.
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Per THR, Whitford asked if the Get Out director had indeed left acting behind. Even though Peele does make clear that he’s grateful for his time as an actor, he also readily admits that he doesn’t miss performing in front of the camera. You can read Peele’s quote below.
“I like watching my movies. I can watch the films I direct [but] watching me perform just feels like… a bad kind of masturbatory. It’s masturbation you don’t enjoy. I feel like I got to do so much, and it is a great feeling. When I think about those great moments when you’re basking in something you said that feels funny. When I think about all that, I think I got enough.”
While it’s true that Peele has an interesting description of how an actor feels when watching themselves on the big screen, he’s far from alone in expressing discomfort about the process. Tom Hanks has referred to viewing his movies as a horrible mistake, explaining that he never actually learns anything concrete about his craft through the experience. Reese Witherspoon has gone further, admitting that she won’t watch herself because she knows that she’d spiral into self-hate. For these actors, who are likely very aware of their shortcomings, it can be a grueling practice. Or, as Peele alternatively suggests, it’s a tired exercise in self-satisfaction. It can certainly help create some distance and evaluate your work without falling into either extreme. But given the sheer number of actors who don’t watch themselves, it’s hardly a necessity.
Peele’s credentials as an actor, particularly his horror-tinged segments on Key & Peele, undoubtedly helped to pave the way for him to become a powerhouse player in Hollywood. Peele’s third directorial effort is slated for release in 2022. He’ll also be busy producing an update of The People Under the Stairs. Both projects are highly-anticipated, based on the strength of Peele’s previous output, which makes it clear that the former sketch comedy star will continue to thrive in other areas of the entertainment industry.
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