How Jordan Peele’s “Nope” Relaunched Bay Area Fry’s Electronics

In November 2020, Hollywood production designer Ruth De Jong recalls seeing the headlines: Another Fry’s Electronics site was closing for good. In February of the following year, the Bay Area institution announced that it was closing its doors and closing its four remaining stores.

The kitsch-themed channel was a staple of De Jong’s latest project, Jordan Peele’s upcoming sci-fi horror western “Nope.” The director had written the store into the script and they had already scouted some of the Southern California locations.

Up to this point, however, “I don’t think any of us found things to be difficult for them,” De Jong said in the film’s production notes shared with SFGATE. “Jordan’s knee-jerk reaction was to pivot and start a generic electronics store, but that bothered me, and I think it bothered [producer] Ian Cooper and Jordan too. We all came back and we were like, ‘Why not go out with Fry’s?’

OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), employee of Fry’s Electronics, and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) in “No”.

Universal images

The film, released this weekend and now number 1 at the box office, is Peele’s third directorial outing, following the success of 2019’s ‘Us’ and his 2017 debut ‘Get Out’, for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. . “No” follows Otis Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer), siblings who find themselves running a remote ranch in Agua Dulce, California, where their late father trained horses for Hollywood movies before his unexplained death. . They struggle to keep the family business running, but when random objects start falling from the sky, frequent power outages occur, and a strange, still cloud appears on the desert horizon, they suspect something is wrong. another world looks at them.

Otis and Emerald decide to risk everything to capture evidence of the UFO, recruiting Fry’s Electronics employee Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) to install security cameras along the roof and eventually win over famed cinematographer Antlers Holst. (Michael Wincott) to help them get “the Oprah shot. But they’re not the only ones aware of the alien’s presence – former child actor Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) takes advantage of it by as the main attraction at his whimsical Western theme park, Jupiter’s Claim, unaware of the imminent danger he poses.

To explain the twists and turns of Peele’s latest work would be to ruin the mysteries that make it fascinating (not to mention it’s a pretty futile endeavor to begin with). More than a UFO movie, “No” is the director’s most stunning achievement to date – his vision brings disturbing vigor to Crayola-colored inflatable air dancers and a seemingly innocuous night sky, and there has plenty of nods to cinematic masterpieces that influence his work, from Steven Spielberg’s “Encounters of the Third Kind” to Katsuhiro Otomo’s cyberpunk anime “Akira.”

It’s a fascinating critique of the film industry that has celebrated Peele so much in recent years, as well as modern society’s obsession with spectacle and the way we record everything we see. More than that, it’s about how people have become desensitized to the horrific images they witness day to day, and leaves audiences wondering about the increasingly exploitative nature of the world in which we live.

Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s “Nope” was shot in the arid landscape between Santa Clarita and Agua Dulce.

Universal images

The cast and crew spent four months in extreme heat and dust as they filmed along the border of Santa Clarita and Agua Dulce last summer – where many artisans and animal trainers d ‘Hollywood live because of the region’s vast landscape and affordability,’ De Jong said. Fry’s Electronics store may have been one of the hardest places to pinpoint, but the production designer, who counts ‘There Will Be Blood’ and the hit TV series ‘Yellowstone’ on her resume, was determined to make it work.

The film’s producers originally eyed a Fry’s Woodland Hills location, one filled with “Alice in Wonderland” scenery, including life-size statues of the Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The upside-down theme certainly suited Peele, who said Lewis Carroll’s story had already inspired “Us,” and might have provided an interesting Easter egg for fans. But the store had already been dismantled, so the team went back to the drawing board.

The entrance to Fry's Electronics in San Jose.

The entrance to Fry’s Electronics in San Jose.

Blair Heagerty/SFGATE

That’s when they found Fry’s Burbank outpost, which sported a 1950s sci-fi theme with a flying saucer crashing down at the entrance. It was perfect. Unfortunately, they were a few weeks too late – or so they thought, until a chain rep contacted them.

“They were like, ‘Hey, Ruthie. Hi, Jordan. Can you put this store back together? I was like, ‘Yup.’ Owner Randy Fry and his wife Vikki Loveikis and son were so excited and so supportive,” De Jong said in the production notes. “We’re thrilled to honor the legacy of this epic store, and I think that Randy is very happy to bring Fry’s fame back to life. It’s just nice to capture that nostalgia, and the uniqueness of that family business was something special that’s forever now because it’s on screen.

Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya walk the aisles of Fry's Electronics in Jordan Peele's

Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya walk the aisles of Fry’s Electronics in Jordan Peele’s “Nope.”

Screenshot/Universal Images

That’s not the film’s only Bay Area connection. “Choices (Yup)” by rapper Vallejo E-40 appeared in a promotional trailer for the film, notably after Peele’s use of “I Got 5 On It” by Oakland rap duo Luniz in “Us” . Steph Curry also starred in a teaser for “Nope,” although it’s worth noting that the Warriors point guard doesn’t make a cameo in the film. And in a surprising real-life part of the story, OJ and Emerald claim to be descendants of the unnamed jockey who appeared in San Francisco photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion,” a pioneering experience that would eventually shape the development of cinema. so that we know them today.

Meanwhile, San Rafael-born actor Terry Notary is responsible for one of the film’s most terrifying scenes, portraying Gordy, a chimpanzee pushed to the brink on the set of a ’90s family sitcom. in a flashback to Park’s past.

Notary, who you might recognize from 2017 thriller “The Square,” has had an unusual career. The former UCLA gymnast and Cirque du Soleil acrobat is now the movement coach behind ‘Ape School,’ where for decades he taught actors how to mimic the gestures of primates and other creatures, in movies ranging from Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village.”

For his role in “No,” he recalls wearing a yellow sweatshirt and denim shorts over a motion-capture suit as he crouched on the ground, emitting low grunts as his eyes roamed the room with primal unpredictability. He rushes towards one of the figures and the camera cuts out just in time, allowing the audience’s minds to race as they imagine the horrific attack.

“Jordan [Peele] and I had about two or three Zoom calls where we talked and discussed what he wanted to accomplish in the scene, which was just to scare the living shit out of people,” he told SFGATE over the phone. . “It was really fun to do, really fun to act. Jordan is a brilliant director because he’s first and foremost an actor. He was able to give me enough freedom to explore and act and find my ownership of the character, but also you guide him so that he gets what he wants when he tells the story.

Jordan Peele and Terry Notary at the premiere of

Jordan Peele and Terry Notary at the ‘Nope’ premiere.

Courtesy of Notary Terry

Shot on the grounds of Universal Studios, the sequence took around four shots over three days to be perfect. The faux furniture in the living room has been made about 30% larger than normal, so Notary appears to be the same size as a chimpanzee and viewers can see more clearly from his vantage point.

“It’s very strange,” said the notary. “It puts the audience in a position where they can project themselves onto that character.”

The scene is never fully explained and has already sparked many fan theories and speculation: what does this chimp giving in to his primal instincts have to do with a UFO, anyway? But Notary insists that the chimpanzee is central to the film’s message.

“It exposes the bad nature of humanity, to capitalize on people, animals and things for a show. I think there’s a parallel between Gordy and the alien, and their indomitable, and it’s the connection between the two stories that brings Skirt [Yeun] in,” he said. “The alien lets himself be seen for who he really is, just like Gordy did.”

“Nope” is now in theaters.

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