Is Nope Based on a True Story?

Directed by Jordan Peele, ‘Nope’ is a genre-bending sci-fi horror film. Set in California, the story follows Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), brother and sister who — after their father’s death — inherit their ancestral horse ranch, Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, where their family has trained and supplied horses for films and TV productions for years. OJ wants to return the ranch to its former glory, but Em is more concerned with wealth and popularity. When their horses begin to go missing, the siblings discover that an unidentified flying object is responsible.

While the UFO devouring humans and animals alike is fictional, ‘Nope’ is also Peele’s love letter to spectacle filmmaking and celebrates those that the industry has forgotten, especially people belonging to minority communities. If that has made you wonder whether ‘Nope’ is inspired by actual events, we got you covered.

Is Nope a True Story?

No, ‘Nope’ isn’t based on a true story. Peele himself wrote the script and co-produced the film along with Ian Cooper. In different interviews, the ‘Get Out’ director said that ‘King Kong,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ served as sources of inspiration for the film because they underscore how people are drawn to spectacles. He also named ‘Signs‘ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ as the films that influenced him.

Peele told in an interview that the film stemmed from his desire to create a spectacle that would draw the audience back to the cinema halls. “I wrote it in a time when we were a little bit worried about the future of cinema,” he stated. “So, the first thing I knew is I wanted to create a spectacle. I wanted to create something that the audience would have to come see.”

The ‘US’ director continued, “So, I set my sights on the great American UFO story here. And the movie itself deals with spectacle and the good and bad that come from this idea of attention. It’s a horror epic, but it has some points in it that are meant to elicit a very audible reaction in the theater. So, hopefully, when we go see it, we’re going to hear a lot of ‘Nope!'”

Asked by the Associated Press in a July 2022 interview whether ‘Nope’ is about the film industry, Peele said, “It became meta very quick. Making a movie is basically like chasing the impossible, trying to bottle something that doesn’t exist.” Citing ‘King Kong’ and ‘Jurassic Park,’ he explained how they served as his inspirations to depict the human addiction to spectacles in his film, adding, “The meta part is you’re commenting on this notion at the same time you’re trying to utilize it and trying to create something that people can’t look away from.”

Several scenes in ‘Nope’ feature the poster of Sidney Poitier’s 1972 Western ‘Buck and the Preacher’ in the background. This is the first film Peele ever saw with a black cowboy in it. “The myth that cowboys were just white guys running around, it’s just not true, but we don’t know that because of Hollywood and the romanticized view of a very brutalized era. The film, it shares a spirit,” he said.

Early in ‘Nope,’ the Haywoods claim that the man riding a horse in the very first assembly of photographs to create a two-second-long motion picture was actually their ancestor. While Haywoods are fictional, there are some sprinkles of truth in that particular claim. The very first known motion picture is generally believed to be ‘Sallie Gardner at a Gallo,’ where the rider isn’t black, according to Newsweek. The footage was created by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1878. What Peele used for his film is an animated rendition of Muybridge’s photographs of galloping horse Annie G and a black rider. They were originally published under the designation plate 626 in Muybridge’s ‘Animal Locomotion: An Electro-photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, 1872–1885,’ in 1887.


Peele also told the Associated Press how much reality he embedded into his work of fiction. “Part of the world of ‘Nope’ is flirting with real Hollywood and the Hollywood that takes place in my liminal dreams and nightmares,” he explained. “In real life, of the prominent Hollywood horse trainers, there’s not an African American one I’m representing. The Haywoods are a very made-up family and notion. It was fun to weave the Hollywood fiction with reality and try and make a seamless immersion into what’s real and what’s not.” Clearly, ‘Nope’ is not based on a true story. However, it’s perfectly understandable if someone thinks it is.

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