Kitties litter the set of Key and Peele's 'Keanu'

Brian Truitt

Insane cuteness is only one of the reasons why a kitten was placed right in the middle of the comedic hijinks of Keanu.

Seven tabby kittens were used to play the title character of 'Keanu.'

“We could overintellectualize it, but honestly, it just felt right,” says the movie’s co-writer and co-star Jordan Peele.

The little cat, which Peele’s character Rell names Keanu, acts as a lovable MacGuffin for the protagonist to chase and a furry device for character development, in addition to being a source of heartwarming animal magnetism.

Obama and his anger translator Luther review Key and Peele's 'Keanu'

When Keanu goes missing, Rell goes searching for his new charge with cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key). They find the kitten in the criminal arms of gang leader Cheddar (Method Man) and wearing a do-rag on his little head. To get the cat back, the nerdy dudes have to pretend to be violent offenders themselves.

After Rell gets dumped by his girlfriend, Keanu brings meaning to his life, Key says. “It’s like an angel came down from heaven to fill this hole in his heart and then it’s taken from him. It’s crucial that this component of his life be put back where it belongs.”

Rell (Jordan Peele) bonds with his new kitten in 'Keanu.'

Clarence’s journey from nerdy corporate team builder to the type of man who can stand up for himself was the focus of the first draft of the script. “But it didn’t quite feel believable enough that we would go through all we go through just to help him find his calzones, so to speak,” Peele says.

The kitten element offered a “perfect juxtaposition” to the gang element of the movie, he adds. Plus, the critter became “the perfect symbol for the movie and the perfect metaphor for the idea that everyone is more complicated than just what we see in a lot of film (themes) and stereotypes. Everyone has a soft side and a hard side.”

Key and Peele scratch their way into Hollywood with 'Keanu'

Even Method Man, the Wu-Tang Clan rapper who looked a little less intimidating when holding Keanu. “The kitten would fall asleep almost immediately when it hit his arms,” Peele recalls. “It was just adorable.”

Seven tabby kittens were used to play Keanu, and when one was filming, it gave everyone a sense of fun but also a strong focus, Key says.

The kitten often fell asleep in Method Man's arms on the set of 'Keanu.'

“You have an actor who’s going to ostensibly do what they want, so everybody else has to be on their toes to make sure that everything we need to get accomplished gets accomplished,” Key explains. “Once you have this wild card in this animal, everybody gets real insular all of a sudden and decides we can’t screw around.”

It was a difference experience for the comedian than dealing with an 18-foot reticulated python lovingly named Fluffy. “The snake was a little harrowing,” Key says with a laugh.

Will Forte, who stars as Rell’s drug-dealing neighbor Hulka, has a key scene with Fluffy, yet the snake also played a role in a serious drug trip Clarence has, where director Peter Atencio told Key to look as relaxed as possible while the snake inched toward his face. (That scene ended up being cut from the final film.)

“It didn’t help that the snake handlers were like, ‘Well, we usually keep him on ice as long as we can, but today, it’s hot. He is not happy, man. This danged snake is mad,’ ” Key says. “Not information I wanted. Let ignorance be bliss, please.”

Keegan Michael Key, left, and Jordan Peele found the humor in working with a kitten (seven of them, in fact) in 'Keanu.'