Key and Peele scratch their way into Hollywood with 'Keanu'
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele consider their new comedy Keanu to be their ultimate action movie team-up, something that would usually star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel. And Key is calling dibs on which one he wants to be.
“Well, I’m clearly The Rock after an intense SlimFast diet. They call me The Pebble,” quips the 45-year-old Detroit native.
After five seasons of doing acclaimed sketches on Comedy Central's Key & Peele, the two set their sights on Hollywood with Keanu (in theaters Friday). Directed by Peter Atencio and co-written by Peele, the movie stars the duo as men who, despite being decidedly not streetwise, are on a mission to find a kidnapped kitten but wind up involved in the Los Angeles underworld.
Obama and his anger translator Luther review Key and Peele's 'Keanu'
Key and Peele have created a vast array of memorable characters doing their TV series, from dimwitted football players to President Obama and his anger translator Luther. But cousins Clarence (Key) and Rell (Peele) are the closest they’ve come to their real selves.
“We’re huge movie fans, obviously, and we’ve never seen movies where there are guys like us,” says Peele, 37, born and raised in New York City.
The pair lived for the shootouts and dangerous action stunts involving Clarence and Rell, who go by the “gangsta” names Shark Tank and Tectonic, respectively. “If we wanted to be nerdy black guys who also got to be action heroes, who else was going to write that movie?” Key says.
TV kept their passions stoked for half a decade, but being in films was always the goal for the two cinephiles. They're developing a number of movies they can put the Key and Peele stamp on, including a reboot of the 1980s franchise Police Academy, as well as a project based on one of their TV sketches, with Key as an inner-city substitute teacher dealing with a class full of suburban white kids.
Kitties litter the set of Key and Peele's 'Keanu'
“It’s hard at this stage to face the fact that, hey, we might be able to continue this career as movie stars,” Peele says.
Key promises that, like with Keanu, whatever they do next together will have a distinct flavor. “One of the mandates has always been, what we are going to do that’s different than anything you’ve ever seen before, or how we take an old trope and find a new twist on it.”
However, they find it a nice creative palette cleanser to go off and do things separately, too. Key is working on the romantic comedy Why Him? (in theaters Dec. 25) with James Franco and Bryan Cranston, and Peele is writing and directing the upcoming horror film Get Out.
“Absence makes the heart grow stronger, and absence also makes the creative process go stronger,” Key says. “You hear of actors who quit their life for a minute and go bag groceries for a year and pay bills so you have some other experience to draw from.
“You don’t want to end up at a point where all you’re doing is creating things about the world you know,” Key says.