The 39-year-old multi-hyphenate became the first black writer to win Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, but as he explained to reporters backstage after collecting his statuette, the history-making win was more than individual accomplishment.
“I almost never became a director because there’s such a shortage of role models,” he confessed, adding that through the challenge of shooting Get Out and the “grueling” campaign process, one image stuck with him. “When the nominations for this came together, I had this amazing feeling of looking at the 12-year-old who had this burning in my guts for this type of validation, and I instantly realized that an award like this is much bigger than me.”
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“This is about paying it forward to the young people,” he insisted. “You’re not a failure if you don’t get this, but I almost didn’t do it because I didn’t believe there was a place for me.”
The Key & Peele star went on to note that Whoopi Goldberg’s 1991 acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for Ghost served as an inspiration for him to go after his dreams. One of the first things he did after receiving his Oscar nominations was call Goldberg to thank her, and he hopes that his achievement at Sunday’s awards show serves as similar motivation for those who come after him in this “renaissance.”
“I hope this inspires more people to use their voices,” he expressed.
As for what’s next for Peele, he joked after seeing reporters raise numbers auction-style to ask him questions, “If there’s a Get Out 2, it will take place in an awards show.”
“It might look something like this,” he cracked, before taking a moment to share his appreciation for his Oscars experience.
“What’s been the most beautiful part about this for me is all the full circle moments of meeting heroes. [Best Actor winner] Gary Oldman has been my favorite actor… I got to sit down with him outside and we shot the sh*t!” he marveled. “These are moments that are priceless, and I’ll take them with me forever.”