'Get Out' Star Daniel Kaluuya Reveals the Advice Lupita Nyong'o Gave Him About Fame
The actor, now starring alongside Nyong'o in 'Black Panther,' saw his world changed after his breakout role in Jordan Peele's social thriller, for which he earned an Oscar nom: "When I go to music festivals now, it's intense."
From British TV to a small role in 2015's Sicario to the lead in record-smashing cultural phenomenon Get Out, Kaluuya's star trajectory has reached a new peak with his first Oscar nomination, not to mention a role in the movie of the moment, Black Panther. Speaking to THR, the 28-year-old Londoner describes the reaction to Get Out on the Black Panther set, especially from director Ryan Coogler, who knew immediately that things would never be the same for Kaluuya again.
How insane has the past 12 months been? Have you had a moment to sit back and reflect on it all?
Nah, I need to fuck off. I need to see what the hell has happened. Because every time it's just a new thing, a new thing, a new thing. And in a new space. And it's just like… woah. It's just really surreal. It's like an out-of-body experience. It doesn't feel like it's happening, really.
Are you now getting recognized on the street?
It has changed. When I go to music festivals now, it's intense. There's selfies and that. I went to [London festival] Lovebox and we were just rolling in, and it was a thing. If I'd shown up in a hat and sunglasses, my friends would have been like, "You're a dick." But then it got to a point when one of my friends just gave me his sunglasses and was like, "I want to enjoy myself, please put these on."
There was a lot of buzz about Get Out before it came out. Did you feel it was going to be something special?
I just knew that I'd never seen something like it before. I mean, the image of a young black man strangling a young white woman — it could go either way! So I just kind of kept going. I didn't know what was going to happen, because there's never been anything like this. And that's the same with Black Panther, because there's been nothing like it. I've got no idea.
Had Get Out come out when you were shooting Black Panther? What was the reaction on set?
It came out on my birthday [Feb. 24]. I didn't tell anyone that it was my birthday, but I remember Ryan [Coogler] called me on the day of release and said, "You snaked me, it's your birthday!" And then he said, "Your life's going to change." And I was like, "Nah! Fuck it, it's just a film!" But he was like, "No bro, your life is going to change, you've done something." He's a very spiritual dude, and he was like, "It ain't never gonna be the same. You did something with integrity and it's gonna do stuff." And there was such a supportive cast – everyone was putting their arm around me going, "Do this, do that." Lupita [Nyong'o] gave me a chat, because she saw it as similar to her in 12 Years A Slave and then Mike [B Jordan] would talk to me about stuff, Chad [Boseman] would talk to me about stuff, [Winston] Duke would talk to me about the American market. It's only my second American job so I don't know. I just attacked it like an English person – you do your job and you go home! I was like, why do they want me to go back, to promote what? It's out, watch it!
What did Lupita say?
She said things have changed and that I'd need to protect myself and have my guard up. Now I'm seeing it as time goes on. Because I thought it'd be something that'd die down, but every time I go to America it builds and builds. Even now that it's got the Oscar thing, it keeps on growing. So she just told me to protect myself — because I didn't have a publicist or a manager. I just had an American agent. That's it.
Does it feel crazy to be nominated alongside U.K. acting royalty in Daniel Day-Lewis and Gary Oldman?
Yeah! I did an indie horror! If I'd done a biopic then I could kind of understand, you could think, "That's not that crazy." But for an indie horror? And Denzel Washington! These people are like, what? I don't know. It's a blessing but you have to roll with the punches. It doesn't even make sense. I think the film is up there, but the fact that this has happened, it's genuinely surreal.
Were the Oscars a big deal for you? Did you watch them every year?
No, they were on too late! I'd check the winners list the next day. I'm not being impolite, I'm just in England. And it's like 3 a.m.! I remember one year we watched it because our friend — Nicholas Hoult — was on it and we thought it'd be a laugh. So we stayed up, but I was like, "This is late, man, I've had so much Red Bull." Actually, it wasn't Red Bull, it was Monster — I was having the dirty shit! I was having that to support my boy, and I was just mashed!
Is there anything you're particularly looking forward to on the night?
I have no expectations. I've just let go of everything at the moment. I'd be happy to have a drink after. Because it's going to be an end of a chapter with Get Out and Jordan [Peele] and the team and everyone at Blumhouse and QC Entertainment and Sean McKittrick and everyone. We kind of went on this ride. We filmed it two years ago and it was a 28-day shoot. There was real togetherness. So it's kind of like the fact that man, we're here. It's just celebrating this journey. It's a great end mark.
With Get Out, Black Panther and Steve McQueen's upcoming Widows, you've added an impressive array of genres and filmmakers to your résumé. Is there anywhere you'd like to go next, or anyone you'd particularly like to work with?
I think Lena Waithe's great. I think Jerrod Carmichael's great. I think Donald Glover's great. I think Armando Iannucci is great. I think Chris Morris is great. There's so many people. But it's about seeing something and going, all right, let's tell the truth in that. It's like, what films did you fall in love with or what experiences are you having at the moment that you can bring to something. It's about who's got stuff to say and being a part of stuff like that. And if you haven't got anything to say, go home. If I haven't got anything to do, I'll just go home and chill out and try not to waste people's time, because cinema ain't cheap.
A version of this story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.