How Candyman's Jordan Peele And Director Nia DaCosta Bonded Through Horror Fandom

Candyman poster closeup

This past weekend saw the phenomenal release of Jordan Peele’s Us, and the good news for those already hungry for more horror stories from the filmmaker is that he has many irons in the fire. For example, there is the new version of The Twilight Zone that he is producing and hosting for CBS All Access – but on the feature side of things there is the tremendously exciting new take on Candyman that he is making with writer/director Nia DaCosta.

News of DaCosta’s hiring came just a couple months after the announcement about the project’s development late last year, and also just a few months after the world premiere of her feature debut, Little Woods (which played at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival). In the time since, not much has been revealed about the direction of the new Candyman, but while sitting down with DaCosta this past weekend, I learned about a key ingredient in her collaboration with Jordan Peele:

I think something that we connect on a lot was the way we view horror, and our love of horror. I love Candyman, but also just like breaking down what horror is, how it's represented, what it means, and why it's important. I think we really connected on that, and so that's a lot of what our conversations have been about… that I can tell you (laughs). It's been great. He's a wonderful creator, collaborator, human, artist.

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With the film set to be released in a few weeks, Little Woods held its Los Angeles press day on Sunday, and it was at the end of my interview with Nia DaCosta and star/executive producer Tessa Thompson that I inquired about the development of her upcoming horror remake. Specifically I asked about the conversations that she had been having with Jordan Peele, and she explained how a shared vision of what horror can do and why it’s effective is really driving their work together on Candyman.

Naturally I felt compelled to follow-up by asking about her philosophy in the genre, and what she stressed was both engaging with the audience, and also telling stories that bring home important messages in subversive ways. It’s a key staple of horror that has existed from the beginning, and a tradition that Nia DaCosta plans to uphold in her venture. Said the filmmaker,

What I like about genres like thrillers, and why I think tensions are important for all movies, including dramas, it's physicalizing what the characters are feeling for the audience. That's really important, and gets the audience to engage and to lean in. And then with horror you can sneak in messages. You know sneak in what you think about the world around you, and how actually horrifying the world is. You get to hide it in these layers. 'This is about a ghost, but really it's about paranoia and a woman's place in the world.' Or, you know, 'This is about a guy meeting his girlfriend's parents, but really it's about... Actually a guy meeting his girlfriend's parents.' (laughs)

Based on a short story by Clive Barker that was first adapted in 1992, Candyman centers on an urban legend that is being investigated by a college student – specifically one about a violent entity who appears and attacks anyone who dares to say his name five times into a mirror. Yahya Abdul-Matten II, who has earned notoriety in recent months thanks to his performance in James Wan’s Aquaman and Jordan Peele’s Us, is currently the only member of the cast, set to play the titular villain.

With Nia DaCosta directing and Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld writing the script, Candyman is currently on track to be released on June 12, 2020 – produced by Monkeypaw Productions and MGM. For those of you who want to get a taste of what DaCosta is bringing to the table as a filmmaker, however, (and I highly recommend that you do), Little Woods is set up with distribution from Neon, and will be getting a limited release starting on April 19th.

For more about the film, and more from my interview with Nia DaCosta and Tessa Thompson, be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.