‘Nope’: Daniel Kaluuya Explains 1 Challenge of Starring in the Movie That Helped Him Develop His Character

Daniel Kaluuya hit a home run with the first movie he made with Jordan Peele. Kaluuya earned his first Academy Award nomination (best actor) for Get Out. Meanwhile, Peele won a screenwriting Oscar for the movie and earned nominations for best picture and best director (even though he had no directing experience). Kaluuya and Peele worked together again on Nope, and Kaluuya said overcoming what he called PTSD helped him play OJ Haywood in the movie.

Daniel Kaluuya attends the UK premiere of Nope. Kaluuya had to overcome PTSD from a horse accident for 'Nope,' which helped him develop his OJ Haywood character.
Daniel Kaluuya | Kate Green/Getty Images for Universal

Daniel Kaluuya stars as horse trainer OJ Haywood in ‘Nope’

Kaluuya’s expressive face and ability to cry on cue made him perfect for the lead in Get Out. He goes more stoic to play OJ Haywood in Nope, which fits the character.

OJ and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) are a brother-sister duo who operate a rural California horse ranch, Haywood’s Hollywood Horses. OJ handles the horses until a powerful and mysterious presence in the sky interrupts his and Emerald’s relatively quiet life.

There’s much more to Kaluuya’s Nope role than wrangling horses, but that element of his character forced him to overcome his horse PTSD, which ultimately helped him develop OJ more fully.

Kaluuya had to overcome PTSD to star in ‘Nope’, and it helped him develop his character

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Kaluuya doesn’t spend all his time in Nope riding and wrangling horses, but he did have to get comfortable with the animals for the movie. That presented a challenge as he told the BBC (via YouTube) that a horse-riding accident caused him to develop PTSD.

“There was training [for Nope], but I had a bad accident,” Kaluuya said. “I had a bad accident a few years ago. I did a horse ride on a job, and then I had a bad accident. Then I had three weeks and a half to prepare for this role, so then I had a week, like, to get over my PTSD in order to get ready to kind of actually kind of get good at horse riding.”

Overcoming his PTSD and having only a short time to prepare to play OJ proved to be challenging, but Kaluuya explained how it actually helped him develop his character:

“What I realized was it was a way to get through to the character. Because basically, how you treat the horse is how you treat yourself. OJ is very still, and he has this connection to the horses, so I had to get very still. As I was getting better at riding, I was getting closer to OJ as a character.”

Nope star Daniel Kaluuya

Kaluuya added that on his days off from filming, he’d go for rides, clean the stalls, give medicine, and basically do everything a real horse trainer would do. That helped him get more comfortable around the horses and made his portrayal as OJ more believable.

Kaluuya will work behind the scenes for his next two movies

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Kaluuya earned an Oscar nomination for Get Out, and he won for best supporting actor for Judas and the Black Messiah, but his talents extend behind the camera, too.

The English actor penned the screenplay for The Kitchen, which should hit theaters in 2023. He also produces the movie. Before that, Kaluuya and Peele team up again as producers on Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. The movie, which comes out Sept. 2, stars Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown.

The next time we see Kaluuya on screen comes in The Upper World. He stars in and produces the sci fi movie about a man who can glimpse the past and future.

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