This post contains mild spoilers for Us.[hhmc]
In Us, every single actor delivers an impeccable performance. Lupita Nyongo is both captivating and terrifying as Adelaide Wilson and her “tethered,” Red; Winston Duke delivers both hot-dad swagger and side-splitting comic relief as her husband, Gabe Wilson; and even the films younger performers, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, and Madison Curry, occupy their roles with emotional intelligence and confidence thats often lacking in Hollywoods peewee leagues. And thats not even mentioning the films silent heroes: a collection of more than 100 rabbits, who dwell underground with all of the Tethereds until they are set free. Obviously, the bunnies cant speak for themselves about their experience on this film—but according to producer Ian Cooper, they were all consummate professionals.
Those who have watched Us know that the rabbits are a pretty important motif. Hollywood has a long history of using the little guys for scares, and the opening shot of the film is, after all, an expanding glimpse at cages upon cages stacked atop one another, with more and more of them exposed as the camera slowly backs away. All of those rabbits, by the way, were 100 percent real, living bunnies—not a C.G.I. dupe in the bunch. Cooper, the creative director for Jordan Peeles Monkeypaw Productions, said there were a total of 105 to 110 rabbits on set. As for what that was like? Basically, what youd expect.
“It was insanity,” Cooper said. “They were extremely well-behaved—as much as a creature with that level of I.Q. can behave, you know? Theyre very cute. Our animal wranglers were incredible, so patient with them.”
That intro shot alone took several hours to film, Cooper said—although he admits it took less time than hed feared across three or four takes. Most of that time was spent loading the critters into their cages and getting the shot prepared. Still, though, the rabbits lack of training did show through at times—like in the first few takes, when Cooper notes the main rabbit was falling asleep. “We were like, Oh my God, all of a sudden we have 105 not-trained actors,” Cooper recalled. “The rabbit was just falling asleep and we were like, No, keep your eyes open!” Sometimes, it seems, a rabbit just needs to take five.
As several sharp-eyed viewers and critics noted, the arrangement of the rabbits in that opening shot was fascinating; most of them were white, but a couple were brown or black—most of them isolated within the sea of majority-white rabbits. As Cooper noted, “If they were all white rabbits with red eyes, it would feel almost too cartoon—like its a lab, or its an Alice in Wonderland thing, right? I think the realness of having a variety of rabbits just made it more creepy, and more seeming like something insidious was going on down there.”
And to those who thought the arrangement might also be a metaphor for life in America as a minority? “That was [a] huge conversation,” Cooper said. “Obviously, because Jordan is in the weeds on every little decision like that. But I think Jordan discusses this a lot: he much prefers people to be able to think, and talk, and discuss, and unpack that than to be definitive.”
Even though the rabbits in the world of Us are eaten, no actual bunnies were harmed during the production, thanks to some clever safety precautions. In scenes where Nyongo was moving rapidly, the rabbits would be replaced with fake rabbits as stand-ins, replaced in post-production by Industrial Light and Magic.
All told, Cooper said, the rabbits were lovely colleagues—aside from the one obvious drawback: “The one thing that they can't help themselves, is that they poop constantly.”
Cooper said that at least four animal wranglers on set were tasked with cleaning up after the rabbits between shots in the white hallway where they roam toward the end of the film. They used baby gates to corral the animals into one designated spot between takes to make sweeping up their waste a little easier. And once it was time to shoot again? Release the bunnies! “Theyd just be free hopping around the hallway as Lupita was acting during that scene, and it was hilarious,” Cooper recalled. “Theres stuff that made it onto film that is so funny and incidental. I think right when she comes around the corner, the first time in the underpass, and shes walking to them, [they] get freaked out and scamper right in front of her, and we were all applauding off camera, like yes, thank you.”
“They were so great and so funRead More – Source