Even in a fast-paced movie like Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” there are Easter eggs you just can’t ignore – and one that caught the attention of more than a few viewers is the bizarre preponderance of characters wearing T-shirts with alt – rock bands of the late 80s and early 90s.
It starts with the character of Angel (Brandon Perea) wearing a Wipers t-shirt – the legendary Portland band adored by Kurt Cobain. Then you see one with the logo of Mr. Bungle – the quirky California band Faith No More that lead singer Mike Patton originally started out in, and which he continued as a side career. And the moment you see Emerald (Keke Palmer) prominently wearing a Jesus Lizard T-shirt (above) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) sporting a Rage Against the Machine – then, for a brief moment, Butthole Surfers and Earth T- shirts are scrolling – it’s like, “OK, these aren’t your garden-variety Nirvana t-shirts. What the hell is with all those early 90s alt-rock T-shirts in this movie? »
On the surface, quoting a song from another band from the same era makes no sense. Emerald is wearing a Prince t-shirt at the start of the film, and most of the records from their house seem to be old soul and pop, such as the version of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By” which is featured at the start of the film. (well, except for the slowed down appearance of Corey Hart’s 80s hit “Sunglasses at Night”).
But of course it’s no coincidence, and Variety caught up with the film’s costume designer, Alex Bovaird (“White Lotus,” “Sorry for Your Loss,” upcoming “True Detective” season 4) to explain himself.
“We were struggling to match the wardrobe to Angel’s random career, and we had him in these kind of happy outfits and the actor [Perea] is naturally optimistic,” she explains. “So we were trying to find a way to make him a little more depressed and make his clothes a little more depressing. So [the directors] said, “Oh, he’s the kind of guy who stands in front of a concert or rocks out with earplugs on.” We said, ‘OK, let’s put him in band t-shirts – what kind of music does he listen to?’
“Well,” she said laughing, “Jordan, [producer] Ian [Cooper] and I’m all exactly the same age and I listen to this music and I’ve been to these concerts. Some of them were Jordan’s suggestions, some were mine. Poor Brandon [Perea] — we actually had to make a playlist of these bands because he had heard of perhaps Rage Against the Machine, but barely!
And while that doesn’t answer why the OJ and Emerald characters also wear the shirts, there’s an implied plot point: After the disasters at the Haywood Ranch, the characters had regrouped in the Angel’s apartment and had borrowed some of his clothes.
“You don’t see them changing clothes,” Bovaird says, “but that’s what it implies, because they got wet. Some time had passed, they were all stoned. And by the time they get to the cafe, OJ has the Rage shirt on and it’s kind of a turning point, where they’re really excited, ‘We’re gonna do this thing!’, so I wanted those particular shots to be very, like (she roars) and Jordan went there.
She also says there’s “a sort of Nirvana as a common thread”, mentioning the presence of the most obscure group featured on a T-shirt in the film, Earth, an instrumental duo led by Kurt Cobain’s friend, Dylan Carlson. “Earth was the band that Kurt Cobain’s best friend started, and Kurt loved the Wipers and the Jesus Lizard.” (In fact, Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard released a split single together in 1992.)
Bovaird says the shirts also reflect a minor plot point that didn’t make it into the film. “At some point they were going to ask Angel to discuss how much he paid for the t-shirts – that was going to be a character point. Emerald was going to say, ‘How much did you pay for it on eBay?’ and she was going to steal it, ’cause she’s a bit piety, you know?
“But,” she sighs, nodding at a professional hazard of costume design for movies, “we always weave those stories into the clothes that no one ever knows!”