Warning: Contains potential SPOILERS for No.
Jordan Peele’s third directorial work, “No,” has conquered the world, and, as in his two previous films, the location of the film contains information about its plot. The film focuses on Jay and Emerald Haywood, a pair of siblings and Hollywood horse trainers, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, respectively. When they realize that a UFO inhabits the sky above the desert where their ranch is located, they come up with a plan to capture it on video in a quest for fame and fortune that could help them keep the long-standing family business afloat after the terrible death of their father.
As a director, Peel is known for creating memorable images and intense atmospheres; the locations used in his films are an important part of building a story. For example, “Away, Peel’s directorial debut” of 2017 mostly takes place in an affluent upstate New York neighborhood populated mostly by white people. It’s the perfect setting both for the immediate situation Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, in his breakthrough role and first collaboration with Peele) found himself in, and for the underlying racial criticism that Peele has woven into this film. Similarly, Peel carefully chose locations for filming in California and used them very effectively in “No” to tell a story that goes even deeper than what is seen on the screen.
Although Peel takes care to put his story in a suitable atmosphere, he doesn’t always use many locations. There are two main places to see in Nope, and they are the most important for the narration of the story and its characters. Peel’s film about an alien invasion seems bigger than his previous films, mostly taking place in the desert with a few interior scenes scattered around the world. Here is a summary of the locations used in Nope.
Aqua Dulce Desert
The Aqua Dulce Desert is located north of Los Angeles and is a testament to the natural beauty of the deserts of California. It also speaks to some hidden significance of Nope in relation to filmmaking and creativity. Peel has spoken of his desire to see more original films, rather than films based on intellectual property or franchises that currently dominate screens. In this film, the desert reflects the desiccated state of the Haywood family both creatively and financially as they struggle to keep up with the changes of Hollywood. The location also reflects the overall plot concept, and Peel uses wide shots of the desert and mountains to impress viewers with the scope of his UFO creation.
“Jupiter’s Claim” is a theme park reworked from the scenery of a 90s western featuring Ricky “Jupe” Park, a former child star played as an adult by Stephen Yun from The Walking Dead. Park suffered a serious injury involving a chimpanzee named Gordy on the set of a sitcom in his youth, and profited from this incident by keeping a museum in his office with artifacts from the ill-fated sitcom. All the decorations for the park “Claims of Jupiter” were built in the Aqua Dulce desert specifically for the filming of the film “No”. Universal Studios has carefully reconstructed the scenery at its Hollywood venue and made it accessible to visitors as part of its studio tour.
The “No” characters don’t spend much time in the physical location of the final important action scene, but Fry’s “Electronics” has a significant impact on the rest of the story. A California business founded in the 80s, the Heywoods head to Fry to find a camera system they can use to film UFOs. Once again, Peel carefully chose his place, presenting Fry’s in Burbank, the facade of which is decorated in a sci-fi style with a UFO image. Although “No” can’t be called Peel’s best film, California natives were thrilled that Fry’s memory was immortalized in the film. The electronics store chain closed in February 2021, but Peel has not yet revealed whether the interior scenes were filmed inside Fry’s premises or whether they were recreated on a sound stage for filming.