From College Dropout to History-Making Oscar Winner: All About 'Get Out' 's Jordan Peele

The writer and director behind one of 2017's most-talked-about movies, the horror thriller Get Out, Peele was nominated for three Oscars and took home the award for Best Original Screenplay Sunday night.

Jordan Peele is having quite a year.

The Get Out writer and director, 39, was nominated for three Oscars and took home the award for Best Original Screenplay Sunday night, making history as the first African-American to win the honor.

“This means so much to me. I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I thought it wasn’t gonna work, I thought no one would ever make this movie, but I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, then people would hear it and people would see it.”

The win was especially meaningful in light of the recent additions to the director’s family. Cheering him on from the audience at the Dolby Theater was his wife, Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast member Chelsea Peretti, 40, who gave birth to the couple’s first child earlier this year.

Here’s what to know about Hollywood’s newest auteur:

90th Annual Academy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

His evening at the Oscars made history in other ways too.

Peele is the third first-time director in history to receive Oscar nods for picture, screenplay and director for the same film.

In addition to his Original Screenplay feat, he is also only the fifth African-American filmmaker in 90 years to receive an Oscar nomination for directing. Made for roughly $4.5 million, Get Out opened last February to rave reviews and went on to gross $254 million worldwide at the box office. “Reality feels more and more like some kind of simulation,” Peele told PEOPLE. “Like when things work out too perfectly.”

His mom nurtured his love of movies.

Peele began studying film at just 12 years old. Growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he’d hit the multiplex with his mother, Lucinda Williams, to watch and analyze classics such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. Williams, a single parent, “would ask me what I liked about it and evaluate what it was about the movie that spoke to me,” said the director. “I sort of figured out that the people responsible for my favorite films were the directors.”

Academy Awards Governors Ball
Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Polaris

He dropped out college to pursue comedy.

When Peele later decided to drop out of Sarah Lawrence College to pursue improv comedy in Chicago’s famed Second City theater, his mother was supportive. “She heard the tone in my voice and how serious I was,” he recalled. “I knew I wanted to create worlds and those worlds would be in some sort of horror or gothic fantasy that we had never seen before. Everything I did was working toward that skill set of being a director.”

His Obama impression got the presidential seal of approval.

Despite his love of the horror genre, Peele got his start in comedy. In 2003 he joined the cast of the FOX sketch series MADtv, on which he costarred with his future collaborator Keegan Michael Key. The pair’s 2012-15 Comedy Central show Key & Peele earned them millions of fans—including former President Barack Obama, who endorsed Peele‘s impression of him and asked to meet the duo.

During that time, Peele started developing the idea for Get Out, in which a young black man visits his white girlfriend’s family at their country home — and uncovers something sinister at work within the affluent suburb. “I’ve described it as the horror version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” he said. “It’s The Stepford Wives meets The Help.”

His family just got a new addition.

His personal life has also been busy — last summer Peele‘s wife Peretti gave birth to their first child, Beaumont Gino Peele. “He’s over 7 months now. Every day is a joy — you meet a little bit more of the person,” Peele said of his son. “Seeing that smile of recognition is everything.”

Before the show, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actress tweeted a photo of the family of three, where little Beaumont’s arm and leg are just visible in his mom’s arms.

“Its very possible i was holding my son in a tiny tux 😍😍😍😍😢😢😢😩😩😩,” Peretti, 40, captioned the sweet pre-show moment.

The 2018 Oscars were held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4 and were telecast live on ABC.

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