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Is Gordy's Attack In Nope Based On A True Story?

Contains major spoilers for "Nope"

Jordan Peele's latest film "Nope" is out in theaters now and audiences finally have answers as to what the film is actually about. The narrative exemplifies Peele's signature brand of horror, examining themes like the pursuit of fame, the dark side of exhibition, and the nature of wild animals (there are also, of course, tons of small details you likely missed). Untameable beasts play a significant role in the narrative in more ways than one. Siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) are struggling to maintain their father's horse training business after his mysterious death, but that's the least of their problems. Thanks to their neighbor — former child actor and current theme park owner Ricky "Jupe" Park (Steven Yeun) — their property has inadvertently become home base for a flying extraterrestrial predator.

Flashbacks show that Jupe's fascination with the wild creature is no coincidence. As a child, he starred on a sitcom called "Gordy's Home," which featured a live chimpanzee as one of the cast members. One fateful day, the primate snapped and brutally mauled several actors, including Jupe's young co-star Mary Jo Elliot (Sophia Coto), who miraculously survived despite sustaining severe injuries. Though viewers only see the incident from Jupe's limited perspective, what we are shown is enough to imagine the horror of what's going on. 

This section of the plot is particularly alarming and specific, so it may come as no surprise to learn that Gordy's violent outburst does have some parallels to a devastating true story.

Travis the chimpanzee

In 1995, New York Magazine reports, Sandra and Jerome Herold paid a Missouri-based breeder $50,000 in exchange for Travis the chimpanzee, raising him from infancy.  Travis developed human qualities under their care. According to the same outlet, he got dressed every day, brushed his teeth, enjoyed ice cream and wine, and slept in bed with the couple. Similar to Gordy in "Nope," Travis was a bit of a celebrity. He was known for appearing in Old Navy ads and local businesses proudly displayed photographs of him, according to the Stamford Advocate.

However, there were warning signs that Travis might not be the obedient pet he seemed. The Stamford Advocate also reports that the chimpanzee pulled a woman's arm through the opened window of a parked car in 1996, biting her hard enough to draw blood. In 2003, he jumped out of the Harolds' car at an intersection, evading police and his owners for two hours, though no charges were pressed, per New York Magazine. Much like Gordy, Travis existed in a world where he was the center of attention.

A recurring motif in "Nope" is the dedication and respect it takes to develop a connection with a wild animal. Assuming obedience is a recipe for disaster, a mistake Jupe makes at the cost of his life. In Travis' case, his perceived domesticity did nothing to stop the inevitable. 

Attack on Charla Nash

In February 2009, Charla Nash, a friend of Sandra Herold, arrived to help care for Travis, then 14 years old and weighing 200 pounds, when he brutally attacked her before being shot and killed by the police (via The New York Times). Charla suffered extreme and extensive injuries to her face and hands. Several months into her recovery, she appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about her experience. For most of the interview, Charla's face is shielded by a veiled hat. This is very similar to the head covering we see an adult Mary Jo wearing when she attends Jupe's alien demonstration all those years after the "Gordy's Home" incident. 

Although it hasn't been officially confirmed that "Nope" was directly inspired by Charla Nash's survival story, it is certainly easy to see some of the parallels. But unlike Mary Jo, who was devoured by the alien thanks to Jupe's arrogance, Charla's condition only improved over the years. She received a successful face transplant in 2011 and has become an advocate for stricter legislation regarding the sale of exotic animals (via ABC 7).