Sorry To Bother You, or the most WTF-did-I-just-see movie of 2018, is bursting with mind-bogglingly inventive turns and absurd scenarios. It’s a movie about—and spoiler alert for those who’ve slept on Boots Riley’s wildly original feature debut—a black man using his “white voice” to find success in a world where people eagerly watch a TV show called I Got The Shit Kicked Out of Me and toil under corporations that market slave labor as a dream life. The most insane thing about Sorry To Bother You, though? Those damn horse people, of course.
The half-human, half-horse hybrids—or equisapiens—are revealed to be a top-secret experiment masterminded by Armie Hammer’s maniacal CEO Steve Lift. After Lakeith Stanfield’s Cassius Green snorts a massive line of “coke,” he stumbles upon a room where the horse creatures are chained up in stalls. It’s a pivotal moment, the pivotal moment for Stanfield’s Cash, actually.
Riley, who wrote and directed the DGA Awards and Spirit Awards nominee, recently told Vulture how the crazy equisapien twist came to be. Surprisingly, Sorry To Bother You didn’t begin as a satire about mutated humans. “I didn’t start out being like, ‘I’m going to make a monster movie! I’m going to make a science-fiction movie!’” Riley said. The idea came after writing the freestyle rap scene, which was initially supposed to be the major turning point when Cash realizes how remarkably fucked up his world is.
“Is him figuring out that folks in the corporate world are using him to see their version of blackness enough for him to turn himself around after all this? It didn’t make any sense,” Riley said. In a movie as increasingly nutty as this, that storytelling logic makes sense, and Riley decided he needed a twist that matched the heightened reality of the rest of the film. The discovery that a shitty white man’s evil capitalistic corporation is secretly turning humans into literal workhorses? Boom.
The director also revealed the equisapiens were partially inspired by an ex-girlfriend who was obsessed with horses, as well as how the idea fits the film’s anti-capitalism themes. “I was looking for something that also had to do with the way that I feel capitalism is making us right now, which is to be more efficient monsters, right? [...] We think of a horse as something that’s for work. It’s in our language—horsepower.”
The whole article, which includes excerpts from Riley’s screenplay, is definitely worth a read over at Vulture.