Key & Peele’s ‘Keanu’ Kitten Is Actually A 7-Kitten Squad

Key & Peele not only want people to laugh at their latest movie, they want people to go crazy over the cuteness overload. The comedy duo’s movie, Keanu, comes out on April 29, and they are doing the rounds to promote their movie.

One of the co-stars in the film is an adorable kitten whose name is the film’s title. New Line Cinema’s Keanu stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as slackers who become attached to a stray kitten that shows up Peele’s doorstep. When a drug dealer kidnaps Keanu, the two men have to pose as criminals to infiltrate the drug dealer’s gang to save their beloved kitten in an epic rescue mission.

While most films that feature animals usually resort to CGI effects to create a creature that directors can direct more easily, this wasn’t the case for Keanu. Director Peter Atencio didn’t want to use CGI at all and decided to use real life kittens for the part of Keanu, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“The studio said, ‘You’re going to do all CGI for this right?’ and I said ‘No, we have to use real cats. You have to see the cuteness!'”

Atencio went through great lengths to find the type of kitten that could play Keanu. The film director even held kitten auditions to see which kitten would be the most photogenic to use in the movie. After debating between using tabbies or tuxedo kittens, Atencio settled for a tabby kitten, since tabbies are easy to work with, the easiest breed to match, and the most common breed in animal shelters.

The Key & Peele movie actually ended up using a total of seven kittens to create Keanu. The three kittens, Nacho, Jefe, and Squibword, were the first weeks-old kittens at the start of the film. Four more kittens were brought on as the first three started to get bigger.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, Key & Peele Keanu movie, Keanu kitten
Key & Peele with one of the 'Keanu' kitties. [Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images]

The kitten trainers and the director had their work cut out of them as they had to find tricks to get the kittens to act in certain scenes. The film crew used buzzers to get the kitten to move to a specific spot and would use food as a reward.

The real life kittens were used in all of the scenes, including the shootout action sequence, and no CGI effects were added. Cats are usually skittish when it comes to loud noises, but the kittens were brought on location prior to filming so they could get used to the noisy environment and keep calm.

In fact, the toughest part of the shoot was trying to keep the hats on the kittens’ heads. At one point of the film, Keanu is seen wearing a black do-rag and a thick gold chain when he’s under captivity by his kidnapper. The kitten trainers slipped the kittens food whenever they needed to wear the headgear, as a way to train the kittens to not knock off the do-rags. The gold chain is a lightweight plastic prop and not difficult to wear.

Just like in the movies, a happy ending came to all the kittens in the shoot. An American Humane Association representative was on-set throughout the entire shoot to make sure the kittens were handled with care. The film crew treated the kittens like mini-movie stars and after the movie wrapped, all the kittens were adopted by some of the people who worked in the film.

Director Atencio adopted three of the kittens for himself, and hopes that he might work with them again in future projects. Unfortunately, Jordan Peele is allergic to cats, but was able to use allergy medication to work with the Keanu kittens in the film without any issues.

Keanu will be available in theaters nationwide on April 29. Fans of Key & Peele can read up on the duo’s recent Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, where they answered questions about their upcoming movie, along with talking about their past comedy skits.

[Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images]