Is Nope’s Gordy’s Attack Based On A True Story?

Young Jupe and Gordy in Nope

The chimpanzee flashback in Jordan Peele’s Nope is arguably more harrowing following the idea that it may be based on the true story of Travis the chimp victim, Charla Nash. One of the most haunting scenes in the horror film follows a chimpanzee named Gordy as he goes on a violent rampage on a film set for the fictional sitcom series Gordy’s Home. While the event as portrayed in Nope is not officially directly based on any true events, it was likely inspired by one real-life tragedy it has many parallels with.


Indeed, not only is Nope‘s Gordy not an alien, his story is actually grounded in real events. Central to Nope‘s message against the mistreatment of animals for the sake of spectacle, Gordy’s story is a harrowing but important subplot in Jordan Peele’s comedic sci-fi horror film. Here’s everything viewers need to know about Nope‘s true story inspiration — the tragic real-life case of Travis the chimp.

Related: 1 Hidden Jupe Easter Egg Foreshadowed Nope’s Twist Ending

What Happened To Travis The Chimp

Nope Gordy the chimpanzee header

Although it hasn’t been confirmed as a direct inspiration, Gordy’s attack in the Nope flashback is likely loosely based on the true story of Travis the chimp, a real-life chimpanzee who went on a violent rampage. Having been purchased and taken from his mother at just three days old, Travis soon became an animal actor, making guest appearances in television shows and commercials for brands like Coca Cola and Old Navy — not unlike the experiences of Gordy in the Nope subplot. His owners, Sandra and Jerome Herold, had a deep emotional attachment to him, and Sandra Herold even slept with him in the same bed.

Travis had a local reputation for being careful and well-behaved among humans, having been socialized to do so his entire life — but in 2009, Travis infamously attacked and mauled Charla Nash, one of Herold’s close friends, severely disfiguring her in the process. As for what happened to Travis the chimp himself, the poor animal was shot and killed by a police officer who responded to the incident. Ultimately, it’s unclear whether the tale of Travis the chimp victim Charla Nash is really Nope‘s true story inspiration. Nonetheless, both Gordy and Travis are crucial to Nope‘s overarching message.

Respecting Dangerous Animals Is A Central Theme Of Nope

Jean Jacket from Nope

One of the prevailing themes of Peele’s Nope is that dangerous animals should be treated with a high degree of respect. This is illustrated in the parallel between the trained horses owned by Haywood Hollywood Horses and Gordy the chimpanzee. Both were used for entertainment purposes, despite being pushed to their limits. More importantly, however, the link between entertainment and exploitation is further explored in the true nature of the film’s villain, Jean Jacket, a flying saucer-like creature that eats horses and humans alike.

Jupe, the sole survivor of the chimp attack, seeks out Jean Jacket because he fundamentally misunderstands the reason Gordy spared him. Because of that, he goes on to attempt to exploit the spectacle of Jean Jacket for entertainment and monetary gain. Jean Jacket, just like Gordy before it, is disrespected and lashes out, demonstrating how Nope’s opening bible quote about equating spectacle with filth lays out the main theme of the movie.

Related: Jordan Peele’s Nope 2 Tease Hints Its Scariest Scenes Will Be Even Worse

How Travis The Chimp Inspired Gordy In Nope

Gordy the Chimp from Gordy's Home trailer in Nope and Ricky "Jupe" Park

Nope‘s Gordy is not an alien, but his ties to the UFO-like villain of Nope remain. They are both victims of exploitative entertainment, and Travis the chimp is no different. His parallels to Gordy are clear; Travis and Gordy were both animal actors, both went on a destructive frenzy, and both were gunned down. While the circumstances of their violent episodes were very different, the fictional incident involving Gordy seems to be an intentional callback to Travis, attempting to illustrate the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry.

The parallels don’t end there, however. While Jupe was able to remain unharmed (possibly due to focusing on the shoe standing upright during Gordy’s attack instead of looking him in the eye), his co-star Mary Jo Elliott was not as lucky. An older Mary Jo is seen later attending Jupe’s live UFO show, covering her scarred face with a veil. Much like how Gordy parallels Travis, Mary Jo is a reflection of Travis the chimp victim, Charla Nash, who was left blind and with multiple major injuries. While Jupe invites Mary Jo Elliott as a gesture of kindness, it’s arguable he’s also exploiting her condition by having her in public, where she even wears a picture of herself before the accident on her sweater.

Nope is easily one of the best horror movies of 2022, and that’s thanks to some fantastic visuals, tight storytelling, and tense thrills. A crucial part of all of these factors is the story of Gordy, which raises questions about whether Nope itself is making a spectacle out of a real tragedy by drawing so many parallels to the true story of Travis. The film, however, does a good job of acknowledging that what really created these tragic scenarios was the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry.

Next: What Jordan Peele’s Next Movie Is (After Nope)

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