Most college students are familiar with John Krasinski as Jim Halpert from late-night Netflix binges of “The Office,” thanks to the show’s seemingly immortal popularity.
Since wrapping the television series in 2013, Krasinski has dabbled in roles both on and off the screen, but for his latest project, he donned all three hats of actor, writer and director. His new psycho-thriller “A Quiet Place,” depicts a family of four’s struggle to survive in an apocalyptic world where making sound could mean losing your life.
Krasinski recently sat down for a live video chat with The Lantern and reporters from student papers across the country to discuss his role in the film’s creation, what it was like working with actor Emily Blunt, who also is his wife, and learning American Sign Language.
Q: I was wondering where you drew your creative inspiration from for this film, how you got your idea to work and how that grew through screenwriting and ultimately directing.
JK: Great question. It’s funny. I don’t think that anyone would consider me the horror guy. You know the go-to call for a horror movie. I wouldn’t think that if you told me that I was going to direct this a year ago I’d say, “What are you talking about?” What happened was I was about to start the show “Jack Ryan” and some of the producers on “Jack Ryan” had this script and the script was by these guys [Bryan] Beck and [Scott] Woods and they wrote an amazing idea and the set pieces were there and everything and so they said, “Would you ever be in a genre movie?” And I said I can’t because I’m a scaredy cat, I don’t watch horror movies. And yet we just had our second daughter about three weeks before I read the script. And so I was already in the state of terror of keeping this girl safe, keeping this girl alive and whether or not I was a good enough father to be her father. And in comes this script about a family that relies on each other, about parents that would do absolutely anything for their kids.
So when I asked to do the rewrite I really wanted to drill down on all that family stuff and make every single part of the movie come back to being a family. It’s funny, on “The Office,” I remember Greg Daniels — the creator of the show — telling me “your job is not to deliver these lines funny. Your job is to deliver these lines and if people think they’re funny that’s up to them. And if people think that what you say to Pam is emotional that’s up to them too.” And I’ve got to be really honest with you, I never would have done this movie if it wasn’t for that advice because I looked at this not as a horror movie but I looked at it just like Greg said. I said, “If I can make you fall in love with this family then you’ll be scared because you don’t want anything to happen to them.” So I owe him a lot for that.
Q: I know that a lot of this film communication is through American Sign Language, which the cast learned from Millie Simmonds, and so I was wondering if you could just kind of talk about what it was like to learn ASL from her and that experience.
JK: It was. It was phenomenal for so many reasons. Probably the biggest regret I have on the movie is that I didn’t learn more sign language because it is, honestly, I think there’s no more beautiful language. And I know there’s a lot of pretty languages out there but nothing more beautiful than sign language. And you know it was non-negotiable for me to cast a deaf actress for this role, which is a deaf character. But I didn’t know I would get so lucky and having such an incredible guide in Millie. So learning ASL was just one of the things that she made so much easier because I know it sounds poetic, romantic and corny, but it’s true. I’ve never had someone take in all of me when we were communicating so to watch someone actually watch every little gesture that I made, watch my eyebrows. I mean they’re pretty animated but there was a lot going on but she was also just taking in everything that we were feeling. And so there’s no better teacher for ASL than Millie because she was so kind, so gentle and when we were doing a horrible job she was like, “That’s OK. It’s actually more like this.”
Q: You and your wife Emily play a couple on screen in this movie so how did you balance drawing inspiration from your actual relationship to connect with the character without letting that overshadow the on screen relationship and keeping those two relationships separate.
JK: That’s a great question. It’s a crazy thing because when I was doing my rewrite I always had Emily [Blunt] in mind, but I actually didn’t think she was going to do it. She was doing [“Mary Poppins Returns”] at the time — small little indie movie — and she had just had our second daughter, like I said. So she was busy and so I didn’t want to ask her to do the movie, if I’m honest because I was too scared that it would go one of two ways: One, I say, “Do you want to do this movie?” and she’d say “no,” and that would make for a very awkward dinner; or two, she’d say, “Yes I’ll do it for you,” and I didn’t want her to do anything for me and I’ve been firsthand seeing how she makes decisions and how incredibly smart she is, how incredibly talented she is. So I’ve seen how amazing she is. I didn’t want her to do anything that she didn’t want to do. So when she actually signed onto the movie it truly is the greatest compliment of my career because I’ve seen what it takes to get her to say yes to things. And then from there we were just honest, very similar like you’re saying to our relationship. We sort of drew from our relationship how to make this process easier because we were both really scared to work with each other.
And then her ask of me, which was amazing, was, “Don’t ever let a scene go by where you just let me do what I wanted to do because you think I’m a really good actress. I really want to do this with you; I need to know your ideas and things,” and so that really opened up this conversation where we talked everything through. So by the time we got to set we were just, you know, very similar to our marriage.
Q: So I know that you’ve had separate experiences with acting, directing, writing, but this is the first major screenplay that you had during all three jobs at once. What’s the new insight that you gained putting on all three hats for this project?
JK: It’s a very good question. I think that I’ve never gone so all in before, if I’m really honest. I’m an emotional dude so I’ll tell you everything. This is the most I’ve ever put into a project not only as an actor, producer and writer and all those things, but also as a person, as a dad. I mean I think this is crazy as it seems because if you watch this trailer you will say, “What the hell is he talking about?” But I think this is a love letter to my kids. So I was all in, this is sort of everything that I wanted to say in this movie but how it works out. If you look at the jobs individually they’re overwhelming, if you say, “I’m going to do all four of these things every day,” I think it’s really overwhelming and weirdly in this movie once we started shooting I was so — I felt so lucky to have all those jobs because I cared about this project so much I was able to use every single aspect of each job to craft it exactly as I wanted it and so I didn’t have, as a writer, I didn’t have a script that I thought could be really good and then a director screwed it up, or I didn’t have a script that I wanted to change but I couldn’t because of the writers, it was one of those things where it ended up being extremely beneficial for me because if anybody was going to let me down it was just me.
“A Quiet Place” comes to theaters on April 6.