Q&A: John Krasinski looked to the emotion of ‘Quiet Place,’ not the jump scares
As warm and intelligent as John Krasinski appears onscreen — in roles ranging from Jim on NBC’s “The Office” to the title character on Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” — he is even more so in person. Krasinski is a guy who asks questions and considers answers, who relishes engaging with people, experiences and ideas, who offers not a handshake but a hug.
It was that curiosity and craving to connect that prompted the actor to star in, rewrite and direct “A Quiet Place,” a horror film about a family silently struggling to survive in a world ravaged by sound-averse aliens. The movie, which also stars Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, as well as child actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, has grossed more than $330 million worldwide since its April release.
Initially reluctant, Krasinski is now working on a sequel, set to arrive in May 2020, which he describes as “not a sequel of a character or family,” but “of a world.” He won’t say more about that, but in a quiet NYC hotel suite, happily discussed almost anything else.
What drew you emotionally to ‘A Quiet Place’?
The only thing that drew me to it was emotion. I’m not into scary movies. Platinum Dunes’ Drew Form and Brad Fuller said, “It’s about a family that can’t talk and you have to find out why.” I thought, “Dammit! That’s one of the best one-liners I’ve ever been pitched.”
So I read it, holding our second daughter, who was 3 weeks old. I felt like I could make it the best metaphor for parenthood. The movie is the most personally I’ve connected to anything in my career. It’s a love letter to my kids.
You had reservations about directing it. Why?
If I wasn’t prepared, not only would the movie be bad, it’s almost disrespectful to directors. I was going to rewrite and star, but when I pitched Emily, she said, “I’ve never seen you so lit up. You have to direct it. It’s going to be hard. Just do it.”
That’s my thing. I try not to do one thing all the time, not to reinvent myself, but to challenge myself. I’d rather go down trying than not try at all.
What was the biggest surprise making the film?
I didn’t expect those kids to be so good. I always heard, “Don’t work with kids. They slow the day down. They’re never prepared.” I had the opposite experience. These two kids are some of the greatest actors I’ve worked with. I started making more marks for them, like, if you can do that, maybe we can do this.
Why do you think the movie has resonated so widely?
I hope because it’s more than a jump-scare movie. It’s about what would you do for your kids? What defines family? When all else fails, who can you lean on? Who will protect you, fix you when you’re hurt? That’s a powerful conversation.
Do you think its resonance was timely?
Maybe. Maybe it connects because people are in an insulated moment, hunkering down with the ones they love.
I think the movie captured the safety in those family moments.
The family metaphor is all over the movie. These creatures are metaphorical for anything that can happen to your kids when they’re not under your watch — college, preschool, going to another kid’s house. It’s letting your kids out into the world, where they can be changed in ways you weren’t hoping.
Did directing your wife create a weird power dynamic?
No, we were partners. When she signed on I said, “We’ve got to treat this movie like our marriage. We’ve got to be honest about everything. Is there a line you don’t like? Let’s talk about it.” It was an ongoing conversation.
The women are the movie’s heroes. Was that deliberate?
For sure. Part of that is my belief system. There’s overwhelming evidence that women are the stronger sex. It was also the circumstances. Emily’s character had to give birth without making a sound. By default you are the hero. Millie’s character went from thinking she was worthless to realizing she was the key to solving the world’s biggest problem.
What is your quiet place?
We have this house upstate. Right now my quiet place is sitting in that house with a fire and thinking. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are sitting by a fire with a drink with friends. There’s something elemental about fire that allows people to speak more truthfully.
People ask women about balancing career and family. I’ll ask you.
I vowed never to be one of those actors who tells you how hard it is to be an actor because it’s not. It’s a fantasy camp. But your family is separated a lot. I try to make sure being a dad is the No. 1 priority. The one thing I hope is my kids say, “Even when he got busy, I knew we were the most important thing.”
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