When it came to choosing an opening night film for the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, you couldn’t ask for a better start to the fest than John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. This writer has attended nearly one hundred screenings at SXSW since 2011, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like the audience reception of A Quiet Place, with nearly 1,200 people in attendance in a hushed silence, holding their breath alongside the film’s family, who must fend off alien creatures that hunt their prey using hyper-auditory senses.
Daily Dead had the distinct pleasure of speaking with director/co-star Krasinski the morning after the premiere of A Quiet Place, and he discussed how the project evolved from one that he would be acting in to one where he’d also be working on the script and taking the directorial reins as well. Krasinski also chatted about collaborating with his wife, Emily Blunt, on A Quiet Place, and how they were able to create such a compelling cinematic family alongside the film’s younger co-stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds.
A Quiet Place arrives in theaters everywhere on April 6th courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
So, John, what an incredible way to start the festival. Congratulations on everything last night.
John Krasinski: Oh my god. I’ve got to be honest with you, Heather, I don't know what's going on [laughs]. I wish I could be more in control of my feelings. I am blown away, legitimately blown away. It's funny to try to get in control to do press and talk about the movie, but what's happening right now is the most amazing experience that I've ever had in my career, which is that, as I'm doing press, this thing is taking shape, too. What happened last night was one of my favorite moments I've ever had in my life.
I meant what I said last night, to be in that theater and with these people and in Austin—which, I love this city so much. It just felt like it all aligned. It was so amazing. Janet [Pierson, director of the SXSW Film Festival] asked me, "Did you have a good time?" I said to her, "Janet, did I have a good time? I think it's one of the best moments of my life." She went, "Oh, well, that's great." I was like, "Yeah, no, no, no. I'm going through a much bigger thing, I'm just so happy."
That's so cool to hear. A Quiet Place was something that was brought to you initially to just be a part of as an actor, was there something with the concept that intrigued you in terms of wanting to explore it as a filmmaker, too?
John Krasinski: Without a doubt. Yeah, and it's funny because I don't think I've said this yet, but, when I read it, the one-liner was so good—where it’s this story about a family that had to stay quiet and we had to figure out why—and I just recognized that's as good of a one-liner as you can get. So then, when I read the original script by [Scott] Beck and [Bryan] Woods, we had just had our second daughter weeks before, so I was wide open, terrified, and full of nerves about trying to keep her safe, trying to keep her alive. So you'd couldn't have had a better audience member than me for that script.
And what I really connected to here was all the family stuff. I immediately saw that this could actually be one of the best metaphors for parenting that I'd ever seen. And I said to my wife, Emily, "I think I want to rewrite it and craft it before I star in it." And she said, "Well, pitch me your ideas." And I started pitching her ideas and she said, "You have to direct it." It was Emily who said, "You should direct it, not just rewrite it and be in it."
And that's really how it all happened, because we were just in this place. Emily was literally holding our child when I pitched her all these ideas and she was like, "You have got to do this." It was all just meant to be.
You mentioned the fact that this film serves as an allegory for parenting. And for as much as it really delivers on the monsters and the scares and stuff like that, there are some really beautiful character moments, too. There’s also the fact that it's a film that mostly does not rely on dialogue at all. Can you talk about finding character beats and balancing the scares, balancing the horror, and not really being able to rely a lot on dialogue to get those ideas out there for viewers?
John Krasinski: I was just saying in an interview earlier that there was this moment on The Office when I remember Greg Daniels said to me, "It's not your job to deliver these lines funny. It's your job to deliver the lines, and if people think they're funny, then that's up to them." And I thought, "It sounds really simple." But at that moment it was a huge awakening for me and that applies to this film as well. My job was just to tell this story about this family. That's what I thought I could do very well, and what I connected to and what I was able to bring in were my own experiences.
I just thought that if you believe in this family and you care about this family, then you will cry with this family, and you will laugh with this family. You will be really scared with this family, too. And so, for me, that was the most fun. I have to say, as far as not speaking, before we started shooting I was absolutely terrified to do a movie without speaking. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get all this power across.
And then it ended up in this Zen way becoming the most amazing benefit that we had in the movie. I remember looking at these kids and acting some of these scenes and seeing these little people with not huge life experiences being able to convey unbelievable emotion in these moments. I was like, "We're going to be fine." I could watch these kids act all day. I felt like I was getting everything that they were saying to me in these moments, and it just became this really beautiful exercise.
Clearly, you and Emily have a rapport because you're married, and you guys have been through the trenches together for a while now, so that chemistry is there already. But can you talk about coming together as a family unit for this with Noah and Millie? Did you give yourselves time to build a rapport or was it just instantaneous once you got together on set?
John Krasinski: It was a little bit of both, honestly. We had a really short schedule to make this film, but it was interesting. The first thing I did when they flew in, instead of rehearsals and things like that, I said to Emily, "I think before we try to become a fake family, I think they need to meet our family, and we need to meet their families, too, right away." So as soon as they landed, we had a barbecue at our house for Millie and her family, Noah and his family, and our family, too. All of a sudden you see these families and how they interact, and that’s where Emily and I got a lot of our information from. We watched how Noah's parents were with him, and how Millie's mom was with her.
And those kids fell in love with my kids, and my kids fell in love with them, too. They were off on their own little unit and so actually, the work was being done by observing how their real family members are with them. Then, by the time we actually started to form our fake family, we had so much information, and that was really amazing.
I will say that on set, when you're in a room, that's where the lack of dialogue really did help. I'm a big fan of letting actors work without a whole lot of notes in the beginning, and just letting them do what they want to do. There's something about that first take that's so instinctual, and I love that. And these kids just nailed it. These kids were just so loving and so sweet. We gave each other hugs goodbye, and there were teary goodbyes sometimes when they went away for a couple of days and came back. It was really amazing, and it was a really powerful experience.
In case you missed it, check here to keep up to date on all of our live coverage of the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, including Heather's review of A Quiet Place following its world premiere at the festival.