For John Krasinski, no matter how A Quiet Place does at the box office this weekend (and tracking shows it’s going to do pretty well), this is already a life-changing film for the actor-director. Krasinski has had a lot of success in his career – obviously The Office (which has had a resurgence recently), and also being one of the driving forces behind movies like Manchester by the Sea — but directing a film like this, with this kind of critical response, brings cachet.
Not that you can tell when you’re around Krasinski, who still jokes about not being much of a horror fan, even though he’s just directed one of the best horror movies since Get Out upended the genre over a year ago. And he tries to say he’s not much of a pop culture connoisseur, even though he can rattle off Spies Like Us references without missing a beat. (Oh yeah, this interview goes in some strange directions at times. At one point the obviously false urban legend from the ’80s of Alfonso Ribeiro dying while breakdancing is discussed.)
A Quiet Place is John Krasinski’s third film as a director, and by far his most critically acclaimed. It may come as a surprise to many that he had this kind of horror film inside of him, but, according to Krasinski, it comes from a place of family. And considering he stars in this film alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, that all makes a lot of sense. John Krasinski knows family, and in A Quiet Place, Krasinski and Blunt play parents who will do anything to protect their children from creatures who attack sound.
Ahead, Krasinski explains where this movie did come from. Additionally, he discusses Knight Rider, Spies Like Us, and what states hate John Krasinski – you know, normal topics. Also, Krasinski talks about the resurgence of The Office over the last year, which includes stories he’s heard about teenager Office sleepover parties in his parents’ neighborhood.
John Krasinski: You have an EQ on your recorder. That’s cool. There are levels and bars. It’s like KITT…
Yeah, in the later seasons. Remember the first season? He just had the red square when he spoke.
Who on Knight Rider decided that the red square wasn’t going to cut it?
Yeah, his voice is way cooler with the bars. By the way, the internet can tell us that. They’ll be like, “His name is Dave.”
I am an admirer of your work, but I still don’t know where this movie came from.
I don’t either.
I wasn’t expecting this movie out of you.
I don’t think I was expecting this movie out of me. It’s one of those things where I was looking for something to direct again, but I wanted it to hit me emotionally in a way that I felt like I knew exactly what to do.
It’s very different than The Hollars.
It is very different. And yet, there is a family theme there.
That seems difficult, changing genres like that.
That’s always my favorite thing when directors do it. I’m not saying this is what I did, but I love when people pivot. I’m trying to think what was the one before it, but was it Punch-Drunk Love to There Will Be Blood?
And I remember writing to Paul and just saying, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transformation like that on film. It’s unbelievable, you know? And this is not that, but I remember thinking that jump was extremely terrifying for me. I remember a friend of mine said, “Man, I never pegged you as a horror guy.” And I said, “Yeah, because I can’t even watch horror movies. They scare me too much.”
I’m the same way. I do not like being scared.
My favorite part of a horror movie is the first 20 minutes when everything is fine and it’s just people hanging out. A Quiet Place doesn’t do that. It starts and it’s in the thick of things.
No, you do not get that 20 minutes.
I hate exposition, so I loved that this movie doesn’t really try to explain anything through dialogue.
Thank you so much for saying that, because the truth of the matter is that was a big decision…
You’ve got to trust the audience.
I suspect a lot of studios wouldn’t go for this.
No. And there was a lot of moments with this studio, too. And, by the way, I give them an insane amount of credit for even wanting to make this film. I remember when I did Promised Land with Matt [Damon], we went into Focus Features’ marketing department. His name was Jack and he was amazing. And he was like, “I can tell you all the places that hate you and all the places that love you. You want to know?” And I went, “No, my ego cannot take that.”
What does that mean, all the places?
He knows all the states where I test very well and don’t test well. And I was like I don’t ever want to know that that even exists.
You should have asked for one state that really liked you.
I would’ve gone with the negatives, what’s the one place that doesn’t like me.
What do you think it is? What’s a state that doesn’t like you?
God, I hope I’m decent in Massachusetts. I mean, let’s be honest. But I said, “What’s the biggest misconception you can give to the film industry?” And he said the biggest misconception is that audiences are stupid. And he said they want to be challenged and they want to do the work – they like being led through things that they don’t understand.
I’ve interviewed you a few times. The first was back for Away We Go…
That was eight or nine years ago, right?
Yeah, I think it was 2009? And I’ve obviously seen you do a lot of interviews. You are very good at them. If I’m a publicist, you are a dream client. I’ve seen you promote things that I’m like, “There’s no way he believes that, but man he’s selling it.”
What a compliment.
The reason I bring this up is because this one has to feel different for you.
One thousand percent.
And not only that you directed it, but you’ve already seen the reactions.
Well, that’s the thing is I’ve never gone all in on a movie like this. And I don’t just mean from the jobs that I did and the amount of effort and work. I mean, to me, this is showing way more of myself than I ever expected to show in a movie. And to be honest, and it sounds ridiculous probably to your readers who don’t see it yet, but this is probably the love letter to my daughters that I’m going to do.
It does make sense after a person sees the movie.
And I hope that when they see it, they realize what I was doing and that this was for them in a weird way. And it’s crazy to say, but it’s true. And it was really emotional. It’s really hard to think about what would you really do for your kids. I remember I said to the studio, “Don’t ever put it on a poster but when I was writing it the line in my head was, ‘What would you really do for your kids?‘“
What’s wrong with that? Why not put that on a poster?
I mean, I’m sure you heard the same – I don’t know if it’s an urban myth or if it’s real – the story about the mom who lifted a car when her baby was under it, you know what I mean?
Yes. I doubt that ever happened.
I doubt it happened, too.
You grew up in Massachusetts, right?
I grew up in Missouri. How did we both hear that story before the internet?
I know, it’s crazy. That’s true.
Did you remember the rumor where Alfonso Ribeiro died breakdancing?
That’s right! I heard that, too!
How did you hear that in Massachusetts and I heard that in Missouri and there’s no internet? How did that happen?
I mean, that is word-of-mouth to a peak extreme.
I should mention to anyone reading this, Alfonso Ribeiro is alive and well as far as I know. He’s doing fine.
But didn’t that movie Urban Legend, didn’t that happen before the internet or right around the early days of the internet?
I think that came out around 1998? So the internet existed, but there wasn’t social media.
Yeah, but I remember seeing that sort of idea and the trailer for that movie – and, again, I didn’t watch horror movies so I didn’t see it – but it was like, “oh, yeah, those are all the urban myths that we’ve heard around campfires forever.” But that’s the power of storytelling.
The Alfonso Ribeiro one was very contemporary and very specific about an up-and-coming actor. I don’t see how that one spreads quite as quickly.
I mean, I guess when you say that somebody died breakdancing, everybody needs to know that.
I think I was watching Silver Spoons and my mom was like, “Did you hear what happened to him?”
You’d think they would’ve dedicated the episode to him or something.
Well, it also made you think, what a breakdancing move he must have done!
Right. He’s a good dancer. But, back to your point, I see what you’re saying…
The point that I was making is this super-heroic moment that you can have as a parent. And I think that it really represents your true feelings about parenthood. It is an allegory for parenthood.
In A Quiet Place you are directing your wife (Emily Blunt). I would be very nervous.
A dicey proposition?
I could not imagine giving my girlfriend a direction.
We were both really nervous about it for exactly that reason. It can go one of two ways, and one of the ways is horrible. And so what I said was, let’s approach it the way we approach our marriage, which is let’s overly communicate about this stuff so that any problems we have remain small rather than huge.
I spoke to Emily and she said if The Devil Wears Prada comes on cable you make her watch it. Is this accurate?
I don’t make her watch it.
She’s like, “John will see it on TV and we watch it.” I’m like, that movie’s great. You’re in for a treat!
[Laughs] It’s really true, though.
It’s one of the most re-watchable movies of all time.
It is the antithesis of channel-surfing. You can surf for as long as you want. It will kill the channel-surf immediately.
See, but we’re of an age where we still do that. And that’s the only reason I keep cable, because I actually like channel-surfing, because it makes me watch things I wouldn’t look at on Netflix.
Absolutely. And you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about this,” or something.
Spies Like Us was on the other day. I wouldn’t think to choose to watch Spies Like Us.
But you were like, “Oh, yeah!” Oh my god, was it the scene where Chevy Chase pulls the answers out of his tongue?
Yeah, when they’re taking the test. And he has the eyepatch.
And the cast, he’s written answers in his cast.
[Krasinski’s publicist enters the room and asks if I can sing Paul McCartney “Spies Like Us.”]
“Ooh, ooh, what do you do. No one else can dance like you.” Right?
Oh my god.
It’s Paul McCartney’s last top 10 single.
It’s weird to say, but The Office has become super popular again. People who were too young to watch it when it was on are now watching it on Netflix.
It’s so funny. You could argue that it’s more popular now than it was before.
People who are like 21 now apparently just love it.
Weirdly, it’s less than that. Because my mom, when I went home recently, she said there’s a girl up the street – who I think is 14 or 15 – and she had an Office sleepover party. And I said, wow, that’s crazy that a 14 or 15-year-old is watching The Office. She said not only that, this is just her turn. It’s every weekend they do a different sleepover Office party. It’s just about who hosts it. And I was like, what alternate reality am I in that kids that young are watching this, getting it, loving it, understanding it, and have seen it multiple times? Like, the Netflixes of the world, the streaming of it all has opened up the floodgates. But the thing I feel so honored by is that people get to choose The Office now, you know what I mean?
Right. It’s not just on. It’s not Spies Like Us.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.