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John Krasinski on ‘A Quiet Place’ success and sequel plans

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A Quiet Place 2 Paramount final
“A Quiet Place.”
Paramount

  • “A Quiet Place” director and star John Krasinski talked to
    Business Insider about making a movie he didn’t know if anyone
    would like.
  • He also touched on why he decided to put on a motion-capture
    suit and act as the creature at the end of the movie, and the
    disastrous reaction by the test screening audience when they saw
    him in it.
  • Krasinski said after talking to his wife and costar Emily
    Blunt, he realized that the sequel to the movie is actually not
    a sequel.
  • Krasinski explained why he’s not a fan of the “Popular Film”
    Oscar category idea.

 

It was one of the riskiest releases by a big studio in 2018: a
horror movie with very little dialogue directed by the guy best
known for making funny faces to the camera on “The Office.”

But Paramount, John Krasinski, and his movie “A Quiet Place” are
now the toast of Hollywood. The horror, starring Krasinski and
his wife Emily Blunt, which follows a family trying to survive
from creatures who kill anything that makes a sound, became a
critical darling, a box-office sensation (made for $17 million,
it earned over $340 million worldwide at the
box office), and is now in the hunt for Oscar recognition.

Business Insider chatted with Krasinski the day after “A Quiet
Place” was recognized as one of the 10 best movies of the year by
the National Board of Review (one step closer to Oscar glory). We
delved into what it was like making a movie no one involved knew
if audiences would like, spoke about why after initially
declining to make a sequel he’s now on board, and the reason he
wouldn’t have wanted his movie to be considered for the
controversial “Popular Film” Oscar category.

Jason Guerrasio: Can you recall the moment when
you knew this movie could actually work?

John Krasinski: I remember we were filming a
scene where Emily was doing home schooling with Noah [Jupe, who
plays the son, Marcus] and it was day three and I had written the
movie with sign language. So it was that thing of, “Can we pull
this off?” But every day that went by was helpful to see it play
out, other than theorize that it would be great.

But in that scene two things happened. Emily was obviously
amazing, but one of the things is air started coming out of her
mouth when she was mouthing the words as she was signing. There
was something so beautiful in that. In that moment, I realized
you can even communicate with breath. With no voice. That was
really beautiful to me.

Then on top of that was Noah. To watch this kid dealing with
these circumstances, that are completely imaginary, but heavy for
a kid to deal with — apocalyptic, losing a family member, a
father who has fallen out of love with the whole family — these
are big themes and this kid was able to articulate in that one
scene such powerful emotion that it felt so real. I genuinely
started tearing up behind the monitor watching this kid act
because it was so moving. I remember after that I turned to my
producer and I said, “Holy sh–, dude, this might actually work!”
And he said, “Hey, man, it’s day three! It’s a little too late to
say this might work.” So from that moment on I learned to keep my
excitement to myself that this magic trick might actually work.


a quite place paramount
John Krasinski on the set of “A Quiet
Place.”

Paramount

Guerrasio: But that’s fascinating that it wasn’t
in post production or watching it with an audience, though I’m
sure that confirmed it, but that you could even feel the movie
working on set.

Krasinski: Absolutely. And I think that’s the
thing about a magic trick. You plan and plan and plan, but at the
end of the day you’ve got to pull it off. It is based on what the
audience takes from it. With this in particular, we did need the
audience to know if the magic trick worked. You just keep hoping
it’s going to work. We felt we had made something that was either
an arthouse movie that no one will ever see, but we love it, or
someone might actually like it.

So the day before we world premiered it at SXSW, I was sitting in
the mixing stage with my sound designer and mixer and we were
literally putting on the final moments of the movie at 5:30 the
morning of the day we were flying to Austin to show the movie. It
was insane. And we all finished the movie and everyone was
feeling really proud and I turned to my sound designer who has
done everything from “Saving Private Ryan” to a Terrence Malick
movie, and I said, “Is this going to work? Is this too much for
people?” And I’ll never forget he said, “I don’t know man, but
you got to go with it now. When are you ever going to be able to
take this big of a swing again?” And I thought, “Thank you but
that wasn’t the compliment I was looking for.” So to the last
minute we knew we were pushing the boundaries. Not to sound
corny, but this is the reason I got into this business. No one
gets into this wanting to do cookie-cutter stuff. 

Guerrasio: One of the growing legends of your
movie was that for the one test screening you had there’s footage
of you in a motion-capture suit acting out the final scene as the
creature confronting Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmons’
characters. Explain how it came to you getting in the suit.

Krasinski: We had Scott Farra, who is one of the original five guys
at Industrial Light and Magic, and he was basically going to be
our consultant for 24 hours to explain how our movie would
interface with ILM, because they did all the creature work. And
he ended up staying on for the whole movie, seven more weeks,
which he hadn’t done for years and years. And he said he did that
because this kind of movie is why he got in the business. He said
it was like summer camp all over again. So me doing the creature
was the summer camp vibe. Scott was on set that day and we were
talking about how the creature moves through the room. And Scott
kept saying, “John, he’s low to the ground, so we got to make
sure the camera knows he’s low to the grown for eye line,” and we
were talking it through and I finally said, “Yeah, that’s not how
I see it, I sort of see it like this,” and Scott goes, “Just put
on the suit, man.” And I was like, “What?” He was like, ” Just
put on the suit and do it.” And I was like, “Alright.” So I went
upstairs, put on the suit, still had my Vans on. So during the
test screening we were like 86% percent of the movie through and
we were shocked that they really liked this movie, then all of a
sudden my giant foot with Vans on shows up and we slowly pan up
my very colorful, very tight revealing suit, and end on me with a
beard pretending to roar. I think there is even audio of me being
like [high pitched] “Rooooaaaarrr.” And the entire place
exploded into laughter and I was like, “Our movie is doomed.”

Guerrasio: ”What have I done!”

Krasinski: Right. “What have I done! I’ve just
made the worst greatest comedy.”

Guerrasio: Will we see that footage, ever?

Krasinski: With any luck, no. [laughs]
Because the producers are friends of mine now rather than just
producers who think it would be a fun piece of content. 


a quiet place paramount
John Krasinski at first didn’t like the idea of Emily
Blunt shooting the monster at the end of the
movie.

Paramount

Guerrasio: You have said that Emily shooting the
creature at the end of the movie was not how you planned the
ending to be. Before going with that, what was your ending?

Krasinski: It comes back to letting things be
organic. I love that. Collaboration is king on all my sets, I
learned that a long time ago: best idea ends up on the screen. I
don’t care if it’s mine, I legitimately couldn’t care less. So
one day [producer] Drew [Form] said, “I have to talk to you about
something,” and I think it was two weeks before we shot this
scene, it was down to the wire. I had the ending of Milly
[Simmons, who plays the daughter, Regan] putting the hearing aid
up to the microphone and that would kill the creature. And I
liked that. One of the first ideas I had on the rewrite was that
this girl who is the black sheep ends up being the superhero of
our movie. But what happened organically through the shoot, the
family became the power. But I felt she still needed to be the
hero, that her greatest weakness is her greatest strength. So
Drew said, “I think Emily needs to shoot the creature.” And I
said, “Why?” And he said, “I just think that’s what the audience
wants.” And I said, “With all due respect, that’s a producer
note, I don’t think I’m going to do that. You need to give me
more reason than ‘The audience will love it.'” And I went home
and I thought about it, not thinking I would go for it. The next
morning I drove to set and I listened to a podcast and randomly
it was an old interview with Steven Spielberg from 1979 and this
journalist asked why should we pay attention to these New
Hollywood directors when we have these other great directors like
Truffaut and others? And he said, “Because we can make great art,
but we can also have fun, too.” And I thought, that’s it. If I
can pull this off not just because a producer thinks the audience
will like it but make it an elegant moment, that’s it. So I told
Drew I got it. Yes, the mom kills the creature, but it’s played
out where it’s the mom realizing that her daughter is doing this.
She has the power to beat them. And it then becomes this team
ending. And the key to it all is realizing this heroic moment but
then knowing it’s not the end. The gun cocking. It’s leaving the
audience with: We can take on the world if we have each
other. 

Read more:
Inside the surprise success of “A Quiet Place” — from a worrisome
test screening to a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score

Guerrasio: I think it was the right choice.
Going to take a big turn here, have you seen the trailer to the Netflix movie “Bird
Box”
yet?

Krasinski: No, I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve
heard about it and it’s one of those things where it sounds like
a really cool idea. I’m psyched to see it.
 
Guerrasio: I bring that up because, at least
from the trailer, the movie seems like a distant cousin to “A
Quiet Place,” with the premise being that people need to stay
blind essentially to stay alive. Does that concern you at all
that when the sequel to “A Quiet Place” comes out people may have
become a little tired of this kind of sensory horror.


A Quiet Place Paramount final
Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place.”
Paramount

Krasinski: No. I mean, most sequels are a hero
or villain returning but there’s no story behind it. It’s
basically, let’s give the audience the character they want. And I
think the brilliant thing about “A Quiet Place” is there’s a
world. I wasn’t going to do a sequel. I told them I wasn’t going
to participate in one and to find a new writer and director. They
asked for guidance and I had this tiny little idea and then Drew
was very smart and said, “Think on it some more while we have
these meetings with other people.” Then he threw the Jedi mind
trick of asking me to just write the sequel and he sucked me in.
But me going from not wanting to participate in a sequel to doing
it is the same reason I hope people will want to see on. My hope
is people want to revisit this world and revisit those stakes and
those rules you have to abide by. That’s my hope. 

Guerrasio: Have you gone to filmmaker friends
who have done sequels and asked them some keys to doing it
successfully?

Krasinski: No, and the reason why is because I
didn’t go to anybody on the first one. I had never done a genre
movie so I actually made the conscious decision to not go out to
anyone. The same weakness I had by not being a genre fan — but I
mean I went back and watched everything before directing this — I
thought would be my greatest strength. I wasn’t stealing
techniques, I basically took a notebook and wrote down everything
that scared me. What parts of storytelling scare me? I became my
own test audience. So for a sequel, I think I kind of have to do
the same thing. If I start focusing on something I have never
done before and asking people how they did it then I’ll dilute
the experience. I don’t even see it as a sequel. Emily actually
blew my mind by categorizing it the correct way after I pitched
it to her, she said, “This isn’t a sequel at all, this is the
second book in a series of books. It’s a widening of a world.”
And I thought that’s the best way to look at it. It doesn’t feel
like a sequel, it’s a continuation of living in that world. 

Guerrasio: For the second movie do you feel you
can be as quiet, meaning sound design, as you were with the first
movie? Or was that what was special about “A Quiet Place” and now
you have to explore the next story another way?

Krasinski: It’s got to be whatever is organic to
the film. I remember reading Steven Soderbergh talking about the
editing process and he said, I’m paraphrasing, but that at some
point it becomes an organic being that will spit out any bad
idea. And I think that’s how I feel about this. I can’t wait to
get in there and keep writing and see what this movie wants to
allow itself to be. And that will happen in the script process
and the shooting and the editing. But I think what’s cool about
the second part of this movie is the same set of rules have to
apply. I can’t just introduce a world where you can make a ton of
sound, and if I did there would have to be a reason for it. So
it’s figuring out if there are smart and clever ways to do it.
And I have to give Paramount a lot of credit, I said to them the
reason I didn’t want to do a sequel is I don’t want to do
anything just to do it. I understand you made a lot of money but
I’m not your guy if you’re just going to crank it out. And they
were so respectful. This audience response is so unique to any
studio that we need to respect the people who gave us that
opportunity. So hopefully we will. 


A Quiet Place Getty
(L-R) John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds,
and Emily Blunt at the premiere of “A Quiet Place,” which would
go on to earn over $340 million at the worldwide box
office.

Getty

Guerrasio: It would be a travesty if this movie
didn’t get nominated for Oscars for its use of sound, but what
are your thoughts on the Popular Oscar category? Because I think
this is the type of movie that would have been considered if the
Academy went forward with it. Hypothetically, if you woke up the
morning of nominations and were told you were chosen in that
category, what would you have thought?

Krasinski: I didn’t get a chance to think about
it much when it was first announced because I was shooting “Jack
Ryan,” but this journalist, CNN’s Frank Pallotta, tweeted what I think is the most
poignant point
. The top 10 grossing movies of all time were
either nominated for best picture, won best picture, or in the
case of “Snow White” was given a honorary Oscar. That to me is
film. Everything should be judged on its own merit of the same
medium. The second you start putting them in smaller categories
and subcategories we might be hurting the idea of what we’re
celebrating. That’s the way I feel about it. I think the way that
guy very eloquently put it is the popular category seems to have
forgotten that the popular category has existed this whole time.
By not just box office, that’s one way to say you’re popular, but
the other is to say was it just a movie people loved that year?
And all those movies on that list were nominated because they
were just good. So personally I’m glad there’s not a popular
category because if people don’t think “A Quiet Place” is one of
the best movies of the year, then that’s their subjective choice
and I totally respect that. And if they do think it’s one of the
best movies of the year I’ll feel so proud because they saw it as
just a good movie, not a good movie that had some sort of
subcategory on it. 

“A Quiet Place” is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and
streaming.

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