When one thinks of great horror directors, the name “John Krasinski” may not come to mind. Unless you’ve seen his newest film A QUIET PLACE.
Sitting in the press conference last Friday in lower Manhattan along with the rest of the cast (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) and his fellow screen writers (Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), Krasinski talks about his directorial debut in horror, and how it wasn’t something he was expecting.
“This is exactly what I didn’t want to do. I am not good with horror movies. I am a scaredy cat!” He went on to say, “really, my favorite movies, horror or otherwise, are those that have a strong, underlying metaphor. For instance, Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. But to me, Jaws wasn’t really about a shark. It was about three men who had something to overcome, and the shark was the catalyst. That’s how I saw this story. Its a scary movie, but its scary because its about a real family. And I felt I had a personal experience to bring to that.”
“Emily had just had our second daughter three weeks before reading the script so I was legitimately in that world of terror and thinking about every minute of every single day about protecting my daughter. So that immediately connected me to the project.”
“I thought I might as well capitalize on the fact that this experience is pouring out of me.”
LOVE, INTIMACY AND FEAR
Set in a post apocalyptic setting where horrifying monsters have invaded our world, almost any audible noise could mean an immediate, violent death. Yet the atmosphere of the film isn’t what you’d expect. Despite this bleak premise for a universe, the lens through which we view this world is deeply personal, small, and intimate.
Emily Blunt: “That is the word I ended up gravitating towards for this film, because it was so intimate. So close to home. I normally enjoy playing characters who are very dissimilar to me. But this was a character I understood so profoundly, so immediately. What she experiences are my deepest fears as a mother.”
A QUIET PLACE closely ties love to fear in a uniquely compelling way. The directorial style plays them off as two sides of a coin. Its a primal element to parenthood – to love something so much that there is no greater fear in the world than losing it. A scene will endear you to the family and lower your guard, only to frighten you even more with what follows.
John Krasinski: “Drilling down these moments back to the parenting thing. Trying to make sure every single storyline, every single moment came back to the family.”
Doing so allowed a dimension of fear outside of many audience members personal experience, to see a perspective they may not otherwise have known.
Scott Beck: “At the end of the day, A Quiet Place could have become just a monster movie, but one thing thats really beautiful to see on screen is this is a film about family and family communication and being able to see a family living in silence, trying to convey how they are feeling inside. Thats a moving idea to us and we hope that really connects with audiences.”
THE POWER COUPLE
The perils and strengths of being a couple in the film industry is not lost on Blunt, or Krasinski, and a lot of consideration went into deciding to venture into this project together.
EB: “I think we have always been protective of each others projects. A second hand support system. But [A Quiet Place] was a bit daunting to take on because we never worked together before. It was actually kind of amazing and I’d do it again for sure.”
JK: “When I was coming up with ideas with these guys [Beck and Woods] I always had Emily in mind for the movie, but I somehow wanted her to arrive at that herself, and I mean that. I’ve never known anyone in this industry to have a better taste level with projects than her. I didn’t want anything she did to be for me, I wanted it to be for her.
When she read this script and she said ‘you cant let anyone else play this role!’ I truly felt like she was proposing to me. ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying!?’ It was really nice that we let each other arrive at this alone and separately cus it made the whole experience together so much more powerful.”
THE REAL STARS
The key to this film is its emotional resonance. With hardly any speaking, other elements had to be employed to tell the story. According to Krasinski the source for much of that direction was found in his younger stars.
JK: “Actually not speaking was my biggest fear, how would we keep the pacing and tension like a normal movie. It was day one or two where I started seeing these kids emoting with such power and emotion that you could feel in the room something special was happening. I would say the tension and feeling on set was all them.”
Noah Jupe: “When you speak in movies it kind of hides your emotions in a way. And the way you didn’t speak at all, its all in your eyes and everything you were thinking was shown because you weren’t talking. It actually felt much easier to get your emotions out and act off the other people. So it was actually much easier than I thought.”
JK: “I told you, they are not normal kids.”
JK: “My relationship with Millie in the movie, I knew I wanted a tension with the father and this misunderstanding, I wanted this guilt, I wanted these big ideas. But I never knew I could get so specific and beautifully articulated until I met Millie.”
Playing the Abbots deaf daughter is deaf actress Millicent Simmonds.
Scott Beck: “Actually casting Millie was an incredible asset, as it landed credibility to that character- that was one of those touches that really brought new life into the script.”
THE FIRST ENEMY: SOUND
In this film, sound can’t be trusted, even seen as an enemy and is often absent. As a viewer this means the visual element slowly drips into your awareness with increasing importance- almost like a rising emotional tension through a scene. You are left craving sound like a thirst, yet also anxiously wary of its arrival.
SB: “Sound is all about what you don’t see. A film like this where sound is rare allows the audience to use their imagination in ways that make the story even scarier.”
JK: “Re-thinking sound was huge for us the whole way. We all had to learn to be quiet in ways we’ve never been before on a set. And from that quiet, the importance of the sound design started to become more and more apparent. When you’re so quiet, and then you suddenly hear water or trees blowing in the wind, its astonishing.”
Any good monster movie needs monster makers, and that was found in the talented team of skilled visuals artists including production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, visual effects supervisor, Scott Farrar, special effects supervisor Mark Hawker, animation supervisor Rick O’ Connor, and the digital team at Industrial Light and Magic.
JK: “Its really weird when someone says ‘Yeah we were doing that crazy kitchen scene in Jurassic Park’ and you are like, ‘o my god you did the raptor scene! o my god’, So the fact that those guys were on my movie is just … its still to this day so mind blowing, and truly some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my career.”
Scott Beecroft: “You have a creature that hears with its whole body, so I took my inspiration for their form from a Nautilus shell. When loud sound vibrates inside their shape it’s intensely painful and they will destroy anything that makes noise. But they also have an incredible strength to their structure, which makes them seemingly impossible to destroy.”
Bryan Woods and Scott Beck were the original concept creators for this project, who started the project on the premise of “Its a family who cant talk, and you have to figure out why”. When asked where their inspiration came from, the answer was surprising:
Bryan Woods: “Charley Chaplan, honestly. As much its a movie about aliens where you have to stay completely quiet… no back in college, Bryan and I were both watching a lot of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. What if you took the concept of visual story telling with no dialogue and you were able to appropriate that to a modern day genre film? That was really the inception of the idea that invirgoated the original concept of A Quiet Place.”
“If we could absolutely weaponize sound, we thought, that might be scary.”
A QUIET PLACE arrives in theaters on April 6, 2018 from Paramount Pictures