John Krasinki doesn’t normally watch horror movies. So when the time came to direct “A Quiet Place,” a monster thriller set in a world where nobody is allowed to make any noise, he had to cram.
“I watched all these incredible modern horror movies like ‘Get Out,’ ‘The Witch,’ ‘The Babadook’ and ‘Let the Right One In,’” Krasinki says. “All these movies were so influential with how people do tension and terror.” He borrowed some other inspiration from throwbacks like “Jaws,” “Alien,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and Hitchcock. He wanted his movie to have “that feeling of thrillers 30 years ago.”
“A Quiet Place,” which received strong reviews after debuting at South by Southwest last month, is tracking to open at more than $40 million this weekend. It should elevate “The Office” star’s career as a director. Krasinski stars in the film as a father of a family trying to survive. Emily Blunt, who is married to Krasinki in real life, plays his wife.
Is it true that you don’t like scary movies?
I don’t think you look at my name and you say that guy is going to do a horror movie. I certainly wouldn’t feel that way. The truth is, I never saw it as a horror movie. When I got the script, it was scary. The thing I bonded to most in the original draft was this idea of family. We had just had our second daughter three weeks before I read the script. I was an open nerve. So when I did my rewrite, I thought I could really make this a metaphor for parenthood — the idea of protecting your kids. And how far would you go to protect them. After that, all the scary stuff came because you care so much about this family.
How did you make this movie so inexpensively [with a reported budget of $17 million]?
Honestly, that was mostly due to the insane amount of talent we had on our crew. We had an A-level group from top to bottom. And probably, most importantly, ILM [Industrial Light & Magic], which designed the creature with me. They’ve said this is one of their favorite movies that they’ve done. I think it’s because when we started, we brought them in. We created something so special that I think they went a little bit above and beyond their budget and timing to deliver.
Did you know Emily was going to be in it from the start?
I was worried she was going to say no. She was really busy. Also, she’s very specific about her choices. And I admire that so much. She’s so incredibly talented, but she has such incredible taste. I didn’t want her to do it for me; I was worried that would be the answer. I wanted her to do it for herself. It couldn’t have been more organic how it came about. She actually recommended some other actresses for the part that she thought would be great. And then, all of a sudden, she read the script and came to the end of it and she said, “You have to let me do this role.” I know it sounds corny, but it was the best compliment of my career. Knowing what it takes for her to say yes to a project, the fact that she loved the script enough to do it was just awesome.
Were you nervous about working with your wife?
I was nervous to direct her or work with her before we started shooting. We both talked about it a lot. Luckily, we were both nervous. It’s because we both have our own individual process. It was more about, “What if he gives me an idea that’s terrible. Or, what if she gives a performance that isn’t how I saw it?” And so what we did, we spent all the weeks leading up to it going over the script. I walked her through the entire movie of what I was going to shoot before we shot it. All the ideas that she had were really smart. She was so confident, so caring, so supportive that by the time we got to the shoot, there was nobody better to have on set than her. She stood next to me and watched me direct the scenes she was in or the scenes she wasn’t in. It’s the best collaboration I’ll ever have.
You’ve told a story about how before you made the movie, you ran into director Rob Marshall.
A week before shooting, I was looking for an edit bay. Randomly, as it happened, that’s where they were editing “Mary Poppins,” which Emily is in. And Rob Marshall, the director, he said, “When are you about to shoot?” I said, “Next week.” He said, “That’s so great, you’ll see.” I said, “I know I love her so much. I’m her biggest fan.” He said, “No, not until you’re in the room when she does what she does will you know why she’s such a good actress.” He was right. The first scene that I felt it was this scene in the poster, this bathtub scene. It’s super intense. There’s only one take that exists, that’s the truth because she’s so good. And when she lets it rip, it was the perfect combination of fear, pain, anxiety and all these things that we’re feeling as an audience. As soon as we called cut, she was like, “What is there for lunch today?” She was able to pull herself out of it. To be honest, it was a side of her I hadn’t seen. I knew she was good. But it’s true what Rob said. I didn’t know why she was so good.
Emily once told me you saw “The Devil Wears Prada” on opening weekend before you had met her.
I think I did. Oh man. I’ve probably seen that movie like 70 times.
Probably. Because it’s on cable every day like six times a day. I’ll tell you it’s the kryptonite for channel surfing, because you stop every time it’s on.
Do you watch it together?
I’ve watched it with her once or twice, but it’s not like the most comfortable thing to make her watch herself in a movie. But it’s just that good.
When I saw “A Quiet Place” at SXSW, I jumped out of my seat a few times. Since you’re the director, did that happen to you?
At South by Southwest, it did. I was cutting the movie still and sound editing it 12 to 24 hours before, so it was as fresh as it could be. The greatest gift the audience gave me was their extreme energy, them gasping and screaming really allowed me to see my movie for the first time. I was thrilled.