The Silent Treatment
Empire Australasia|April 2018

Once jim in the office. Now dir ector of this year’s most high- concept chiller. John krasinski writes exclusively for empire about his journey to a quiet place, and how the near-noiseless film became a family affair

People ask me if I always wanted to be a director. And the truth is, no. When I first started out, I felt so lucky to be able to make a living as an actor it didn’t even cross my mind... and I didn’t want to jinx it. I was never one of those actors that said, “Well, when this acting thing is over… I’ll just direct.” I had way too much respect for the directors I had worked with to view the transition as some kind of foregone conclusion.

My first directing gig actually came about by total happenstance. Before I got The Office I had adapted this book by David Foster Wallace that had meant a great deal to me called Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. I remember The Office had just come on the air and I was having lunch with Rainn Wilson [who plays Dwight Schrute]. At the time I was looking for a director and so I asked his opinion. His response? “Why don’t you just direct it yourself ?” My mouth opened, but no response came. Then he said, “Listen, you now know this material better and care about it more than anyone. So just direct it.”

Not only did that line inspire me to take on my first movie as a director, but those words have become the exact criteria for what it is I choose to direct. I am well aware of the large and vast pool of extremely talented directors out there. And the truth is, most scripts I read, I’d love to see directed by one of those names. In order for me to choose to direct something, I have to feel that I am the best person for the job, that I have a unique connection to a piece of material, and can see it more clearly than I think anyone else could. That’s certainly what happened on A Quiet Place… Though, yet again, it wasn’t initially my idea.

Quiet Place first came to me as a spec script that the producers Drew Form and Brad Fuller had with Paramount. We were prepping for the TV series Jack Ryan and Drew said to me, “Hey, quick question. Would you ever do a genre movie?” “You mean like a horror movie?” I asked. “I can’t watch horror movies, I’m way too scared. But yeah, maybe I could act in one if it was a cool idea.” So then he pitched me the one-liner — a family who can’t make a sound… or terrible things happen. I was immediately hooked.

At the time, we had just had our second daughter, Violet. So Emily [Blunt] and I were actually living through the terrifying first days of new parenthood. I was already an open nerve of emotions and fears — so as I read through the spec script I couldn’t help but obsess over the idea that this story could be so much more than just a scary movie. It could actually be one of the best metaphors for parenthood ever: “What would you really do for your kids?” I immediately started writing down pages and pages of ideas. Those ideas quickly turned into scenes and I suddenly found myself rushing down the stairs to enlist my secret weapon: my wife. I’ll never forget Emily sitting on the couch, watching me bounce all over the living room as I pitched her one new scene after the next. I may or may not have been out of breath as I finally finished (definitely out of breath) and looked up to her. And then? Silence. I remember Emily just looking back at me with the most curious look on her face. (“Oh God, she hated it.”) Then suddenly — after a brilliantly delivered stage pause, btw — she finally said, “You need to direct this.” By the time I called the producers back only 48 hours later, I was indeed agreeing to be in the movie… if they would let me rewrite it… and direct.

After that phone call, we were off to the races. I finished the script in three months just before Christmas and by mid-January I was in idyllic upstate New York, scouting for the perfect location. And boy, did we find it in this beautiful 19th-century farm in the town of Pawling, NY. It was almost weird how perfect this place was. I remember crew members literally not believing me when I told them I hadn’t been there before I wrote the script. There was a beautiful farmhouse that faced a large weatherworn barn about 50 or 60 yards away, exactly as I’d written it. Those buildings were surrounded by hundreds of acres of crop fields, exactly as I’d written it. There was even a waterfall right nearby exactly as I’d... you get the point! It was magic. And the coolest part was, not only was the location perfect, but there was a horse-riding school nearby that wasn’t currently in use, that we got to use as our soundstages. So for 90 percent of the shoot, every member of the cast and crew got to call that magical farm home.

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