John Krasinski, writer, director, star and executive producer of the horror thriller "A Quiet Place" answered questions from student journalists, including one Indiana Daily Student reporter, via Skype.
“A Quiet Place” follows a family as they navigate a world in which deadly creatures hunt humans by sound and all survivors must remain silent. The film, starring Krasinski, Millie Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Emily Blunt, who is married to Krasinski in real life, released in theaters April 6.
In the film, a lot of the characters’ communication is through American Sign Language, which the cast learned from Millie Simmonds. Could you talk about what it was like to learn ASL from her?
It was phenomenal for so many reasons. Probably the biggest regret I have on the movie is that I didn't learn more sign language, because honestly, I think there's no more beautiful language. It was non-negotiable for me to cast a deaf actress for this role, which is a deaf character. But I didn't know I would get so lucky having such an incredible guide in Millie.
One of the other things I loved about what Millie said was that each character has their own version of sign language, and she said, "I think it's really interesting that each of the characters is coming out in your sign." I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, the father is a guy who doesn't care about anything in the world but keeping people safe.”
So all of his signs are very curt and short, and Emily is trying to give these kids a much bigger life. So hers are much more poetic and gesture-y, and it was actually a really amazing experience.
Where did you draw creative inspiration for your ideas, and how did those ideas grow throughout writing and ultimately directing the film?
It's funny, I don't think that anyone would consider me the horror guy. I don't watch horror movies. And yet, we just had our second daughter about three weeks before I read the script. And so I was already in the state of terror of keeping this girl safe, keeping this girl alive and whether or not I was a good enough father to be her father.
In comes this script about a family that relies on each other, about parents that would do absolutely anything for their kids. It doesn't take a lot for me to cry, but I was wide open for this one and it connected to me in a big way. What I wanted to do is further that. So when I asked to do the rewrite, I really wanted to drill down on all that family stuff and make every single part of the movie come back to being a family.
I said, "If I can make you fall in love with this family, then you'll be scared because you don't want anything to happen to them."
Obviously the film necessitated a ton of research on what it’s like living in a world without sound, and I was wondering if there’s something you learned that changed how you live or see the world.
The truth is, the most fun was actually just shooting scenes in dead silence. There's a scene where we walk through the forest, and when an entire group of people goes dead silent, you realize what a forest really sounds like. And so we sat and we listened, and it was actually really powerful to have all these ambient sounds around you.
So much so that I actually started taking my daughter out to, you know, any lawn or whatever, and laying back and just looking at the sky, truly, and I just said, "It's really nice to just clear your head and get away from, you know, toys and all these different things and just, you know, look up at the sky and listen." And so now she actually asks me to do that.
There’s this sort of recent trend in cinema of cutting back on dialogue and trying to let images speak, so do you think that’s something you strived for with “A Quiet Place?”
You're catching me in a moment where I've never been more overwhelmed by a response to a movie or a project that I've had, because it means so much to me. What people are getting from it is the emotional core as much as it is the scares, and I think a lot of that has to do with the images.
I think that where you can get in trouble is overwriting, and I've definitely been there myself. You can overwrite dialogue, you can overwrite backstory to make sure everybody understands everything, and in doing so you rob the two characters of having an intimate moment.
I got the rare opportunity to have a slow dance with my wife in this movie that you'll see when you see it, and so much is being said in that one dance. And I never would have imagined having the opportunity to do that. So I do think images are universal.
Were there any other movies or directors that inspired you?
In the last few years, the fact is that genre movies are some of the best movies, going from “Get Out,” to “The Witch,” to “The Babadook,” to “Let the Right One In.” I mean, all these movies are now my favorite movies from a storytelling perspective, from a film perspective. I learned so much from them. And what I was taking from them, to be honest, is my reaction. And so I could put that into my own experience.
A lot of people say, you know, "I don't go see horror movies because I'm too scared." Well as a representative of that group, I will tell you that you can see this movie because there's a much bigger emotional core, and it is scary, but it's, you know, I think that my mom will go see it. Put it that way: if my mom can go see it, you can go see it.
How did you think about using setting to develop the film’s mood?
The arrival of these creatures happened so fast that people are just trying to survive in the moment. So it feels a little more momentary than technically post-apocalyptic. And part of the thing that really helped me there was this farm. I always knew that this farm would be a huge character in the movie.
But I also really wanted to make a conscious effort to make sure that this felt like anywhere, USA, so that you could feel like it was someplace that you knew near you, and everybody on here would feel like, "Oh, I know a place like that," because it's really important that you bonded to these people by seeing parts of your own life in them. But also there's something about a farm that makes these people feel very small.
I wanted to portray the idea that humans will be here in a blip, but the sort of earth around you and nature around you will go on. And so it was this idea of people surviving while the whole world is reacting around them.