JOHN’S KEEPING EXTRA QUIET
John Krasinski has teamed with his wife Emily Blunt in a new modern horror pitting a family against ruthless creatures that hunt by sound
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in complete silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival.
If they hear you, they hunt you.
John Krasinski has jumped into the role of actor, writer and director for the film after being presented with a script that he says completely captivated him.
“I was already dealing with all the fears of being a new father – fears of how to keep my daughters safe and how to be a good dad – when this came to me and so I related to it on a deeply personal level,” he says.
“I felt that within the basic story was such an interesting, and terrifying, metaphor for what it takes to be a parent.
“I was an open nerve emotionally then, so it was a very powerful time to start imagining how two parents might try to protect their children by doing the impossible, by living without making a sound.
“It just made my imagination explode. There was so much about the idea that I wanted to explore.”
Early on, Krasinski gave his wife Emily Blunt – the British actress who has become much sought after following indelible and varied roles in Into The Woods, Sicario and The Girl on the Train – his draft of the script for A Quiet Place.
As soon as she read it, she suggested they play the roles of Lee and Evelyn Abbott together, adding a layer of stark realism and candid tenderness that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
“What I fell in love with in the screenplay is that I felt it touched on some of my deepest fears as a mother of not being able to protect your children,” she says.
“The stakes are so sky-high in this story I was racing to read to the end.
“Ironically, before I read the script, I had suggested to John that a friend of mine might be right for the role of Evelyn, but as I read, I thought, ‘never mind that, I need to play this role’.
“I just loved the depth and beauty of the story, which goes beyond the horror movie atmosphere. And John and I had never worked together so that was exciting.”
All the ordinary creaks and hums of daily life, the ones we take for granted, suddenly took on new meaning for Krasinski and with his real wife playing his on-screen wife as well, it was easy to become totally immersed.
“I started listening to everything,” he says.
“From silverware clinking on plates to the dropping of your shoe when you take it off.
“It became kind of a game in our house where my wife and I would try to be silent and turn to each other real quietly if we ever made a noise, and say ‘you’re dead’.
“It turned out to be a great means of preparation.”
Krasinski even had a way of testing which ideas would most rattle audiences to their core.
“Often it was Emily and me sitting around imagining situations and if Emily said, ‘I’m so terrified, I don’t even want to think about that situation,’ I would say, ‘that’s going in the script’,” he recalls.
“A lot of the fun of the writing was seeing how far we could take the idea of staying quiet, from having the Abbotts communicating with different coloured lights to laying out sand so that they can walk more quietly.”
Horror movie fans have long known that hearing can scare you more deeply than seeing. A Quiet Place draws on the long, innovative history of chilling films that cleverly use sound editing and music to architect atmosphere, to heighten confusion and sustain nearly unbearable suspense. But the idea was also to take the use of sound somewhere new, making sound a character in and of itself.
“Re-thinking sound was huge for us the whole way,” Krasinski says.
“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, it’s astonishing.
“You realise that in this day and age with the phones and everything, we don’t often get a chance to just listen to the world.
“So, we were all very excited about the idea that in this film, the audience is really going to pay attention to every sound in ways they maybe haven’t before.”
The primary means of communication for the family is American Sign Language (ASL), a skill they had already learned due to Regan, one of the daughters, being deaf.
Krasinski says one of the biggest challenges was finding the film’s Regan, the Abbotts’ daughter who is deaf.
Krasinski was thrilled to discover teen actress Millicent Simmonds.
He watched as Simmonds tapped directly into her individual experiences growing up as a deaf person to create Regan in a way that transcended what was even in the script.
“Finding Millie was one of the best things that ever happened to this movie,” Krasinski says.
“Not just because she’s a phenomenal actress, and not just because she’s the wisest, most angelic person you can meet, but because she was so generous with her experiences and knowledge of deaf culture and sign language.
“She was never intimidated, and she would say very directly ‘this is how Regan would do things and this is how we communicate’.”
The entire cast ultimately learned sign language, including 12-year-old Noah Jupe who plays the second child in the film.
As a film with only four actors, two adults and two children, it was essential everyone played their role perfectly, and Krasinski says it was really the kids who pulled it all together.
“These two kids knocked us out every day with their performances without even using words,” he says.
“They were emoting with the pure and true behaviour of children, which was more emotional than anything you could ever write.
“They showed me the power you can create in a room without speaking, and that helped me to think even more about how we could use sound to heighten the experience of the film.” A Quiet Place is in cinemas today
John Krasinski, Noah Jupe and Emily Blunt in a scene from new chiller A Quiet Place, which Krasinski also directed.