John Krasin­ski turned A Quiet Place into a hit

The Prince George Citizen - - A&E - Ann HORNADAY

WASH­ING­TON — John Krasin­ski knew he had a po­ten­tial hit on his hands when he at­tended a test screen­ing for A Quiet Place. A hor­ror movie about a fam­ily bat­tling largely un­seen crea­tures who at­tack at the slight­est noise, the film tran­spires with no ver­bal di­a­logue: The char­ac­ters com­mu­ni­cate with Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage, or through mean­ing­ful glances and ges­tures.

This wasn’t Krasin­ski’s first ef­fort as a di­rec­tor; still, he and his wife, Emily Blunt – who play the par­ents in A Quiet Place – weren’t sure au­di­ences would ac­cept a genre pic­ture that harked back to cinema’s silent roots more than its spe­cial ef­fects-driven present.

But at that test screen­ing, to­ward the end of the feed­back ses­sion, an ex­ec­u­tive asked the au­di­ence if there was any­thing the cre­ative or mar­ket­ing teams “needed to know” about the movie.

“And this guy raised his hand, and he was shak­ing,” Krasin­ski re­called ear­lier this week. “And he goes, ‘What you need to know about this movie is that I snuck in a bag of Skit­tles and for 90 min­utes I held it up like this” – Krasin­ski held up two hands with pursed fin­gers – “and never passed rip.”

Mil­lions of peo­ple were sim­i­larly rapt by A Quiet Place, which be­came one of the first bona fide phe­noms of 2018, a $17 mil­lion pas­sion pro­ject that went on to earn more than $340 mil­lion, mak­ing it not just a hit with au­di­ences but an un­ex­pected com­mer­cial bo­nanza. In an era when stu­dios are putting their chips on re­makes and se­quels, madly min­ing their archives for in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty they can ex­ploit, this bold ex­er­cise in pure cinema proves that an orig­i­nal movie, with no “presold” au­di­ence or built-in fran­chis­ing po­ten­tial, can still lure film­go­ers into the­aters.

And now, Krasin­ski, 39, is hop­ing that A Quiet Place can prove an­other con­cept, namely that a genre film can still be awards-wor­thy. He came to Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day to ac­cept the Smith­so­nian mag­a­zine’s 2018 Amer­i­can In­ge­nu­ity Award for vis­ual arts. The stop is part of a strat­egy to over­come an ob­sta­cle faced by movies re­leased early in the year. With the awards race unof­fi­cially begin­ning at film fes­ti­vals in Au­gust and Septem­ber, stu­dios ha­bit­u­ally hold their pres­tige pic­tures for the end of the year, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the free pub­lic­ity of red car­pets and best-of lists, and swamp­ing film­go­ers with a fire hose full of great films af­ter nine months of drought.

The re­minder tour just might be work­ing: On Tues­day, the Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute an­nounced that A Quiet Place was among its 10 finest films of 2018; on Thurs­day, the film was nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe for best mu­si­cal score. It’s al­ready show­ing up on sev­eral movie crit­ics’ best-of lists. Each men­tion helps put A Quiet Place top of mind with Acad­emy Awards vot­ers who will be send­ing in their nom­i­na­tions in Jan­uary.

Ob­vi­ously, an Os­car nom­i­na­tion, much less a win, won’t help A Quiet Place at the box of­fice. But Krasin­ski is in­vested if only to prove that the artis­tic sophistication, tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence and emo­tional in­ti­macy we usu­ally as­so­ciate with “awards movies” can ap­ply to a hor­ror or ac­tion film just as much as a lit­er­ary cham­ber piece or highly pol­ished stu­dio drama.

A few weeks ago, he said, he was mis­quoted as say­ing he “hated” the idea of a new Os­car for best pop­u­lar film. “I don’t hate it,” he in­sisted. “It just seems like a slip­pery slope for me. Then what’s it go­ing to be, the best movie with a woman cast?”

As far as A Quiet Place is con­cerned, he added, awards con­sid­er­a­tion would mean that his film could be con­sid­ered great re­gard­less of genre, “that movies can ac­tu­ally su­per­sede all ver­sions of com­part­men­tal­iz­ing. It was the same with Get Out, and also Brides­maids’... You can’t tell peo­ple, ‘Well, this is a good movie ex­cept with an as­ter­isk that it’s also this.’”

The gate­keep­ing, he ob­served, is fun­da­men­tally about what counts as canon. “Why did we change what a good movie is?” he asks. “A good movie is a good movie. An achieve­ment’s an achieve­ment... To me, sto­ry­telling can come from any­where. It doesn’t have to be a re­ally small movie about some­one com­mit­ting sui­cide. It can be a re­ally big, huge movie. I was ex­tremely moved by Black Pan­ther. There was some­thing there that was much big­ger than any­thing one movie was sup­posed to be able to do.”

Os­car or not, Krasin­ski said that A Quiet Place changed his life, not only be­cause he got to work with Blunt, but be­cause it ful­filled a sense of deeply per­sonal mis­sion that he didn’t know he had when he went into the pro­ject. Orig­i­nally ap­proached to act in the film, he agreed only if he could re­write it; when he shared his ideas with Blunt – who was hold­ing their three-week-old daugh­ter at the time – she told him he had to di­rect. The re­sult­ing film wound up ex­press­ing all the anx­i­eties he had been try­ing to process as a hus­band and a fa­ther grap­pling with is­sues of fear, vul­ner­a­bil­ity, pow­er­less­ness and the fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect the ones you love.

He said that when he pre­pared to di­rect the movie, “if I’d said, ‘I’m gonna make the best scary movie you’ve ever seen,’ I not only wouldn’t have been able to do it, but I would have made a hor­ri­ble movie.” In­stead, he thought, “If your take on this is fam­ily, then com­mit to that and that wholly... Don’t write scary. Write what you know. Write what peo­ple be­lieve.”

Krasin­ski in­sists it’s that emo­tional core – rather than the jump scares or the ex­plo­sive cli­mac­tic show­down – that ex­plains why au­di­ences re­sponded to A Quiet Place so strongly. And it’s why Blunt, who was just nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe for her per­for­mance in Mary Pop­pins Re­turns, has in­sisted that time and space be made avail­able for her to talk about A Quiet Place while she’s on the hus­tings for the Dis­ney mu­si­cal. “To this day, it’s her favourite movie she’s ever done,” Krasin­ski said.

As for the awards them­selves, he’s philo­soph­i­cal. “No one’s go­ing to tell you that if you don’t win an Os­car you’ve lost some­thing,” he said. “But you can cer­tainly gain some­thing in the con­ver­sa­tion of what movies are.”

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