'A Quiet Place Part II': how John Krasinski morphed from sitcom star into horror film director

The actor-director reveals why he finds working behind the camera, as well as in front of it, 'much more fulfilling'

L-r, Director John Krasinski and Noah Jupe, left, on the set of Paramount Pictures' "A Quiet Place Part II."
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

When John Krasinski's A Quiet Place hit cinemas in 2018, it felt like it came out of nowhere.

This innovative horror in which humanity has been ravaged by vicious alien creatures – reacting to the tiniest of sounds – was the sleeper hit of the year. Made on a modest budget of $17 million, it took $340m worldwide.

It also announced Krasinski – until then best known as Jim Halpert from popular US sitcom The Office – as a major director, adept at crafting a suspense narrative that'd make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

"A Quiet Place wasn't my first movie," says Krasinski, 41, "but it was certainly my first movie like that – on that scale and on that level." Working with an original script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, it set the tone for him.

“For me, the beauty of getting to direct the things I write is that I’m directing from the moment I start typing. Trying to find the story in every single page allows me to have a much easier job when I come on set, of just finding the story in every single shot. It was so exciting.”

The sequel arrives in the UAE next week: A Quiet Place Part II, delayed by a year due to the pandemic, finally hits cinemas to an avalanche of positive reviews.

"If you're vaccinated and feeling safe enough to step foot outside your home, Krasinski has crafted a follow-up that justifies the trip," raved trade paper Variety.

In America, the film enjoyed a $57m Memorial Day opening last weekend, a huge relief to cinema owners after more than 12 months of closures. For Krasinski, it was simply great to be behind the camera again. "A Quiet Place II was a thrill," he says.

Yet, it'd be wrong to suggest that Krasinski's success with both films is some sort of fluke. The hugely likeable star has been quietly prepping for this moment for years. Previously, before A Quiet Place, he'd made 2016's low-budget film The Hollars, in which he played an artist returning home on the eve of his mother's brain surgery. It hardly set the world alight, but it was another step in marking Krasinski out as more than just Jim from The Office.

While he also directed three episodes on The Office, Krasinski has used every job as preparation. Take his two seasons playing the title role on Jack Ryan, the TV drama based on the Tom Clancey character, which showed him how to orchestrate action.

"Being on Jack Ryan I definitely got to see more and more of how a lot of the action stuff works, and so any of the scenes in A Quiet Place – which were a lot smaller, stunt-wise! – you can see [the influence of this]." Likewise, he watched Transformers director Michael Bay close-up when Krasinski was cast in the 2016 military siege movie 13 Hours.

"Being on a Michael Bay set, that's a whole different thing ... that's trial by fire. As the nerdy writer-director who is always paying attention to the sets that I'm on, it's such a different language and a different skill set." Bay, crucially, would go on to produce A Quiet Place and its sequel.

From left, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and Emily Blunt in 'A Quiet Place Part II', which opened in US cinemas last week. AP

When Krasinski wasn't directing, he was producing via his company Sunday Night – something he felt essential to his career. He developed 2012's fracking drama Promised Land with co-star Matt Damon. He was also involved in making Manchester by the Sea, which won two Oscars. He and Damon brainstormed the story of an "emotionally crippled" handyman, taking it to playwright Kenneth Lonergan, who eventually directed the film.

It was through Damon that Krasinski met British actress Emily Blunt, who became his wife in 2010, is mother of their two daughters and also his co-star in A Quiet Place.

As I closed the door and before I called action, I thought: 'Did I just put my marriage on the line?'

“I was a fan of hers long before we met, so that was weird to be meeting someone that you thought was so incredibly talented,” he recalls. “Her whole thing is about storytelling; I just want to tell the best story. And so I get very excited to be around her and see her process.”

A Quiet Place Part II picks up immediately where the first film left off, with the Abbott family – led by Blunt's character Evelyn – desperately looking for shelter after their farmstead has been set on fire during an alien attack. Evelyn's husband Lee (played by Krasinski) sacrificed himself in the first movie to save their children, but we do get to see him in an exhilarating flashback on the first day of the alien attack – exactly the sort of controlled carnage he saw Bay craft on set.

As the film’s first trailer hinted, a bus travels down the street with one of the creature’s spidery tentacles protruding out of the broken windscreen. Evelyn’s car is just a hair’s breadth away, reversing frantically. Remarkably, it was a stunt Blunt did for real.

“Right as I closed the door and before I called action, I thought: ‘Did I just put my marriage on the line? This could go very badly for a lot of reasons,’” says Krasinski. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch.

With Krasinski taking sole writing credit this time, Part II does not simply retread old ground but expands on the first movie, introducing new characters such as Cillian Murphy's loner Emmett.

"I felt it on set – I felt this vibe of: 'This is going to be a really cool movie,'" says Noah Jupe, who plays the Abbotts' young son Marcus, who together with his deaf sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds) are thrown into even more terrifying situations. Jupe says the sequel feels earned. "I feel like it's very necessary; it adds on to this story."

Already Paramount, the studio behind the franchise, is planning further instalments. Jeff Nichols, who directed 2016's sci-fi Midnight Special, is working on A Quiet Place spin-off, based on an idea by Krasinski. The actor­-director, meanwhile, is producing Apartment 7A, a new horror with Relic director Natalie Erika James.

“[It’s] something much more fulfilling than just showing up and punching in as an actor,” he says. Although it’s been a long time since Krasinski has done that.

'A Quiet Place Part II' will be out in UAE cinemas on June 9