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It took John Krasinski six days into filming “A Quiet Place” to know for certain that he was onto something.
At the time, he was watching his wife, Emily Blunt, perform a scene with the two child stars (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), who were communicating via sign language.
“These two kids were emoting and communicating such huge complicated thoughts and such pure emotion in this way that I had actually never seen. I don’t think I could have written the scene with dialog to be better than what they were doing,” he remembers.
It brought tears to Krasinski’s eyes.
A producer standing beside him joked that six days into production was a little late to get the “this is going to work” feeling. But until that point, Krasinski knew he was facing a mountain of intimidating firsts.
He’d never directed a studio film before. He’d never directed a movie in that budget range (reportedly in the ballpark of $20 million.) And he’d never done a movie with visual effects.
“It was definitely scary, but it was also so thrilling,” he tells CNN.
The same could be said about the film itself. The groundbreaking thriller is set in a world where the Earth’s population has dwindled after extraterrestrial creatures with a keen sense of hearing have wiped out pretty much anyone who can’t live their lives in complete silence.
Krasinski and Blunt play husband and wife in the film. Blunt earned a Screen Actors Guild award for her role, an accolade that likely came as no surprise to Krasinski, her self-described biggest fan.
“Having her by my side for this process will be the greatest experience in my career and I know that,” he says, in one of many gushes during our interview. (Others included his unapologetic love for “A Devil Wear’s Prada,” which he refuses to turn off even when Blunt walks into a room, and his description of her unparalleled ability to effortlessly transition from performing a highly dramatic scene to asking about lunch options on set.)
“I know that I can put this experience on the mantle and know that it will never get this good again,” he says.
The film’s inventive premise, powerful ensemble performance and infectious word-of-mouth praise helped propel “A Quiet Place” to a $340 million worldwide box office gross and earn it a sequel. The film was even parodied on “SNL,” which Krasinski, a fan of the sketch series since childhood, says made him feel so deliriously happy it was like being in “a whole different dimension.”
“A Quiet Place” also put Krasinski, best known for his on-screen work as lovable office worker Jim Halpert, in the upper echelon of actors-turned-director.
Krasinski has actually been honing his skills as a director for some time. He used his paycheck from doing the pilot for “The Office” to buy the rights to “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” which became the first film he directed.
He remembers some of his friends saw directing as a backup plan should their acting careers stall.
Krasinski thought that was odd “because I held directors in the highest regard.”
“I just thought their job was impossible,” he says.
The perceived impossible has proved possible for Krasinski, who intended to be an English teacher until he began attending the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Theater Institute after his last semester at Brown University.
“It was there that I truly fell in love with not only doing it but how much work it takes,” he says. “That completely transformed my life.”
Krasinski is a storyteller who seems to keep his origins at the forefront and allow them to drive him. The name of his production company, Sunday Night, is a reference to his days a “a professional waiter” who wanted to be an actor. On Sundays, he and a group of friends would gather and talk about books, films and dreams of creative opportunities that seemed far-fetched at the time.
“You’d slam down a glass and say, ‘If we ever got the opportunity, this is what we would do,’” he says. “I did get that opportunity and ‘The Office’ was that opportunity. And so, I thought, I have to have to be true to those days. So I started doing all these different things and challenging myself because that’s what we said we’d do at that table.”