If it’s the job of a Hollywood filmmaker to realize imagined worlds where the bounds of everyday reality are cast aside, then John Krasinski has a claim for delivering above-and-beyond his brief. Ever since A Quiet Place sailed to a surprise $50 million opening weekend, everyday realities are shifting, even off-screen. The munching of popcorn has ceased. Chattering cinemagoers have been silenced. Even bathroom breaks have been cautiously tiptoed.
As Deadline inducts its 2018 class of Disruptors, there can be few candidates better suited to a place on our list than Krasinski. Seizing on a deliciously simple idea first drafted by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, Krasinski crafted A Quiet Place into an instant horror hit, casting himself and his wife Emily Blunt as the heads of a small family in rural America whose lives are upended when otherworldly monsters invade the planet. As it becomes apparent that these blind beasts track their human quarry by sound, the family must live utterly silent lives in order to survive. Stripped of all but the most spartan dialogue, A Quiet Place is an extreme exercise in less is more.
Peter Bart: Inspiration Or Anomaly? What Studios Can Learn From John Krasinski's PG-13 Sleeper 'A Quiet Place'
Krasinski’s disruptive influence on our industry, though, goes beyond his latest feature. When The Office wrapped in 2013, Krasinski stood at a fork in the road and made a resolute choice to take the path less traveled, pivoting back to directing with 2016’s The Hollars, and steering away from the light comedy that had launched his career. With Matt Damon, he came up with the original idea that resulted in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. He became an action star for director Michael Bay in 13 Hours; he will soon front Amazon’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. And his comedy takes a darker turn in Dream Corp LLC on Adult Swim, which he executive produces.
Not bad for a kid who nearly gave up on his career in this industry before his Office breakthrough ever happened. Krasinski found acting at Brown University, and headed to theater school in Connecticut for his final semester. On the day his parents came to pick him up, he told his mom he was moving to New York to become an actor. “That’s great,” she told him. “We’ll support you, and good luck. You have to make me one promise, which is you give it two years and if nothing happens you will pull yourself out of this, because as your mother, I could never handle telling my son to give up on his dreams.”
“It was so poignant and so amazingly wise, so I made her that promise,” Krasinski remembers. “I had, I think, nine different waiting and bartending jobs—I did everything I could to scrape it together—and I was auditioning. I booked a couple commercials and a couple little plays here and there, but it didn’t feel like I could make a living. Toward the end of those two years, I called her and I said, ‘This is it. You were right. I gave it a good shot, and I’m out.’ She said, ‘You know what? It’s September. Wait it out for the rest of the year, don’t quit now. I appreciate you calling.’ I said, ‘Oh, OK, great.’ Three weeks later, I got The Office.”
Now that he’s ready to relax and reflect on the success of A Quiet Place, Krasinski recalls something Steve Carell once told him. “He said, ‘At the end of your career you could win 16 Oscars, you could do 500 movies, but they’re always going to know us from The Office.’
I said, ‘But isn’t that an honor?’ I really do believe that there’s something about The Office that is on the mantle in its own little box. It can never be touched; it can never be replicated, and I know I’ll never have as lucky an experience as that.”
He smiles. “Though this is giving it a run for its money, for sure.”
How do you react when you wake up on a Monday morning to the news that your movie has made $50 million in its opening weekend, way above everybody’s initial estimates?
Dude, it’s insane. It’s completely insane. It’s one of those elemental things you feel like you did when you were in high school, where you thought you had something cool but you weren’t sure if other people would think it was cool, and then it just happens. Emily and I, honestly, wake up every morning and stare at each other for a good 15 minutes and say, “Is this real?’” We’re so blown away.
Take me back to the start of your involvement with this script. Was it love at first sight?
I had just signed on to Jack Ryan and we were going over scripts, in the early days of pre-production, and Andrew Form and Brad Fuller at Platinum Dunes—who are also producers on Jack Ryan—called and said, “Would you ever act in a genre movie?” I said, “Oh man, I don’t do horror movies, so I’m probably not your guy. But if it’s a cool idea…” They said, “Well, it’s about a family that can’t make any noise, and you have to figure out why.” That’s the best one-liner you can get, really. I was so hooked.
They sent me the Beck and Woods script, I read it, and it was so strong and had so much there to begin with. Their script differed from mine in a bunch of little ways, but the heart was all theirs. They really had this thing that I wanted to be a part of. And then three weeks before I read the script, we had just had our second daughter, so I was actually holding my daughter, reading this script about a father who would do anything for his kids, and I just thought, I have to do this.
It was the most bizarre thing. I’ve never had this moment where I had a vision for something so quickly, so literally, within 10 to 12 hours. I was pitching Emily what I would do with the rewrite, and she just kept saying, “This sounds really good. It’s really interesting.” It was her who said, “You know, you seem so excited. I’ve never seen you like this. These ideas that you’re having for the movie, you’ve got to direct it.” I said, “Oh no, I can’t. I can’t direct a horror movie.” But I didn’t have a good enough answer for why not.
Emily’s version of events is that she had suggested casting ideas for the mother and then, when she finally read the script, she immediately insisted she wanted to work with you on it. But given you started from a place that was deeply rooted in family, didn’t you want her right away?
Oh, of course; as soon as I started writing it, she was the only one I had in my head. If I’m really honest with you, I’m a pretty confident person, but I wasn’t confident that she would say yes. One, she was very busy. She was doing Mary Poppins, and we had just had our second child. I knew this wasn’t the best time to say, “Hey, do you want to do another movie right after Mary Poppins?” The other thing was I didn’t want her to say no, and I really felt it would be a no, and that would be a very difficult conversation. A weird, awkward dinner.
But the thing that I was most afraid of was that she’d say, “Yes, I’ll do it for you.” I couldn’t have lived with that. I have been witness to the incredible intelligence, taste level, and dedication she has to movies. I remember being next to her when she signed onto that movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and then they pushed it four months and she said, “I’m still in.” And then they pushed it another eight months or something and her agents called and said, “Well, they’re pushing it, so we’ll find you something else,” and she said, “No, no, no, I’m doing that movie.” She’s such a dedicated artist, so I knew that I didn’t want her to just do it for me. I didn’t want to be the first person she told, “Fine, I’ll do it, but I don’t really want to.” I didn’t even ask her; I was too scared to talk to her about it.
So I finished the whole script, and we flew to LA so I could pitch to Paramount—not just on the script, and to hear their notes, but to pitch my vision for directing it. She read it on the plane. She said, “As long as you’re going to go pitch it to them, can I read it?” I said, “Sure.” It was on the plane that she turned to me and she genuinely looked sick. I reached for a barf bag, and as I was reaching for it she said, “You can’t let anyone else do this part.”
It was truly like a weird romantic comedy—she was proposing to me, and she just said, “It has to be me. Will you let me do this part?” I just screamed, “Yes,” right there, on a flight to LA.
You pretty much incepted her into doing the movie.
I totally did. It was a big bet, because obviously some of the names she was giving me were going to be fantastic in the movie, but there was something elemental where I knew it would be her, and I knew she could crush it.
The other thing is, we have been wanting to work together, but for all intents and purposes, we didn’t want the story of us being married to supersede whatever story we were telling. What we discovered, as an added bonus, was that it was actually really beneficial that we were married. I think that the idea of spouses having a secret language, it’s the only language we could use.
I just wanted it to be her so badly, but it was purely by chance that she wound up reading the script, and I genuinely don’t think I would ever have asked her to do it.
So when you’re looking at your kids as you read the script, and then you cast your wife in the movie, does pulling this together become an odd form of self-therapy for you to process what you would do if your family was in jeopardy?
A million percent. If I’m really honest with you, this is, without a doubt, the most all-in I’ve ever gone on anything in my life. Truly, the amount of risk I knew I was taking in doing this, this was sort of an all-or-nothing thing. It’s a terrible sports analogy, but I’ve always said—to my wife, my parents, my family—I want to be put in the game to try new things. If you put me in the game and I suck, don’t ever put me back into the game. And that’s how I felt. The personal aspect to this was the driving engine that I couldn’t stop. Obviously, it’s every parent’s greatest fear; not creatures in the dark, but the idea that you can only protect your kids so much.
All these big fears play into the idea of the movie, and it became a much bigger metaphor for me. I knew that if I could stick to that metaphor, I’d be OK. I remember the only other person, really, that I had read it was Drew Goddard. Drew said, “If you shoot exactly what you wrote on the page, you’ll be fine because the metaphor is the thing. Don’t worry about scaring people, don’t worry about the creature; everything is going to be answered and come organically from your deep connection to the metaphor.” I thought that was profound.
You said you were not the go-to horror guy. In fact, you had no grounding in horror before this movie, right? Even watching it?
No, and when Emily recommended I direct it, it took me a while to decide to do it for that exact reason. I have the deepest respect for the genre and the deepest respect for horror fans. I know the lengths and the depths that horror fans go to, and I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I really had to think about, what was it that I could do? What could I bring that would be the best for the movie? But I think it was because this one just started coming out of me. The ideas flowed, from the sand paths, to the lights, to the walk through the forest, to the pharmacy. They all came within an hour. It felt like that had to be a good sign.
The other thing was, at the end of the day, what is it about your favorite genre movies? I had obviously seen some genre movies. I was a huge fan of the more classic stuff like Jaws, Alien, and Hitchcock’s movies, and they’re always about more than their genre. I think Jaws is one of the best-written scripts I’ve ever known. And there’s a bigger theme of fear and addressing your biggest fears head on.
I remembered something Greg Daniels had told me on The Office. This seems funny, but it’s absolutely one of the reasons why I ended up deciding to do this. He said, “Your job on this show is not to play these lines funny. Your job on this show is to play these lines truthfully, and if people find them funny, that’s up to them. If people find them emotional, that’s up to them, too. But if you play them for emotion and for laughs, we’re going to miss.” When I was about to decide to do this, I thought of that bit of advice, and I thought, that’s exactly what I need to do. I need to go into this and do what I think I know how to do best, which is this story about a family. I thought, just like The Office, if you love these characters, you’ll love where they go. And then I can make you scared. Then I can make you sad. I can make you all these different things, but my primary job is to ensure that you like the characters.
Once I decided that, it was just a crash course school in the genre, and what was interesting about that was, I wasn’t going through to steal people’s very innovative, very brilliant techniques. I used what I thought was my weakness and made it my strength, and I looked instead at how I felt about what I was watching, and when. I started writing down when these things were affecting me, whether it was Get Out or The Witch or The Babadook. I started learning about tension, and when I got scared was really the barometer, because then you have things like Let the Right One In, which had these tiny, little glimpses of just beautiful filmmaking that were also somehow terrifying.
And then, of course, the thing I learned when I went deep into the genre was how stupid I’d been to not be watching these movies. I think it was my 12-year-old self that said, “You shouldn’t watch scary movies.” I’d been adhering to some theory that a 12-year-old had because he was too scared to see Nightmare on Elm Street. But horror is where some of the best filmmaking has been done. The best writing, the best directing, the best cinematography.
That’s true. Many of the greatest directors have done horror. Hitchcock, as you said. Kubrick…
That’s the thing, and I’ve watched all those documentaries and learned from those guys. I remember the stories of The Shining. None of them are, “I wanted to scare the sh*t out of people.” It was all about true fear, true ambition, true anxiety, true insecurity. The idea of insecurity, the idea of going crazy because you’re not who you wish you could be. All that stuff is huge. Even in Alien, the idea that this thing is representative of the one thing you don’t want to have happen when you take a big chance in your life of any kind, which is to fall directly on your face. That’s what happens in Alien. It’s like, “Yeah, sending people off to discover new lands is pretty exciting except for the one thing, which is, oh my god, we’re all going to die.”
It’s interesting to hear you describe this as the biggest risk you’ve taken, because your career has never struck me as wholly free of risk. After The Office, the received wisdom would have been to lean heavily into starring in comedy, but you didn’t do that. You moved into writing and directing, developing stories about grief and politics. It feels like there’s a conscious push towards taking risk, that it’s by design.
There is design, obviously, and in our business there’s also a good amount of chance. The Office was my life for a long while, and I owe it everything. It created every opportunity I have. There is nothing about that show that I am running away from, at all. But I came off The Office with this enormous opportunity, and I felt like I hadn’t earned it, to be honest. I felt like I got so lucky, and there was such an enormous amount of success on that show that I didn’t deserve it, so I had to go out and do something that at least pushed the boundaries to start feeling like I deserved it. From doing my first play, which I was terrified to do, to taking on 13 Hours, or whatever it is.
But at the same time, you need people to bet on you. For a long time after The Office, there was not a lot of opportunity coming that wasn’t very similar to The Office, so my idea of wanting to do something different wasn’t very easily served. And that’s when I did The Hollars. I remember somebody said to me, “Oh man, when the show ends, the phone’s going to be ringing off the hook.” I don’t know if there was something wrong with my phone, but it wasn’t ringing as much as I thought it would. So by going out and doing The Hollars, and directing my own thing, it was that exploration.
It sounds really hokey, but I named my company Sunday Night because when I first got to New York, I was a waiter, and my friends were waiters, assistants, yoga instructors, whatever we could do to pay the bills. I remember someone saying the one thing you don’t get to do when you’re a working actor is actually act. You have to pay the bills doing every other thing. But we’d meet every Sunday night to talk about our favorite plays, our favorite movies, our favorite books, and our favorite music. It was the only time we could be creative. As corny as it sounds, because it sounds like a scene from adult Goonies or something, we all said, “If we get that chance, this is what we’ll do. We’ll tear the doors down on this place, we’ll do something different, we’ll push the limits.” So that’s exactly what I felt like I had to do.
Was that the same drive that led you into acting in the first place?
I started to become an actor at Brown because of the community, honestly. I just wanted to be a part of this community. The people that I was meeting that were in the acting community and the theater community, they were just the smartest, coolest, biggest thinkers out there.
My education at Brown is obviously one of the best I could have ever gotten, but the real education was asking all these people I met to recommend a new movie and a new album. I wasn’t a kid who saw anything that wasn’t in a multiplex, and I wasn’t the guy who listened to anything on the radio, so I got all these people to give me new movies and new albums for four years. I was just immersed in this world of amazing, incredible stuff. I remember the first album I was ever given was Nick Drake’s Way to Blue. It just blew my mind. One of the first movies I ever got was Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming, which blew my mind.
And so maybe that’s where this risk taking came from, because the people I was surrounded by were risk takers, with deep knowledge of everything. There was no one lane that they loved; it was about taking in everything.
It seems like perhaps when you come to these kinds of revelations later in life, you lean into them harder, develop them more passionately.
I’m glad you said it, because that’s exactly how I feel. It’s how I feel about genre now. I was late to the party, but I don’t ever want to leave. That’s how I felt when people started taking me to indie film. I remember feeling really embarrassed in my college days, that I didn’t know this stuff. That I had to sit and watch all of Martin Scorsese’s stuff in a week, because the only one I had ever seen was Goodfellas. It was one of those things where, “Oh my God, I’m so far behind and I’ll never be as well-versed as these people.” What they taught me very quickly is it’s not about being well-versed, it’s about being in love, and I truly have never been more hungry and ambitious to stay in something, and be a part of something, in my life.
I was at this amazing theater school, The National Theater Institute in the O’Neill Center in Connecticut. It sounds lazy, but I went there because it was one of the only places that would make up credits to give back to Brown, because I came in mid-year at Brown, so I had to make up a semester at the end. I went in there lazily, just not wanting to be at a school where my friends weren’t anymore, because they had just graduated. It ended up being the most revolutionary place for me, because it tasted and smelled like those stories of the old days, of people giving it everything. We woke up at seven in the morning, and we didn’t go to bed until two or three every night, because it was learning how to light, learning how to write, learning how to direct, learning how to do set design. It was so immersive and so intense. And part of the reason for that was our incredible leader of the school was David Jaffe, and he just said, “if you want to do this, you can’t have a romantic vision of it. You have to know how much hard work it is, so we’re going to show you how much hard work it is.”
There can’t be a version of another life you’d have been happy with at this point.
Oh my god, no. At that point, all I wanted to be was a schoolteacher at Brown; I wanted to be an English teacher. When I started this theater school, that’s all I wanted. Absolutely now, I totally understand when people say, “There’s nothing else I would know how to do.” Basically what I’m saying is, I’m pretty worthless if I can’t do this.
Had you been writing and developing stuff, even in those days? Your first film, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, based on David Foster Wallace’s work, came together only a few years after you started on The Office.
It was actually the first thing I ever did. What happened was, Chris Hayes from MSNBC, he directed the stage version of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and it was a big turning point in my life because at that point in my career at Brown, I had just been a part of the sketch comedy group. I had done a couple plays, but no one really took me seriously, and I was always in the background. ‘Armed Guard Number Four’ or something like that. I had done one or two parts that were a little more interesting, and then Chris Hayes said, “Listen man. I’m doing this thing, and I think you’d be great.” It’s the part that Christopher Meloni plays in the movie, and I remember it was two nights. I think the theater had room for 99, maybe 150 people, and both nights were sold out. 250 people were turned away. It was huge; it was a massive deal.
The reason why it was such a defining moment for me was because up until that point, I only ever saw acting as entertainment. I only saw it as, you be a goofball, people laugh, and it’s fine. What I saw in that moment was people giving performances like I had never seen before. It was just unbelievably moving. Multiplex kid was in depths way beyond anything he could fathom. People were crying in the theater.
I remember walking across campus the next day and one of my teachers came up and said, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen at the student theater,” and I was blown away. Within an hour, another teacher came up to me and said, “Honestly, that’s not what this is about. It’s so offensive, what you guys did. That’s not what the student theater’s for.” I’m no Andy Kaufman in that any reaction is a good reaction, but it felt palpable in my head and in my heart that something was happening, and that all of a sudden I was starting to see acting as not being about entertainment anymore. You can really move people; you can really tell a story.
Does that give you a sanguine perspective on the reads people have had on A Quiet Place? People have even debated whether it’s pro-life or pro-choice.
Wow. I hadn’t seen that. But I embrace it because I was taught by these people who led me into this whole new world. At the same time that I was reading Brief Interviews I was reading Angels in America, and at the same time I was also watching Ghost. It was such a crash course, and I mean that because I should have been sponsored by Advil during college, with the headaches I was getting from trying to be as smart as everybody else.
There’s a genuine appreciation for what art is and what art can expose. It sounds like a trite thing but it’s true—especially with a movie like this, I think I’m experiencing it more and more—that the greatest compliment you can have on any piece of work that you do is that it starts a conversation. I love the stuff where people say they can’t turn on the sink in the movie theater bathroom because they don’t want to make a sound, or a boyfriend getting punched by his girlfriend when he turned on the radio in the car; that stuff’s great. More than that, there is a conversation where people have said, “Is this about the political climate? Is this about parenthood?” I’ve never heard the pro-choice and pro-life thing, but it is awesome that people are thinking about it.
How much work went in to fleshing out the world of the film? We’re given only touches of information, but do you have a grander picture in your head of what is happening away from these characters?
It was an extremely conscious choice not to be explicit about everything, and that came from learning by experience. When we did Promised Land, we went in to Focus and there was a guy named Jack Foley, who was the head of marketing there. I turned to him at the end of a marketing meeting and I said, “For my own gratification, what is the biggest misconception in Hollywood?” Without hesitating, he said, “The biggest misconception in Hollywood is that people are stupid. People do not want to be spoon-fed, people want to be challenged.” The other thing that he said was this idea, when it comes to audiences, of red state versus blue state does not exist. Everyone wants a good story; to be taken away, and to be challenged.
Looking back over my experiences, you could see that with The Office, where the first time people saw it they would have been right to say, “What is this? A fake documentary?”
But they gave it a chance, even in the very early days of the television renaissance we’re living through right now. Now you have Game of Thrones, where every kid, every 50-year-old, and every 90-year-old is keeping track of 1,283 characters with ease. It’s unbelievable to think that would have been possible, but it is.
So I literally took Jack’s advice. I have a tremendous amount of backstory for this world. I know where everybody is, where everybody is coming from, and how it all happened. But I pulled it all back from the film. I didn’t want to piss anybody off, or frustrate and confuse them. We only did one test screening because that was all we had time for, and if, in that test, people had said, “I have no idea what’s going on and I hate this movie,” I would have reconsidered. But one of the first questions we asked was, “Are you confused?” And the response was, “No.” And this was a version of the movie that people saw without one creature effect in it. They still said, “The relationship between the girl and the creature is obvious. This is how they came to live like this. The creatures attack by sound. The information you need is on the walls, in the newspaper reports.” You’re like, “Holy sh*t, that’s amazing.”
But the reason I made that conscious decision was not only because I thought audiences would be smart enough to get it, but more than that, I thought it’d be a really good way to connect them to this family, because you don’t know anything they don’t know. If you knew more than them, I think it would be a weirder experience. The fact that you’re watching the father figure trying to work things out, you’d think he was an idiot if you knew more than he did.
It calls to mind the classic six-word story—“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”—which paints an entire narrative. But did you have fun diving into that backstory?
That was a huge draw. I give a large amount of credit to Jeffrey Beecroft, my production designer, because he got this movie on an emotional level. Everything he did, he connected it to that. All set design is an absolute work of art, but ours was also a whodunnit on the walls. You had to use all the sets as information-givers. It was so much fun to do that.
The movie’s been such a tremendous hit that, perhaps unsurprisingly, Paramount announced a sequel at CinemaCon. Is it something you’ve considered?
To be perfectly honest, it was never really on my mind while we were making it. I never really thought of it as an expanded world; I always thought of it as a one-off.
But the thing that I loved in the movie—where my mind kept wandering as we were making it—was the question of who was on the other end of those fires, when the father lights the fire and in the distance those other fires light up. How did those people survive? How did that old man survive?
In the extreme these characters are going through, there’s no room to think about that. They’re there, there’s an old man who’s about to scream, they just have to deal with that. I think it would be interesting to see what’s going on elsewhere at this same time.
It’s only a short while since the movie came out, but already people are saying, “We want to live in this world more,” which is really interesting. I’m surprised people aren’t like, “Nah, we know what this is, and we just want to leave it as it is.”
Perhaps some of that curiosity came originally from the stories that this was at some point considered a potential Cloverfield project. Was there any truth there?
That was never the case. There was always a rumor that was happening, but not only did it never come up with us, I don’t think it was ever seriously considered at Paramount. It was a rumor just because the movie was at Paramount.
I actually auditioned for the one that just went out on Netflix, The Cloverfield Paradox, when it was still called God Particle. So I knew that was going, and I knew they were doing a World War II one, so it wasn’t ever brought to us as, “Do you want to mold them into each other?”
I’m really glad we didn’t. I love Cloverfield and I love J.J. Abrams, but there was something about this that felt different. The other thing that was really cool about that was it made us the underdog. The movie was that thing where people could read it and decide that it was either going to be great or terrible, and there was no expectation. That’s why I say it was the most I ever bet on a movie, because I knew there was no middle ground here. Either we pull off a movie with barely any dialogue, full of sign language, or we really don’t.
This is our third year celebrating disruption in our industry; the people ripping up the rulebook and rewriting the industry on their own terms. Who are those people, to you?
I honestly always look for disruption, and I mean everywhere. I’ll never forget the day I saw There Will Be Blood, and I couldn’t get my mind around the idea that someone went from Punch Drunk Love to that movie. It was the same brain—the same person who said, “I can switch from this to this.” So I have never been the same since that movie, because I saw in Paul Thomas Anderson the potential of exactly what you’re talking about, which is basically somebody saying, “There is no path. I just do.” That was a huge lesson. Of course, Paul is so consistently a disruptor just by doing his own thing. Hilariously, I find that the disruptors become the norm, so it’s easy to forget how disruptive they truly are.
On another level, Adult Swim is also, to me, a disruptor. Those people push the limits on surrealism, and show a complete defiance of rules, and there’s an idea that anything is possible. How can a show called Assy McGee, about a talking ass who’s a detective, not be as disruptive as it gets?
And then my spirit animal is Conan O’Brien. Long before I knew him, he became my definition of a disruptor. I remember being in college and never missing a single episode, probably for four full years. There was something he was doing that was so unbelievably smart. It tied into how I felt at Brown, where I was learning to push the limits, and sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. All that was happening on Conan O’Brien’s show at 12:30 at night, and I found myself growing a lot by watching him.
It may still be too soon to say, but what are your ambitions for where you want to go from here as a director? How do you continue to disrupt?
My production company has always been the most fun I’ve ever had, and the people I work with—Alexa Ginsburg and Allyson Seeger—are incredible. We just sit, the three of us, and try to think about doing movies that mean a lot to us. If you watch The Hollars, whatever you feel about that movie, you can at least understand why I made it. There was something so emotional in that movie that I really wanted to tap into. Obviously, this is a much bigger sandbox to play in, but it’s the same zone. It’s also heartfelt, without being saccharine or sentimental. It’s the idea that it’s OK to be emotional. And I’m an emotional dude. I cry at everything. It’s a wonder I haven’t cried since we started talking.
So for me, what I do next is really based on the question of, what’s out there that I could connect to like this? There are a couple original ideas that I’ve been toying with that are really fun, and I think there’s something out there, but I’d love for someone to say, “Do you have a take on this?” And for me to respond to something that lets me know I have an in, just like what happened with A Quiet Place.
We broke a story a few years ago that you were developing something for television set around the history of the Chateau Marmont. Is that still happening?
That is one of the projects that I’m very attached to, and it’s coming back around. Aaron Sorkin and I were going to do it at HBO. We were taking our time with it, and then Aaron got busy with everything Aaron’s been busy with, and it just went slowly away. But recently, the incredible author of Paul Newman’s biography, Shawn Levy, is writing a biography on the Chateau Marmont called The Castle on Sunset, so we just bought the rights to that book and we’re going to give it another shot.
As I said, I need to connect to stories with my heart, and so I wouldn’t want to make anything that was glitzy or salacious or anything like that. My idea was to do a Gosford Park-style upstairs-downstairs version of not only a hotel, but a hotel with secrets, with protection, with history. The history of the Chateau Marmont is the history of Hollywood, from its inception. It was built as an apartment building in the 1930s, and then when the great crash happened, they turned it into a hotel to make money. In the ’40s, during World War II, there was a Japanese fighter plane seen around Santa Monica, and everyone ran into the basement of the Marmont, because it was the only earthquake-proof basement at the time, so they thought it might also be bombproof.
These are stories that go much further beyond just Hollywood. My take on it is, Hollywood is the inside of a snow globe, and the Chateau is the glass holding it all together.
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