“My immediate response was ‘I don’t want to do a sequel’,” laughs director, actor and writer John Krasinski. “The first one was so personal to me – as crazy as it sounds, it was a love letter to my kids. So how do you beat that?” Evidentially he thought he could because here we are three years after the phenomenal A Quiet Place landed in cinemas with its sequel, A Quiet Place Part II.
A Quiet Place was released during a high-time for horror cinema, the box-office-busting It and Jordan Peele’s award-winning Get Out were released the year before and Ari Aster’s excellent Hereditary would be released just months after. With such exemplary horror playmates, A Quiet Place – written and directed by The Office alumni John Krasinski – and starring the fantastic Emily Blunt, was a hit no-one saw coming.
But a hit it was – winning praise from audiences and critics alike, and taking $17 million in its opening weekend. “I saw A Quiet Place in the cinema with my kids and I thought it was terrific,” enthuses Cillian Murphy, who stars in its sequel. “I thought it was one of the best films I’d seen that year.”
Now, real-life couple Krasinski and Blunt are back with A Quiet Place Part II. But, with Jordan Peele’s follow-up Us not winning quite as many accolades as Get Out and It Chapter 2 not quite reaching the same heights as its predecessor, the pressure is on.
“You can’t repeat what happened with the first one. So I think the approach on this one was always that this is the next chapter, this is the next step,” explains Emily Blunt. “Because what happened with the first one, it was like that lightning-in-the-bottle thing that was astonishing to everybody involved, especially to John and certainly to me.”
A Quiet Place was clearly a labour of love for Krasinski and Blunt, and making a sequel was never on the cards for them. But with the movie being such a success, there was likely to be a sequel no matter what. “The studio was probably going to make another one regardless of our involvement and then suddenly out of nowhere, because I think they brought in like 20 writers to attempt to come up with the second one and none of the ideas really worked, John just went: ‘I mean, if I was going to do another one, you know, this is sort of what I would do’. And he just started to pitch an idea. And I remember being gripped by it and thinking ‘oh shit we’re gonna have to do it’. It was just too rich of an idea, it’s such an exciting world, there’s so much to expand upon, that it then became this sort of organic journey for both of us that it was impossible not to do it.”
Krasinski’s desire to do right by his story was clearly too much to resist. It also meant he could go back and flesh out some of the ideas he had during the making of the first movie. “Everybody said ‘do you have a back story?’ I had the back story, I knew it very well and we sort of alluded to it in those newspaper clippings and stuff [in the first movie],” he explains. “So to get back there and to investigate it was really fun because again, it was something that I had created in the first one but just decided not to do.”
Blunt continues: “I think it was very intriguing to John the idea of what happened to the world when this first happened, when the invasion first happened. This is a bigger movie and a much more visually ambitious film than the first one.”
Set, ironically enough, in a post-apocalyptic 2020, A Quiet Place followed the Abbott family: Lee, Evelyn and their kids Regan, Marcus and Beau as they tried to survive against an alien invasion that had silenced the world. Because these merciless aliens hunt by sound, the family had to live a noiseless existence, communicating in sign language. That is until Evelyn (Emily Blunt) finds out she’s pregnant, leading to the family holding up in an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and desperately trying to stay quiet and survive…
Those who watched A Quiet Place in the cinema can probably agree that the viewing experience was something completely new, with audiences desperately trying to stay as quiet as the characters.
“The first film had a phenomenal effect on cinemagoers all over the world,” agrees Murphy. “Usually people are quite blasé when going to the cinema; looking at their phones, talking and heavily snacking (which I kind of object to!). But I went with my children and it was terrifying and exhilarating and everything that you’d expect from a movie like that.”
The first movie proved that you don’t necessarily need big-budget effects to scare audiences; that old-fashioned tension, an ominous crack of a twig underfoot and furtive looks can be more than enough. “We learnt to give the audience a lot of credit [on the first movie] for not a lot of information, and still how gripping an experience can be,” Blunt tells us.
The second movie, Blunt assures us, will do the same: “The power of the fear factor of these things is so rich, it’s so visceral, that I do feel [John] still plays with that tension because now the audience understands the rules so well, there’s no rule-explaining now. And the rule is simple – if you make a noise, you’re going to die.”
Moreover from scaring the bejesus out of audiences, A Quiet Place was also firmly rooted in humanity – telling the story of this normal family in a far less-than-normal situation. “You have to tell a human story, that’s what we learned from A Quiet Place,” explains Blunt. “Yes, it’s a sci-fi horror, a sci-fi thriller [but it’s also] a very human story.”
“The first film was very emotional,” Murphy agrees. “It was about family really and about loss. Those were the two things that stood out to me. Which is unusual for that genre.” So it makes sense that the sequel carries on this human theme, though this time the focus will go beyond the Abbott family, to the rest of the world.
“One of my favourite responses from the audience was the desire to see how other people survive in the world,” explains Krasinski. “The metaphor for the first one was the intimacy of family, and that idea that, as parents, you make that promise to your kids that if you stay with me you’ll be safe. That promise is inevitably broken at the end of the movie, and [laughs] in a much more dramatic way. So I thought I can lean into that idea of these children growing up and being forced to grow up too fast.
“That’s the core of the movie – the idea of growing up, loss, and dealing with loss.”
So where does this story pick up from the first movie? “It’s a direct continuation. And so now you’ve got Evelyn in a situation with the brand-new baby, husband is dead, two other children, house has burned down,” Blunt explains. “Where does she go? What does she do? Their whole nucleus, their utopian life that they sort of managed to create for themselves in the midst of this horrifying environment is gone. And so it’s that thought of ‘well, who can help me?’”
That idea of helping out one’s neighbour will play a big part in A Quiet Place Part II and when humans are being hunted by ruthless alien creatures, how will humanity treat each other? “The big theme for me is this idea of community and what happens when community is forced to break down so much that you choose to not involve yourself with anyone else,” says Krasinski. “Again, it was something I was thinking about on the first one, hence me putting the fires in the movie. I always wanted people to know that there were people out there and hopefully someday I would be able to investigate that.
“The deeper metaphor is that fractured sense of community that I think we’re all feeling on a global scale.”
With their safe haven now burned down, the Abbotts are out on the road and likely to test whether ‘love thy neighbour’ is still as important now the world has gone to hell.
“The second film follows similar themes but it’s expanded, they’ve broadened the world and added more characters,” explains Murphy. “The family is under a lot more pressure, and not just from the creatures.”
Though the sequel will encompass a wider world, Krasinski was conscious to not lose that sense of claustrophobia that was present in the first movie. “There’s only so many places you can go on bare feet with a baby in a box,” he says. “So it was kind of great to make sure that I didn’t go wild with ‘oh and then I want to show what a big city looks like and this and that’. I tried to just say ‘well, where would they go? what’s possible?’.
“I didn’t want to fall into a trap of being overwhelmed, or the story and the intimacy of the family being diluted by the bigness of the world. So what helped was to maintain the contained nature of the rules. The world they’re living in is the same, it’s just the amount of ground they cover is different.”
One of the elements that also remains present, and frighteningly correct in this sequel, is the alien creatures. In the first movie they were largely unseen until the latter part of the movie, where we saw them in all their horrific glory. So what will the sequel be like now that the unknown threat has been revealed? “I had such a good time designing the creature with ILM that we wanted to respect the creature just as much as we respect our lead actors,” says Krasinski. “There’s a restraint to all the things that Emily does in the second movie, there’s a restraint to the kids in the movie, so I had to restrain the creature as well. And if he’s just everywhere running around all the time, then as a character you’ve betrayed him or her or it because you’re basically asking that character to do more work than it should. And so we still are very protective of showing it as sparsely as we can.”
The creatures have been created with CGI, which can be notoriously tricky to act alongside, but Krasinski made sure the sets were real and the actors weren’t always working with both a green screen and CGI creatures, as Murphy says: “The way John runs the set, it never feels like you’re working with a green screen. All of the locations were real. There was very little studio work, certainly for me. We shot in Buffalo in New York. On extraordinary sets. We didn’t have to ‘pretend act’ like we would on a green screen.
“Sometimes John would even act out the creatures while on set so we would know where the creatures would be,” Murphy laughs. “John is incredibly energetic; he transmits this enthusiasm. He’s one of the most committed directors I’ve ever worked with. I just felt we were in an extension of that world. Also because I’d seen the first film I knew what [the creatures] looked like, how they moved. The way their bodies work and the way their hearing works. I was well aware of that, so it was never an issue!”
One of the people that the Abbott family meet now they’re away from the farmhouse is Murphy’s character, a mysterious man who’s been navigating this tough new world. Murphy is a welcome addition to the movie and has his fair share of genre credits, similarly navigating a post-apocalyptic world as Jim in Danny Boyle’s fantastic 28 Days Later. In fact, the introduction of Murphy in the sequel seems to almost be written in the stars: “I was so impressed with the first movie that I wrote an email to John to tell him that but I chickened out in the end and didn’t send it!” Murphy laughs. “Luckily he was aware of my work and a year later he sent me an email asking me to be in the sequel, so luckily it worked out!” When we asked Murphy whether he thought this was some kind of psychic connection he laughs: “I like to think so!”
Blunt is quick to agree that this part seems to be made for Murphy. “John and I are probably the biggest Peaky Blinders fans in the world and so we were watching Peaky one night a while back and he went ‘oh my god’; he had written this part and he went ‘that’s him!’. He just has the right kind of charisma and gravitas, and mystery, you know. I mean, it’s a morally ambiguous character and so you need someone who knows how to do that with great nuance. We were thrilled he wanted to do it.”
“It’s an enigmatic character, which is my favourite type, but only a few people can do it as well as he does,” Krasinski agrees. “And secretly what I was most looking forward to were the scenes between Cillian and Emily and I was not disappointed. In the first [movie] my favourite thing was waiting for the bathtub scene to be shot. And in this one it was ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I get to be in the front row when Cillian Murphy and Emily act for the first time together’.”
That mutual respect hasn’t changed since meeting on set and shooting the film. If anything, it’s intensified: “Cillian Murphy is, in my mind, one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with,” says Krasinski.
The feeling is mutual: “John is hugely passionate about this film and this world,” Murphy enthuses. “I think he puts a lot of himself into the film, a lot of that humanity, a lot of that authenticity and care comes from him because that’s how he is as a man. He’s a very caring, very genuine, very humble man and a brilliant director.”
In fact, even though the movie is clearly a horror story, the atmosphere on set couldn’t have been more different: “Working on [A Quiet Place Part II] has been one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had working on a film. It really felt like an already-established unit and I felt very privileged to be allowed to become part of that. It was just a lovely working environment, a lot of laughs and a lot of good fun. You have to have that sort of atmosphere when you’re dealing with this sort of movie.”
This family unit on set was very much encouraged by Krasinski who firmly believes in working together and utilising each other’s skills to create the best possible outcome: “For me the most important thing on my sets is ‘collaboration is king’, that really the best idea has to end up on the screen,” he says. “I had the greatest production designer on this movie with Jess Gonchor. Weirdly my tonal touchstone for the first movie was There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men. Jess designed No Country For Old Men so it was pretty great to have the guy that I based my movie on designing my second movie!”
This collaboration is also true for Blunt when it comes to working with Krasinski: “We work well together,” she says. “The other thing we are lucky about is this aligned taste and what we respond to, even when we watch films together. We always feel exactly the same way about a performance, about what moves us and what doesn’t, so I feel very aligned with him creatively; it was a very natural thing.”
The couple was clearly a positive influence on set: “When you work on stuff like this, with quite heavy subject matter – especially when there are kids around – you have to keep the atmosphere up,” says Murphy. “John and Emily are amazing at that.”
With such a great time being had on the set by a great team, we can’t wait to shut up and hold tight for the sequel.
A Quiet Place Part II will be exclusively in cinemas on 3 June, with advanced screenings being shown on 31 May. Book your tickets now at http://www.aquietplacemovie.co.uk.