Quiet Place Part II: New Chapter–Interview with John Krasinski

In 2018, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place turned silence into the building blocks of fright and forged from the horror-thriller genre a modern fable of family love, communication and survival.  With its mix of relentless tension and layered storytelling about a tightknit clan fending off immensely destructive, sound-attuned alien force, the film became a startling hit and cultural phenomenon.

Heading to New Places

The story’s unnerving second chapter picks up right where the Abbott family left off.  But A Quiet Place Part II also heads to new places as events hurtle past the fragile sanctuary of the “sand path” the Abbotts created in order to prevail in a reality where even a single footstep could be deadly—and into a world of infinite peril beyond.  From the opening moments of the film, the family is on the run, beyond any semblance of security and searching for refuge in a town gone mad with fear.  In a time when empathy and connection have nearly vanished from the world, the Abbotts strive not only to protect each other from the threat of sound but to find hope in the terrifying hush around them.

“After the incredible reception for the first film, we all felt that we didn’t want to just do a sequel for the sake of chasing the success of the original,” explains producer Brad Fuller. “John comes from a place of such deeply rooted artistic integrity so we knew we couldn’t do another film unless he was involved and we knew he wouldn’t get involved unless he strongly resonated with the material. His brain is like a strange combination lock and when it clicks, it really clicks, and that’s what happened with this idea.”

The idea that the Abbotts might continue their journey into the vast, unexplored territory beyond their home came as a surprise even to Krasinski.  He never imagined he would be in the position to contemplate a sequel when he began working on A Quiet Place, not knowing it would touch such a deep nerve in the culture.  He’s also no fan of half-hearted follow-ups.  Yet, when Krasinski had an idea he felt could truly push the storytelling—an idea true to the original film’s characters and conception, yet also full of fresh creative challenges—he was lit with the same passion for it as the first time around.

“Initially, I had no intention of doing a sequel to the film,” Krasinski says.  “The story was never designed to be a franchise.  But the power of the world we created became the draw to delve into it further, to see where it might lead the Abbotts as a family.”

If he were to extend the story, A Quiet Place Part II had to be, like its predecessor, more than a visceral sensory experience.  It had to also drive the family’s emotional journey forward—this time, towards both independence and community.

Extending the Metaphor of Parenthood

“After the success of A Quiet Place, I knew there would be interest in another one, but I wanted no part of something that had the wrong intentions or didn’t feel organic.  I was OK with another writer and director taking over. And yet, I had the beginnings of an idea in my head,” Krasinski recalls.  “The idea was about extending the metaphor of parenthood to see how far you could take it, exploring that natural evolution that happens when your kids leave the safety of home to go out into the world.”

“The first film was a very intimate story about a family living on a farm. You witness creatures out there, but you really don’t know what’s going on around the world. We wanted to open it up a bit more,” adds producer Andrew Form.

Krasinski let his thirst to explore the unknown take the lead.  That meant imagining all that might lie beyond the cocoon of quiet the Abbotts managed to craft for their family. Where would they go, and what would they find out there and within themselves, if they had no choice but to venture beyond the security of the sand path?

Classic Structure of  Serial Cliffhanger

Krasinski decided to start the second chapter literally mere seconds after the first movie ends, echoing the classic structure of a serial cliffhanger.  Almost immediately, the Abbotts, still reeling from the loss of father and husband Lee, are forced to do the unthinkable: go on the move.  They continue to face the same nerve-shredding need to remain absolutely quiet or perish, but there is also an onslaught of harrowing, unforeseen new hazards that will test each family member and their bonds.

“The part that I flipped for was that John wanted to literally pick up the action five seconds after Evelyn has cocked the shotgun in the basement,” states producer Andrew Form. “That felt like an unbelievable way to continue this story. You have a mom, a tiny baby and two children–and for the first time they have to leave this protective world that Lee created to keep his family safe.”

“There’s so much more to experience beyond the farm,” note Krasinski.  “But even though we’re greatly expanding the world and the scale of the story, the intimacy comes from the fact that the rules remain the same.  It was very creatively exciting for us to have this chance to create much bigger set pieces that still feel true to the story and to the Abbott family’s inner experiences.”

Setting the Abbotts adrift from their routines into a land overtaken by chaos meant pulling the rug out from under what was already treacherous situation.  But that in turn would only further lay bare the core beauty of families: their resilience even in the face of the gravest doubts.

“If you don’t have the safety devices of the sand path and lights, everything is even more unpredictable,” describes Krasinski.  “Each step you take is uncertain. Scares can come from anywhere. When you don’t know how you’re going to survive the next moment, you’re likely to make a mistake. And when you make a mistake, our infamous creatures are around a lot more than you thought.”

Family life—Constant Reckoning with Anxiety

The beating heart behind the tension of  A Quiet Place Part II remains the same ordinary human experience that inspired  Krasinski initially: family life—and its constant reckoning with anxiety, vulnerability, communication and the urge to hold your loved ones close.  But whereas the first film had been largely sparked by Krasinski’s apprehensions about being a new father, this time Krasinski ponders what is perhaps parenthood’s most dizzying transition: the unavoidable fear of watching your children venture out into a dangerous, often divided world where anything can happen and other people’s motives can be indecipherable.

Taking First Steps into the Great Unknown?

“I had this thought percolating in my head about the promise you make as parents to kids that as long as you’re with me I can keep you safe,” says Krasinski.  “It’s a promise every parent makes; but sadly, it has to inevitably be broken at some point when parents have to let their kids go out into the world on their own.  That’s what growing up is all about and that was the central metaphor I wanted to explore. This family’s father is gone, and they’ve come to the end of the safety net of the sand path.  What happens when you have to take your first steps into that great unknown?”

Hopes for Children

Krasinski continues:  “We all hope we’ve prepared our kids so well for life that they’ll be able to survive.  But you also hope for so much more than that—you hope your kids will be able to become something special, and that they will find community with others, ideas that were also on my mind.”

Krasinski began bouncing his early concepts off his wife, the star of A Quiet Place, Emily Blunt, who garnered a Screen Actors Guild Award among other accolades for her performance as Evelyn Abbott. Blunt was admittedly skeptical about a sequel, but she couldn’t help but become smitten with where things were going.

Emily Blunt

“Emily wasn’t necessarily going be a part of the second one,” Krasinski reveals.  “She had said, ‘You’re not doing this one with me so don’t try to pitch me,’ but then she asked, ‘Well, what’s your idea?’  And after I told her, she said, ‘I’ll definitely be doing the second one!’  It just felt so organic to us both.”

Recalls Blunt, “It was such a lights-out idea that it spoke for itself. Gradually, John and I realized that sequel aside, we both just really wanted to explore this concept.  If A Quiet Place represented a magnified version of what a lot of new parents feel, this story explores just how far you might go to protect your children as they head into the world.  It gets deep into our anxieties about releasing our children into a life that can seem scary and daunting.”

Both Krasinski and Blunt felt the weight of audiences’ expectations for this world.  That was a big change from the first film which was created in a vacuum, with no guarantees that the high-risk concept would even work.

“The audience’s response to the first movie was so overwhelming,” Krasinski reflects.  “I had never done something so personal to me before, and to have people really pick up on all the family stuff while enjoying the trip was so rewarding.  But that meant that this time, every single step of the way I was thinking of the audience.  It’s not that I was going to be swayed to compromise anything for the viewers.  It’s more that I felt beholden to make a movie that deserved the level of respect they had already given to us.  I really wanted this movie to say to our audience thank you for going along with us on this intimate journey, and now we’ll continue that journey for you.”

Adds Blunt:  “We never anticipated the meteoric life the film took on. But now we saw that the audience really wanted to know more about what happens next to this family.”

Krasinski admits he always wondered what and who was out there beyond the perimeter of the  Abbott’s farm.  “I always knew that by putting the sight of fires in the distance in A Quiet Place, I was hinting that there were other survivors. But I never thought I’d get the opportunity to explore who they were and build out this world.   Then, once I started, it all seemed to fall into place organically.”

A big consideration was that the Abbott family in Part II have been left shattered by the sudden loss of Lee, played by Krasinski.  Of all the things that must be left unspoken in this time of silence, grief becomes one of the most powerful elements, a current running underneath the family’s search for true shelter and sustenance.

“Losing a main character at the conclusion of the first film was a really interesting way to begin the second,” observes Krasinski. “I thought a lot about how to approach the influence Lee Abbott still has on the family.  At the same time, it was clear the Abbotts will get no time to process their loss.  They have to act first and contemplate later. To me, that felt very close to the truth of certain real-life situations. During my personal experiences with the military, guys always said that in the middle of the action you rarely think about things like your family. It’s only when those moments of silence finally come, when you get a respite from the madness, that finally all your fears and losses start to hit you.  So, there is little time or space for sorrow for the Abbotts, and yet I wanted each of the characters to subtly, in flashes, be dealing with Lee’s passing in their own ways.”

While Lee’s memory keeps the Abbotts anchored to the past, they are also moving forward into another new concept that comes into play in A Quiet Place Part II: that of community.  It’s something that has been on Krasinski’s made a lot lately and it seemed to weave innately into the storyline.

“The idea of how you deal with a fractured community became a huge theme in this,” Krasinski says.  “When times go dire and dark as they are the Abbotts’ world, often the desire to interact with other people goes out the window and relationships become fear based.  But I think the Abbotts have an advantage in that they’ve focused for so long on maintaining feelings of love, safety and support.  In any challenging time, there is going to be a temptation to be purely individualistic and selfish, but the Abbotts are still trying to resist that.”

The quest for community also deeply intrigued Blunt.  “It’s something perhaps a lot of us around the world are thinking about right now—can you still extend your hand to your neighbor when you’re in the midst of a harrowing environment?” she asks.

With the story turning from an insular family trapped on their farm into a more sweeping search for both a way out and forward, the uncompromising aspirations of Krasinski’s script exhilarated the same filmmaking team that brought the first film to fruition.

“We all loved the idea that all bets are off for the family once they leave the house,” says executive producer Allyson Seeger. “The Abbotts must go out in the world with a baby in a box and one oxygen tank and learn to survive.”

One of the things that had most gratified the filmmakers when A Quiet Place hit theatres, was the degree to which audiences immersed themselves into the Abbott family’s dilemmas, asking “what would I do?” “That’s part of why the movie took off, because audiences became active participants,” proposes Fuller.  “It was a collective, heightened experience, and that is the way we all wanted it to continue.”

 

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