For most, John Krasinski will always be Jim Halpert (”The Office”), the dreamy salesman at paper company Dunder Miflin in The Office, the US version of the Ricky Gervais-created BBC sitcom. Whilst starring in all nine seasons of the show, the Massachuessets-born John Krasinski has also carved himself an impressive career on the big screen, working for such revered directors as Bill Condon (in
Gaining credit as a producer on The Office, as well as directing three episodes, John Krasinski, 33, has also written and directed the 2009 feature ”Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (2009)”. Now, co-writing with Matt Damon, he returns with the thought-provoking feature ”Promised Land”. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film tells the story of Steve Butler (Matt Damon), a salesman for a natural gas company who arrives in a small town to convince the population to lease their land for drilling rights – much to the disgust of eco-activist Dustin Noble (John Krasinski). Below, John Krasinski talks about how he and Matt Damon started out collaborating on Promised Land, how they arrived at the issue of ‘fracking’ which dominates the film, and how he feels with ”The Office” approaching the end of its final season.
Q: You’ve worked with George Clooney and now Matt Damon. Do you feel like one of the gang now?
A: To be even mentioned in that group is an honour; I’m still in awe of them, so I’ll just step off to the side and watch. No, to be honest, to be able to work with people like that has defined my idea of how this business runs and what is possible. They are the type of people who are incredibly smart, incredibly talented, and have a part in the careers that they have. That to me is something I’ve always greatly admired; they take part in it and they choose material that is very beneficial to them in a personal way. In their souls, rather than what’s going to make money. They are a lot of the reason that good movies are still being made because people like them are fighting to make good movies.
Q: Did you meet Matt Damon through Emily Blunt, your wife?
A: Yes, I met Matt Damon on set of The Adjustment Bureau (2011) with Emily Blunt and we immediately started double-dating with his wife and me as the others! We became really good friends, and really enjoyed hanging out together. We started talking about the kinds of things we wanted to do in the future. Matt Damon, at the time, was saying he was looking to direct. And he said, ‘Emily (Blunt) tells me that you write and have good ideas. Do you have any ideas that you want me to direct?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I have one’ – and I gave him this idea and we were off and running and we started writing with the idea that he would direct at some point. Which, of course, he ended up not doing – and that’s OK One of the best things he did as a producer on this film is firing himself as a director!
Q: How did it work in terms of writing together?
A: It worked out really quickly for us. We were moonlighting in a way. I was on the show [The Office] and he was doing this movie We Bought a Zoo (2011), and he was in California (normally he lives in New York). So he was in California, and I basically went to him every single weekend… we started at breakfast on Saturday and I would just sit and write. I went to him, because he wins by default – he has four beautiful daughters! It’s a very active house, I’ll tell you that much! It’s loud. I don’t know how we got any work done in between lunchtime, bath-time and putting on The Little Mermaid 17 times!
Q: So how did you get on?
A: We just worked really well together. I think we have similar sensibilities. I think it does help that we’re from the same place. There’s probably a slight shorthand or something like that. But more importantly, we had a lot of fun. We laughed a lot and we had a really good time doing it. So it fed into the energy of the script. We never found ourselves bailing on the scripts in a very dramatic way – ‘Oh my God, this doesn’t work!’ We always had that idea that we knew exactly where we were going. We had the ideas of both characters. We had the idea of the small town. And we had the idea of the ending. So we sort of knew what we had to do. We got through it.
Q: How long did it take to write?
A: The whole script was done in about six months, which was really short. We were constantly re-writing up until the days of shooting; nights before shooting we were still re-writing. But the idea of the script was done. One of the biggest moments happened really early on. About three weeks into writing – which is crazy – we knew we wanted [co-star] Fran McDormand. So we were writing for her. Matt Damon just said, ‘We should probably just offer it to her now, because if she says ‘No!’ we should start writing for someone else.’ We gave it to her within three weeks, which is when we had our first draft, and she said ‘Yes’, and that was about a year before shooting. So she was on board for a year and Matt (Damon) and I were on board for a year, and Gus Van Sant came in at Christmas. But there’s something really wonderful about having that group together on a project for so long. It almost feels a little more like regional theatre. You’re all on board together.
Q: Will it be difficult to be an actor-for-hire after this experience?
A: Yes, probably! I wish it wasn’t the case but it is. You get spoiled. You get really, really spoiled. I have a production company and the next time I do a movie, I really would like to help develop and foster it and bring it to where it needs to be, whether I’m in it or not. It’s just that idea of bringing a project from the beginning all the way to the screen is a really special experience. There’s something much more fulfilling than just showing up and punching in as an actor.
Q: How did you feel having a director translate your words? Did you feel precious about things?
A: It helps a lot when it’s Gus Van Sant! Gus Van Sant understood where we were coming from. He was incredibly understanding and incorporated us into the process. My part is a lot smaller than Matt’s (Damon), so I was behind the camera every single day with Gus (Van Sant) which was an incredible honour for me because I think he’s the best director around. He’s one of the best directors ever. So to learn from him and see what he was doing was incredible. He has this amazing way of being very confident and gentle. He understood our script right from the beginning. And the first thing we did for about a month was do a re-write for him. There were a couple of things that he wanted to re-write. So by the time we got to shooting, we were all on the same page. There was never an argument on the day of shooting. We were all having the same ideas, and that was thrilling. To me, to be in a Gus Van Sant movie, will be one of the greatest parts of my career.
Q: Where did the idea for Promised Land come from?
A: I had the idea about two years ago to do a movie about a small town under economic duress. It probably subconsciously came from my Dad. My Dad grew up in a small town just outside Pittsburgh. It was a steel mill town, so they had hit economic hard times. There was this idea of community that I think I probably was not brought up in, and certainly in this day and age, this idea of community is seemingly gone. This idea that people support each other and that there’s a group of people that care more about each other than themselves. It seems like the world is heading a lot more towards an individual experience. I wanted to write a story about that.
Q: Initially you explored the idea of wind-farms. So how did you settle on fracking as the issue at the core of the film?
A: I think I saw a 60 Minutes piece called ‘Shaleionaires’ – and I remember seeing that and then starting to read the New York Times. They had this amazing series called Drilling Down.
Q: It’s now a huge issue, of course…
A: Yeah, it is. Which is weird, because it’s been going on for a very long time. This process of ‘hydraulic fracturing’ is very controversial. The people who believe what they believe are very staunch supporters of whatever side they are on. To Matt (Damon) and I, it’s not one way or the other. The truth is, if it happens once or it happens twice, it’s happened, and it’s something that you have to pay attention to. To say that it will never happen again is misinformation… you can’t promise that anything will not happen again. It’s the bigger sense of not natural gas at all; it’s the bigger sense of what are we sacrificing in the long term for short term gain? Which again is something I think where the world has changed.
Q: In what way?
A: The version of the world that my Dad used to talk about – and maybe I’m just being overly positive – I remember the sense of community and the sense of being there for each other in a way that my Dad grew up. I truly believe that if someone said ‘I’ll give you $50,000 to do X, Y and Z, but it will hurt your community’, it was a no-brainer. You don’t accept that money. That opportunistic thing has become a big part of our reality now, that I don’t think it was before. And again, maybe I’m being overly positive but I think it’s true.
Q: How was it when Matt Damon dropped out as director?
A: It was just before Christmas, and Matt Damon called me and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ The reason why is because he was shooting this movie Elysium (2013), which ran over. It went a lot longer than it was supposed to, which meant he was going to be home for a lot shorter time and then go right back into prep for our movie, and on the other side, Liberace (1964) had moved up with their time frame. So he was going to be pinned into this very small window where he didn’t have a lot of wiggle room. Also he was really nervous to direct his first movie. He wanted it to be the only thing he was concerned about, and to have movies on either side was going to pressure him.
Q: So did Matt Damon leave you believing you would get a replacement?
A: He said, ‘We’re going to get somebody great!’ And I remember thinking ‘Yeah, right!’ and my wife was very nice. We went out to have a couple of drinks that nice to make it all feel better and we woke up to an e-mail from Matt Damon saying ‘I sent it to Gus Van Sant.’ Then he took off on a flight, landed two hours later and sent an e-mail saying ‘Gus (Van Sant) is in.’ He had read the script, loved it, and said ‘Yes’, all in two hours. Which was the best compliment we had ever gotten on the script, and that brought the movie into a whole other stratosphere. Like I said, the best thing he’s ever done as a producer is firing himself as a director.
Q: You’re about to finish the final season of The Office. How do you feel?
A: It’s insane! That’s ten years, including the pilot. I’m 33 – most of my twenties was that show. I was a waiter, so I was ‘plucked from obscurity’. So to me the ending of this show is not only a television experience, a working experience, my experience with Hollywood, it’s a full-on family. It’s an era of my life that will be ending. It’s given me everything. This isn’t one of those things where I can say ‘Yeah, The Office helped.’ It didn’t help. It changed my life! Every opportunity I’ve had in this business has started with the show. People knowing who I am started with the show, and at the end of the day I’ll probably be known for this show more than anything else, that’s a tremendous honour. So for me it’s going to be so much more emotional than the ending of a show. It’s going to be a re-definition of who I am. As exciting as it is, it’s also extremely terrifying.
Q: What will you do once it’s over? Do you have plans yet?
A: Now, with this production company, I want to do what I did with Promised Land and develop movies. So we have a bunch of things that we’re looking into that we’re trying to get and work on now, which will be great, because it will be a year-long process. It’s a really big deal and something I take as a great responsibility to develop. You are not just waiting as an actor for the next job, which is terrifying, but to actually be a part of it helps me a lot. But, no, I’m definitely going to take a break, at least for a little bit. Sadly, a break for me is two weeks. I can’t stay away for too long. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s because of where I’m from, but I am so bad about preparing emotionally for the end of something. Everyone on set just now has started to get very tearful and nostalgic. For some reason I just go on set and go ‘No, the end of the show is in three weeks.’ So I’m sure I will be hit by a bus of emotion on the last take of the show, and crying harder than anyone else. But until then it’s all totally fine.
Q: Would you like to work with Emily Blunt?
A: Oh, man. I would work with my wife in a heartbeat. The question is finding the right thing. She’s my hero in every single way, especially in life but also in her career. I think she makes some of the best choices, if not the best choices, I’ve seen. Her whole thing is about storytelling; I just want to tell the best story, so I get very excited to be around her and see her process. I’d be very intimidated…I’d be scared as hell to work with her. She’s that good. 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. I remember seeing My Summer of Love (2004) and thinking that was one of the best movies I had seen. So to work together, we’d love to do it. The problem is finding something where the story of two married people in the movie becomes bigger than the story of the movie itself. So we want to find something where the movie is more important than we are married and we are acting together. Especially developing for her. I have been looking a lot for movies that would be great for her that I may or may not be in but it would be something we could work together on.
Q: Are you looking to have children?
A: I’ve always wanted children. Emily (Blunt) and I will have kids for sure – we hope – but no time necessarily soon. But we both want kids for sure.
Q: Are you ‘green’ in the way you live your life?
A: Yes, I try to. Any opportunity you have to be responsible, we try to take that as much as we can.
Q: Going back to the film, can you talk about playing your character?
A: This character for me was that moment where you will get to take a step beyond what people see you as. But not such a step where all of a sudden I’m in the movie Half Nelson (2006) and I’m a heroin addict. It’s still in the realm of people understanding who you are, what you do and then changing a little bit. I do remember shooting that [twist] scene, though. You could see in the crew’s eyes that it was a big moment. Every day as a producer, people would be like ‘Are you ready?’ and they’d be cheerful. Then the day we were shooting that final scene, it as more like ‘Are you ready?’ [gruff voice] and everybody looked terrified, which made me terrified. You could feel that the movie was hanging in the balance with this scene. That was scary, but thank god for having Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant – it was a lot easier to do.
Win “Promsied Land” on DVD!
Co-written and starring Matt Damon (”The Bourne Series”, ”The Departed”) ”Promised Land” follows a big-time businessman as he struggles with his moral compass against a spirited local community fighting for what is rightfully theirs.
Iowa farm boy turned slick big-city businessman, Steve Butler (Damon), arrives in a small Midwestern town with his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) to buy farmland for their massive corporate employers. With potentially destructive environmental consequences, the pair are convinced money will trump all else when negotiating with the townspeople. However, unexpectedly fierce resistance from the town’s citizens force them to question their own motives.
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