Emily Blunt was in a different place three years ago. That, of course, applies to most people. But back then, in the lush jungles of Hawaii and filming opposite Dwayne Johnson, she was a million miles from the hushed hell endured by the Abbott family in A Quiet Place, which was just becoming the surprise horror hit of 2018. She had no intention of going back.
The sentiment is understandable. In fact, it was initially shared by her husband, writer-director-actor John Krasinski, who, like his wife, was skeptical about the prospect of making a follow-up, even in our modern era of shared universes. But as Blunt told us when we sat down a year (and lifetime) ago in New York’s Dolby SoHo, once Krasinski gets a new idea, it’s the damnedest thing.
“I was the one who was even more steadfast about not coming back,” Blunt says. “There was that feeling of wanting to preserve the first one.” In the early days of the earlier film’s success, she said no, and Krasinski told Paramount Pictures to court other writers… and yet, that kernel of a vision persisted for Krasinski. One which he couldn’t shake until the day he shared it with Blunt.
“I remember him pitching me the opening,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Cool, I’m not going to be in the movie.’ And he was like, ‘Oh no, I know that.’” He then revealed the first scene is a flashback of the Abbott family before the events of A Quiet Place, enjoying a greater moment of peace than we’ve ever seen with them. The monsters then descend. Afterward, Blunt could only concede, “So I’m going to be in the movie.”
Titled A Quiet Place Part II—Blunt’s suggestion, since it feels as much like the next chapter as a standalone—the new film begins in earnest mere hours after the events of the last movie. Lee Abbott (Krasinski) is dead, and his family is left to wander the wilderness after strange aliens who lack sight (but have horrifyingly adept hearing) eviscerated their farm. Alone in the world, matriarch Evelyn (Blunt) has a newborn – who they must keep quiet at all times – in her arms and two young children to protect. But the oldest of them, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), has never been one to follow her parents’ path.
The idea that possessed Krasinski, to the point where, on a Hawaiian beach he persuaded Blunt to return, was always about Simmonds’s Regan: a resilient young woman who, like the actor portraying her, is hearing impaired.
“The first one is about the promise you make as a parent, that if you stick with me, I can keep you safe forever,” Kransinski says. “That’s a promise that I think all parents know will be broken. I realized when that promise is broken, that’s what growing up is… So if the first one is a love letter to my kids, then this is a weird letter to my kids about the dream that I have for them. I hope they’re this positive, I hope they’re this courageous, and they can go into the dark and light a candle.”
That image of a candle in the dark, and Regan becoming as brave (and stubborn) as her old man, is what gnawed at Krasinski.
“Undeniable” is how Blunt describes it. “I think it crept up on him. I think once an idea is that good, it clings to you and it’s very hard to shake.”
The approach also allowed Krasinski to more fully explore the totality of what the Abbotts lost. For instance, that first flashback scene he pitched to Blunt is partially an excuse to have Lee appear again in the movie, but it also underscores the feeling of an idyllic past life robbed by a global tragedy. Opening on a baseball field, the family watches Marcus (Noah Jupe) play Little League, and the viewer immediately senses paradise will soon be lost.
“In the opening of the movie, there’re even visuals that I wanted to feel like the sense [you get from] Jaws,” Krasinski says. “Being on the beach [is like] when we’re at the baseball game. Storytelling-wise, what I learned from it is simplicity.”
When we spoke to the pair, as well as with other members of the A Quiet Place Part II cast, it was early March 2020. The full reality of the pandemic had yet to set in, but by virtue of no one shaking hands during the interviews, the significance of the real-life horror was already inescapable. Perhaps, then, the movie’s delayed theatrical release to May 2021 is serendipitous, as Krasinski’s vision for the future is both humanist and optimistic, in spite of its dystopia. Cillian Murphy, who plays an enigmatic stranger who crosses the Abbotts’ path, certainly thinks so.
“The film does delicately explore those themes,” Murphy says. “But these kinds of things have been happening since time immemorial. How do societies react to crises? How do individuals react? Do they retreat or do you offer a hand? I think with my character, he starts at one place in the movie and he ends up at another place without it being heavy-handed or didactic. I think the subtext exists.”
Blunt would agree with the sentiment.
“I find this a terribly human film,” she contends. “Yes, the creatures are awful and terrifying… but they’re there to offer a backdrop for how humanity withstands. So that’s what I adore about it. You see a fractured community, you see what is shutdown, but then you see the rebirth and the awakening. Ultimately, human beings want to feel a sense of togetherness.”
Hopefully that includes in the dark of a movie theater.
A Quiet Place Part II opens in theaters on May 28.