John Krasinski Pushed to Cast a Deaf Actress for 'A Quiet Place'
The silent world of A Quiet Place was made more authentic thanks to a smart casting choice by actor-director John Krasinski.
Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) delivers a powerful performance as part of a family trying to survive in utter silence. Like her character Regan Abbott, the actress is deaf in real life.
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"We always had a deaf character in the script, but John really pushed for them to hire Millicent," says Quiet Place co-screenwriter Scott Beck. "She came to set and taught everyone sign language. It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film."
Beck penned the script with longtime friend Bryan Woods, and the duo share a credit with Krasinski.
"The kernel of the idea came to us when we were in college. We were making microbudget films and studying film history," recalls Woods, who has been best friends with Beck since sixth grade. "We fell in love with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and all the things that can be accomplished without sound. We wanted to do a modern-day silent film that lived in the suspense genre."
"After we landed on the concept, we had to define how people interacted in that world. How do you survive without sound?" says Woods. "The most important part of the film outside of its concept is the family and its issues. In our minds, the issues predate the monster event."
In the film, the family is dealing with the weight of a recent loss, while coping with the constraints of silence. Krasinski's character Lee attempts to build a device to aid his daughter's hearing while also soundproofing the barn in order to prepare for the upcoming birth of Evelyn's (Blunt) baby.
"Having a mother give birth in this scenario is the most dramatic thing imaginable. This is a world where silence is survival and noise is death," says Woods.
Evelyn's pregnancy could be interpreted by viewers as reckless, given that a moan or an infant's cry would draw the monsters to slaughter the entire family. But that's not how the writers see it.
"We explored a lot of ideas. One of the early ideas is that Emily's character was pregnant before the event happened, so they were stuck with the baby," says Woods. "The idea that the final film embraces is that this family is trying to find normalcy in a world that's turned upside down. They're trying to find hope."
Beck says that finding hope was key to the script.
"Movies like this can get really down and dark, so it's important to have your character believing in something," he says.
Assuming that the amount of silence in the film would make the chances of selling the duo's spec screenplay low, Beck and Woods devised a unique strategy.
"Scott was formerly a graphic designer, so he created images that we put inside the screenplay, to help realize our vision," says Woods. "We wanted the producers and the studios to understand that they were getting a cinematic experience like nothing they'd seen before. … For some pages, we'd just have a single word on them. It was a way for us to highlight the impact of sound and how loud the sound should feel. This film lives and dies by its sonic moments."
A Quiet Place is set in a rural small town with farms surrounded by forests. Having grown up in rural Iowa, Beck and Woods decided to build off their past.
"Bryan and I are well accustomed to corn fields, silos, barns and miles of farmland. We thought it would be the perfect setting for the film. It allowed for some really great set pieces," says Beck.
Beck and Woods have been making films since they were teenagers, often renting out a local Iowa cinema and having screenings for their friends and family. They would give out comment cards and keep track of their reviews.
"Everyone from Iowa was really nice with their comment cards, but I do remember a local film reviewer would sometimes cover our films. One headline I remember for our film Prism was something like, 'Prism Colors Bold, But Film Fades.' We were in high school, but that still stung," recalls Beck with a laugh.
He is enjoying the much more positive reviews for A Quiet Place. "As filmmakers, Bryan and I would rather have a big success or terrible failure than a mediocre film. Because you can always learn what's not working from a failure."
A Quiet Place is in theaters now.
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