Jonny Cournoyer/ Paramount Pictures
April 02, 2018 at 05:11 PM EDT

The leaves are just about to turn on a picturesque farm in Dutchess County, N.Y. It’s October 2017, and production of A Quiet Place is nearing its end. John Krasinski is on triple duty as writer, director, and star, but if the gregarious 38-year-old is feeling stressed, it doesn’t show as he teases the young actors who play his children — Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds — before settling back into his director’s chair. The mood is noticeably cheerful for any set, but particularly remarkable for this one: A Quiet Place — in theaters Friday — is a rather terrifying thriller about a family living in silence in order to survive a mysterious threat that hunts via sound. (Trust us, the less you know before seeing it, the better.)

“People are like, Why did you do a horror movie?” says Krasinski. “I didn’t. I chose to do a family movie that happens to be scary.” He and wife Emily Blunt had just had their second daughter when he read the spec script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. “I thought this story could be the greatest metaphor for parenthood — I mean, it’d be a terribly cheesy tagline: What would you really do for your kids?”

Rewriting the screenplay came easily — “I knew everything that I wanted to do in three hours” — and it was Blunt who first suggested he direct the film (his third after 2009’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and 2016’s The Hollars). After she read the completed script, Blunt told Krasinski he couldn’t let anyone but her play the role. “It is the greatest compliment of my entire career,” he says with a smile. The couple had always been interested, if slightly wary, about working together. Says Krasinski, “A few weeks before we started, it was like, uh, is this a good idea?”

Left to right: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott, John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, Emily Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott and Millicent Simmonds plays Regan Abbott in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.
Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

Well, we have our answer. A Quiet Place premiered on March 9 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and the audience went simply nuts for the thriller and for Blunt’s powerhouse performance. Last month the couple, comfortably seated together on a sofa in New York City, still seemed awed by the overwhelmingly positive early reviews. “All the seeds John planted — they didn’t miss anything,” says Blunt of the audience they sat in with. “The gasping, the laughing, the cheering — it was amazing. This is a surreal moment for sure.” She smiles. “The fact that we get to share it is wild.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Emily, what was it like the first time John directed you?
EMILY BLUNT: We were terrified the night before. You just don’t know, you know? How you like to work and how you apply yourself at work and you don’t know if those processes are going to crack heads sometimes. Which is not to say it was sunbeams and rainbows the whole time. [Laughs] But I just knew he had my best interests at heart, and I had his, and we realized just how aligned we really are creatively. It was eye-opening. It was so new to us, we hadn’t had that before. We discovered different sides to each other that go beyond us being a married couple.

JOHN KRASINSKI: I will say — and not just ’cause she’s sitting right here — that no one else could have done this part.

You told me on set that Rob Marshall — who just directed Emily in Mary Poppins Returns — predicted that you wouldn’t know just how good an actress Emily really is until you directed her yourself.
BLUNT: Oh, God. Rob is so sweet to me.

KRASINSKI: He was dead right. I’d forget she was my wife — which is hard to do — because she’s just that good. To let someone rip like that, and then they have the confidence to say, “What do you think we should do differently on the next take?” You’re like, “Is there a next take? That was so good.” I think it helped that we had so many discussions about character before shooting.

BLUNT: A lot of strange dinner conversations. Over a lot of whiskey. [Laughs] We obviously have our own secret language from the almost decade we’ve been together, but I will say we absolutely hit the jackpot with Noah and Millicent. They’re the most loving, giving, and prepared, soulful pair. Honestly, every night we’d go to bed and say, Thank God for those kids.

Jonny Cournoyer/ Paramount Pictures

KRASINSKI: It’s true. Everyone always says working with kids slows your day down. Not these kids. Not only are they incredible actors, but people, too. There were a lot of tears on the last days. Those kids bonded in a way I’ve never seen — they’re soul mates. At SXSW, I turned to watch them teasing each other in sign language.

You’ve said that casting an actress who is deaf for the part of the daughter — who is also deaf — was nonnegotiable.
KRASINSKI: Yes, and not just because they’d add texture and depth but because I needed a guide. Millicent was so open and kind, and watching her and her mother gave me a lot of inspiration.

So! Now that this experience has been such a success, don’t you want to work together again?
BLUNT: Uh, yeah. We really, really do. It would have to be the right thing, but if he would direct me, I could pop in. I don’t have to be the lead! [Laughs]

KRASINSKI: It’s definitely going to be hard to top this.

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