John Krasinski's love letter to family and movies he adores

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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 2:11 PM
John Krasinski's love letter to family and movies he adores

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — John Krasinski is pretty sure some of his favorite movies wouldn't get made in today's Hollywood. Films like "The Verdict," ''Kramer vs. Kramer," ''Ordinary People" and other small dramas of that ilk seem to be even rarer and rarer in the ever-dwindling slate of studio films. Krasinski feels the absence both as an audience member and an actor.

"People feel defined by those movies," Krasinski said in a recent interview at a tony hotel just off the Sunset Strip. "Imagine if 'The Verdict' hadn't been made or whatever your favorite is!"

That's part of the reason he threw his weight behind "The Hollars ," an intimate portrait of a family brought together when the matriarch is hospitalized with a brain tumor, which he produced, directed and stars in. "The Hollars" has been doing the Festival circuit since premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and comes out Friday in limited release.

"It's not that those are the only stories that should be told, but in a landscape of huge budget movies you want to remember where we're from," he said.

For The Hollar family, that's literally a quaint suburban home in Ohio (although they shot in Mississippi). John (Krasinski), a struggling graphic designer living in New York with his very pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), hops on the first plane back to the Midwest when he hears about his mother's (Margo Martindale) tumor. There he gets wrapped up in the everyday dramas of life in close proximity to family, like his father's (Richard Jenkins) financial troubles and his brother's (Sharlto Copley) divorce.

It was a reunion, of sorts, for Krasinski and Martindale, who first crossed paths on a Marshall's commercial 17 years ago. It was Krasinski's first job ever.

"I knew he was special," Martindale says. "We talked all day and he was incredibly deep and smart and he was adorable and had charisma beyond. I said, 'If I had some money, I'd bet it all on you.'"

Krasinski remembers calling his mother after that day to tell her that Hollywood people aren't bad after all.

"I've been in love with her as a person ever since. As I've started to grow as an actor and understand what I'm doing, you realize that she is so exceptional at what she does," Krasinski said of Martindale. "Part of the reason I cast her is because I thought if I could be around her I'd get better."

The film marked Krasinski's second time in the director's chair. His first feature was an adaptation of David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men." It's an experience he chalks up to a time of blissful ignorance. His cinematographer, John Bailey, told him after they wrapped that there were land mines all around him.

"I went about directing purely out of my heart which was great, but the problem with (that) is if something stumbles, you're going to get obliterated," he said.

This time Krasinski went in with "both eyes open." He didn't want would-be disasters to be kept from him, which sometimes meant harried scrambling to figure out the next day. One day into shooting, for instance, Krasinski found out that the hospital they planned to use for a significant portion of filming was no longer going to let them shoot there. That night, he and his production designer hopped in the car and tried eight different hospitals before finding one that would allow them to film.

"If that had happened on 'Brief Interviews' I would have quit the business," he said.

Krasinski endeavored to create a homey environment during the shoot, where some of the production lived together in a rented home and others in close proximity in a Holiday Inn Express. Acting in the film also brought him closer to his cast, which turned out to be essential in creating a family that looked and felt authentic.

"It was this beautiful thing where it kind of felt like a play, or, as Margo said 'a home video' which I thought was interesting," he said. "Like we were a real family that someone was capturing."

The film also had a profound impact on Krasinski's life with his wife, actress Emily Blunt, and their two young daughters.

"It's one of the reasons Emily and I moved back to New York," he said. "Truly the experience of this movie and having kids at the same time all made me think I want to be closer to family. There is something bigger in this movie, bigger than all of us in it. We tried to make a movie that felt like your family is in there, like your life is in there."

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr