One of the best films of the year so far is Sam Mendes’s serio-comedy “Away We Go.” Its star, John Krasinki, recently sat down to talk about the film and his future on the hit television series “The Office.”
Q: What was the coolest thing about playing with Maya Rudolph?
Krasinki: She is dangerously funny. I pray I am never driving with her because I honestly I will crash and die, no question. She is one of the most special people I’ve ever met in my life, to be honest, and what people don’t realize about someone like Maya, who is so incredibly funny, is that when you first meet her in any real setting is that she is really shy and she’s really understated in every way, in the most beautiful way. She has this ability and yet it’s not who she is. She is this incredible mom and incredibly friend, and I picked that up right away when we started working in rehearsals. I think we really became best friends before we even started shooting, just in the rehearsal period. We had known each other a little bit, but not spent any time together. But now, I will do any movie with her.
Q: Sam had cast you for a small part in “Jarhead” and said he was looking to you as Harrigan instead of as Jim from “The Office.” Are you comfortable that he didn’t have those prejudices about you?
Krasinki: Yeah. I mean, if he can take a guy with a shaved head holding an AK-47 be like “That guy can be in ‘Away We Go’,” then he’s got a better imagination than I do. I think the parallel between Jim and Burt is a little closer than the guy in “Jarhead.” Sam, on every level, I owe him so much. I think it’s really rare the way I got the role, it’s that way you would never believe and if you hear the story, it would never look right in print, but he gave me a call while I was on the set of “The Office,” and just said he got this new script and it’s really great and I can’t see anybody else doing it but you. And that’s one of those calls you’re like “Wait… What?” It’s not only surreal, but I was pretty sure George Clooney was outside the trailer ready to go “Boom! Your whole career is a facade.
It’s Sam’s #1 trait, and that’s confidence. Confidence in the most unbelievable way that never leans towards arrogance in any way, shape or form. It’s a confidence in being right. It’s a confidence in being wrong. And when he takes a chance on you, it’s because it’s all very well thought out. It’s the greatest compliment in the world for that reason, because you’re not only are you being asked to be a part of an incredible movie but also being asked to do it by him, and you know that hand picked by Sam means something totally different.
In my opinion, Sam Mendes is the greatest storytelling director we have. I really believe that. I think there’s so many great directors making so many great movies, but there’s something about Sam’s ability to create a relationship in such an intimate and specific way that very few people can do that. He realized, right from the beginning, this movie is nothing if you don’t care about the characters, which I think most people recognize in a lot of movies, but in this movie in particular, especially when our characters are almost like narrators, bringing out in a scene and out of a scene, so you have to be on our side but also be willing to let go to enjoy all these other characters. He knew right from the beginning that even if there was a scene that was hysterical, he always played it for heart. He always said “If people are going to laugh, it’s because they love you, and if they cry, it’s because they love you, so let’s just keep working on the relationship,” and in my opinion, this is one of the best relationships I’ve seen on screen. It sounds ridiculous because I’m a part of it. It’s one of those movies I’d tell my friends to see twice, but when you’re on the poster, it sort of hinders your ability to go see anything.
It’s completely surreal to be a part of the movie, to be a part of a relationship like this, when someone wrote such an honest relationship and an honest romance. Nobody’s jumping from one boat to another. Nobody’s losing the girl and getting the girl back. It’s just about two people who love each other so much that that’s their biggest problem.
Q: What made you fall in love with Burt?
Krasinki: Everything. When you read that script, it’s all done for you. Dave and Vendala did this amazing script and it’s pretty much done for you when they write it. They can create a world like nobody else. They’re so intricate in their writing, there was so much information on the page that I didn’t have go looking around for Burt. I’d be happy if he only existed on the page, because he’s that good. They kept saying things like “he’s just a little off,” and I love that because it’s not like he’s the odd guy. I think there is something that pushes the audience away from the odd character. If the character is funny and nothing else, then he’s not real.
One of the things I love about Burt is that he is wearing glasses throughout the entire movie, even when he’s sleeping, and that all came about on day one or two, when he shot the first scene, and I was so nervous I was going to gravitate towards anything that will get me in character. I had the glasses on, and in the first take, I popped out from under the sheets. Sam called cut and said “That’s ridiculous,” and I said “Yeah,” and he said, “So, keep it.” And it was just one of those little things that worked, and was odd without being so weird that you couldn’t understand it. The second time I did it was when we were in the hotel room and Burt was telling Verona how much he loved her when they’re in bed and I was still wearing the glasses, and by that point Sam was “Well, you can’t take them off now.”
Q: So it wasn’t a conscious decision to make it a quirk?
Krasinki: It just kind of happened, and it was cool. We discovered most everything together, instead of Sam saying, “Do this. Do this. Don’t do that. Wear that.” It was us making decisions and him saying they were good or bad decisions, which is all you can ever hope for from a director, who is that confident and secure in what he wants.
Q: “The Office” is a show that could go on forever. Are you prepared to make that kind of long-term commitment?
Krasinki: You make that long-term commitment with anything like “The Office.” It’s a real easy decision to make. If anyone asks me when I am going to leave the show to go into film, I say you don’t break away from “The Office.” It’s just the greatest thing to be a part of, and anyone who is lucky to be a part of it, especially me doing this part, being able to play comedy and play a little bit of real life, it’s awesome. If I can keep working on movies like this in my hiatus and having “The Office” as my day job to go back to, it’s a perfect world. I’m having a blast, and I’ve been lucky enough to work on movies like this, rather than movies that I’m ready to shoot myself in the face over because I have to break in to movies.
Q: Is there a temptation, when you’re taking a role on that isn’t Jim, so the people who see you as Jim will realize you’re a different character?
Krasinki: I think it really comes down to the performance. If I am good enough, people will see me as something different because that’s how I’ve always viewed people making the transition. At the end of the day, George Clooney was Dr. Ross, but people had no problem seeing him in “Three Kings,” and I hope that’s the case with me. But it was a little easier on this one, when Sam said to grow a beard and grow my hair out, and I think part of that was to get away from “The Office.” But I think there is something real about the Jim character. Nothing that I am doing, but the way they write it. It’s very real and it’s a real personality. I think it’s much harder to play the wacky neighbor in a sitcom. I hope that people will see me as whatever it is that I am doing, but if they only see me as Jim, that’s not a bad place to be.