Interview: John Krasinski of 'Promised Land'
'For kids, fire never goes out of style.'
With his easy smile and unforced likability, John Krasinski has gone from being a fan-favorite player in a well-received sitcom to a film star in his own right. In "Promised Land," he plays an ecological activist set against Matt Damon's oil-company advance man -- who sees his agenda get inextricably caught up in Damon's fate. We spoke with Krasinski in Los Angeles about physical comedy, the American dream and small-town values.
MSN Movies: You got to write this with Mr. Damon from the story by Dave Eggers. That's a pretty big gift. You're a fan of modern American fiction. You did the film "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men."
John Krasinski: Yes.
What was it like to have Dave Eggers' original story to write around?
Actually it was my idea. It was my idea that I came up with. And I actually brought it to Dave, and we worked on the characters together. He hadn't written the story. When I brought him the idea I was just trying to tell a story about American identity, and what I wanted to do was discuss something probably very similar to the way my dad grew up, which was in a small steel mill town just outside of Pittsburg. Just like any industry town, it had fallen on hard times. And my grandfather had multiple jobs, and my dad had very little. And I remember thinking, "So, your childhood must have been awful when we were kids." And he said, "No. It was fantastic. We had a strong sense of community, and we were there for each other. And there was faith that tomorrow was going to be a better day." And that idea of America is what I wanted to tell with this story. And when I brought that to Dave, these issues are very important to him, too. So we just started hashing out characters and story. And that basic structure is what I brought to Matt, and we started writing the script.
It's interesting because there's always that whole principle that everything looks a little bit better in the rear view mirror.
How exciting that is but also how kind of toxic. Is part of "Promised Land" ... obviously there's some surprises in it and startlements and interesting character changes we can't talk about ... but is part of "Promised Land" both the myth and the reality of small town American life?
Yeah, maybe. But I feel like that myth comes from something very real. I think that the idea of people coming together and making real decisions is something that I feel really is an important story to tell. I mean that idea of American that my dad was talking about I feel like we've moved so far away from, and in my opinion, we need to get back to. I think there's so much noise being made about who is to be elected. A lot of the times we forget about who's actually going to be affected by all these decisions. So that was the big thing, and then obviously when natural gas came into my periphery I started to realize that that would be the perfect backdrop to the story we were trying to tell because it's very much like high stakes poker. There's so much to gain and so much potentially to lose that these people are making a very real and very tough decision.
There's a great scene in the film where your character Mr. Noble demonstrate what fracking does to a group of schoolchildren…
…and does a very bad job in terms of physical comedy.
(Laughs) Yeah, exactly.
How hard is it to keep a straight when you're like badly demonstrating what fracking does?
Well I'm glad you said badly demonstrating 'cause that's sort of what we were getting at was it was supposed to be this sort of high drama, high melodrama version of how it's done.
Exactly. And that's the thing is he was doing it as a scare tactic for these kids hoping that they'd go home and tell their parents that obviously if we do natural gas our farms will light on fire. And so these scare tactics were things that we were going for, and obviously the element of truth of contaminating water sources are something he blew right threw. It went straight to having a dramatic effects on these kids.
Is it great to wake up in the morning for work and saying, "Today I get to pretend to frighten a group of small children"?
Yes. And I will say the coolest part was my bet was that the kids would have the best reaction to lighting a farm on fire, and they did. That whole when I light the farm on fire and everybody goes, "Ooh cool." It was awesome, and I felt like I would've said the same thing in fifth grade.
Fire never goes out of style for kids.
It never does, no.
For more on "Promised Land," check out our video interviews with the cast: