A Brief Interview With John Krasinski
John Krasinski answers students' questions about his film, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
Students line up outside the Rose Hills Theatre to see Krasinski
Last fall at the Pomona College memorial service for novelist and Creative Writing Professor David Foster Wallace, a familiar face--for those who watch NBC on Thursday evenings--showed up to share his thoughts on the vastly influential writer.
John Krasinski, who portrays Jim Halpert on The Office, became captivated by Wallace’s transformative ideas and prose during his college years when he did a staged reading of the short story collection Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. He began writing the adaptation of the book early in his career and just recently completed the journey to bring this “unfilmable” work to the big screen.
On September 29, Krasinski returned to campus to give a semi-secret L.A.-area premiere of the film, which he also directed and produced. English Department Chair Kevin Dettmar had hatched the idea in light of Krasinski’s kind words at the memorial, and the event came together after Professor Kathleen Fitzpatrick recently appeared with Krasinski at a celebration of Infinite Summer, an online challenge to read Infinite Jest last summer.
Brief Interviews, the book, is a series of short vignettes that delve into the psyche of several men, particularly in respect to their relationships with women. Brief Interviews, the film, remains very true to the original work with much of the dialogue unchanged. One addition is the character of Sara (Julianne Nicholson), a graduate student conducting the interviews for her dissertation, which helps to weave together a narrative of the disparate stories. Some of the men we meet are Sarah’s interview subjects, while others are professors, students, a former lover and passersby.
His Own Interview
After the screening, Krasinski treated 200 students in the packed Rose Hills Theatre to a Q&A that covered everything from the film’s plot, editing, and Krasinki’s artistic influences to his favorite scene in the film, transitioning from actor to director, and the unusual techniques he employed in the film, which breaks the fourth wall and is fluid with time.
Krasinski was self-effacing, humorous and so impressed with the students’ questions that he jokingly asked Fitzpatrick if that she supplied the questions and told one student she was smarter than him.
He shared inside notes on the filming, like how his ensemble of actors (including Bobby Canavale, Chris Meloni and Timothy Hutton) were often not given the entire script, just their dialogue or monologues to perform during their one or two days of shooting. He said the film was originally supposed to have a more linear structure, but after three rounds of editing, it became a more fluid, time-shifting piece. He also mentioned the important mentorship of his cinematographer John Bailey, who helped the first-time director during the filming.
He said one of his biggest hopes for the film is that it will encourage people to read Wallace’s books. “If this is your gateway drug,” said Krasinski, “take it and pick up as many books as you can.”
He also recalled the single telephone conversation he had with Wallace, in which the author offered his blessing on the project:
“It was not only incredible [to receive his blessing,] it was essential to me” says Kasinski, who bought the rights to Brief Interviews with his paycheck from the pilot of The Office. “To know that you’re on the path of something that you believe in so deeply and to know that the guy leading the way for you is telling you that you’re doing the right thing is pretty mind-exploding.”