As I’ve stated many times, The Office is probably my favorite show on television, not just because it makes me laugh, but also because the writers do such a phenomenal job making the audience feel like they are really getting a peek into these characters’ lives. They don’t feel like blown up caricatures, they feel like real people. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer keep Jim and Pam true to life, and have the incredible ability to make you invested in their characters and their relationship. Krasinski not only directs his first feature, he also wrote and stars in it. Titled “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” it is based on a book of short stories by David Foster Wallace. He spent his first Office paycheck to buy the rights to this film, and a staged reading in college was what made him decide to become an actor. I recently attended a screening of the film, and got the chance to interview Krasinski after to ask him about his passion project, and of course, a few questions about The Office. Read on to find out an EXCLUSIVE Office scoop that he gave just to The TV Chick!
I asked him why this book of short stories resonated with him so much:
“I did a reading of it in college–a staged reading. I think that there are few authors that write the way that David wrote. I think that his perspective and view of the world is so specific and unique that he forces you to take in what he’s saying. Whether you like it or not, it forces you–it’s like a weird, incredible talent that he had to allow you to bring the material in and decide how you felt about it. And he always challenged you to look at these characters or anything that he was writing in a few degrees differently, before you made any decisions. So for me, being a junior in college, this was sort of an epic, existentialist [thing] to be like oh my God, look at the world in a different way, this is amazing. Sort of brass tacks later on, but it was a good start.
For those who haven’t seen the movie yet (you really should!), Sarah is the narrator. I asked him if it was his goal to create such an objective narrator.
“Absolutely. I think that was the way it was presented in the book. I think the power of the book is what you get from it, so I didn’t want to tell my audience what to feel. I wanted to give them the experience as if it were documentary-esque. It’s absolutely not a documentary but I wanted it to be deliberate as if people were just seeing it.”
David Foster Wallace is an incredibly complex writer. I wanted to know how hard it was to adapt his work into film.
“This book, in particular, because it was written as dialogue was a lot easier. The first big challenge was editing down the material without losing any of the impact. Hopefully, we did that but the cerebral side of everything is kind of what makes him special. So I tried not to take it all out. This book in particular was presented as immediately it’s some of the best acting material I had ever read. Hopefully the actors felt the same way. It’s so incredibly complex and it has the perspective of the world that only this author has been able to achieve, in my opinion. I pray for the people who are trying to do Infinite Jest and by the way, that’s still going on…that toil. But to me that was one of the things that was very intimidating about doing a movie was I knew how big of a film fan he was. And trust me, I was incredibly tempted to go do some crazy David Lynch shots. At the end of the day, you realize that you are such a fan of his…like I was…that the words are going to do the work for you. “
Shifting from actor to director is a big change, but Krasinski said that he had amazing actors to work with.
“It became incredibly obvious right away that I should just sit back and shut up. So anytime that there were slight adjustments, it was really fun to be able to talk to them without saying think about your parents and what you’re going through. They were like do I need to turn this way, or this way. I would say the left would be great. And that was all we needed to do.”
Krasinski’s passion shines through in the entire movie and he was even able to speak to David Foster Wallace before his death to get his blessing to make the movie.
“It was really scary, because I think [there] are liberties that you are taking. I wanted to be as close to the book as I could, and when you start taking any liberties, it’s terrifying. But we had a phone conversation, when he gave me his blessing to do this, which was thrilling. And one of the things he said that was so great was that it’s completely surreal that someone’s making a movie out of my book because books are supposed to be written, and then they go on a shelf. That’s what they do. The fact that it’s going beyond that is very weird, and I’m not really sure I’m going to see your movie. I just wanted to say that right up front. And I was like “got it.”
In true Jim Halpert form, he even made fun of himself: “Dealing with the actor was the hardest part. Total diva. Once we got all red M&M’s in his trailer, he came out.”
And interestingly enough, he wasn’t even supposed to play a part in the film.
“I was going to do the really cool thing and not be in the movie at all. And if it went poorly, be like “It’s all the actors’ fault.” We actually had a scheduling conflict, we were about 2 weeks away from shooting that scene, and I think the only thing on my resume that made me above the other actors, is that I had read the book 100 times. So people were like “okay, well we’re not going to explain this whole thing to someone, maybe you should just go do it.” And it was the scariest thing I have ever done, truly, acting wise. I was really scared, and I hope I did people justice.”
After this experience of writing and directing a feature film, I had to ask if he could see himself writing or directing an episode of The Office.
“I think I am directing one this year. Fingers crossed. You just got the scoop! I haven’t told anyone yet.”
And being The Office fan that I am, I had to ask about what to expect for Jim in the new season.
“The wedding coming up I think is one of the most terrifying episodes to hear about, and then you see the writers and what they did with it, and I think honestly it will be one of our greatest episodes. It’s one of those things where I think we all start getting–we all got really choked up shooting the scenes that we were doing for the wedding — we had sort of –a little bit of a walk down memory lane in different ways seeing all the characters and what they’ve meant to these characters. And then you realize that you’ve actually been on the air for almost six years. It’s mind-numbing. So it’s a real celebration for Office fans who have been watching for a while. And even if you haven’t, it’s just a really great episode.”
“Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” is out at the IFC theaters in New York and Los Angeles. But it is also available to everyone who subscribes to IFC on Demand. This is truly a wonderful, intense, thought-provoking movie that you s
The Office continues its 6th season on Thursdays at 9pm on NBC. Look out for Krasinksi’s directorial debut!