The Office‘s John Krasinski on His Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” width=”560″/>
If it weren’t for David Foster Wallace, John Krasinski might not be an actor — he credits a stage reading of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men for giving him the acting bug. And if it weren’t for The Office, there might not be a big screen adaptation of Wallace’s story. The actor — and now director — talks about the process of turning a book he loves into a movie.
Q: When you first read David Foster Wallace’s original stories, what about them made you think, “There’s a movie here”?
A: You’re right, on the page, there’s nothing that ties them together. Except, after you read them a bunch of times, you start having this assumption that it’s the same person doing the interviews, and then you wonder, “Who is it and why is she doing that?” So I thought maybe she was trying to find some sort of answer about the male condition, the male psyche, to understand the male thought process a little better. When I created Sara Quinn as the interviewer [played by Julianne Nicholson], the biggest thing I did in changing the book was to make her personally related to one of the guys. That was the big unlocking factor, that she was mixing an academic pursuit and a personal journey at the same time. This way, she’s allowed to ask these questions, and you see why she’s going for so much personal stuff.
Q: There are hints in the story, that she knows one guy — subject #20, the one you play — when he keeps breaking his monologue about the hippie chick who was raped.
A: I’m going to go out on a limb here — I think he’s the only
real “hideous” man of all the characters. Most of them aren’t hideous
at all. That’s the big thing about the book to me, that if you give
these men enough time to talk, they unravel. They start off being
protective, but they’re desperate to be seen, and they reveal their
pain, what they’re scared of. The only way to change is when you’re
interested in revealing and moving forward. But my guy, he refuses to
let her or anyone inside. He’s obviously the most intellectual of them,
and her equal — and he chooses to be combative.
Q: Dominic Cooper’s character comes off as combative at first, but he’s not really.
A: He seems like a dark character, and his thesis [that rape can
be good] is offensive. But then he reveals his story and the way he
acts, all his emotion is tied up in something. You can see that
he’s just really a scared kid. He can’t quite make sense of it all, and
we’re all guilty of that in one way or another. There are some things
in our lives that prevent us from being sensible.
Q: We never actually hear any of Sara’s questions, but at
the end of your character’s monologue, he says, “Ask it now,” and she
never does. Ask what?
A: I don’t know if I should reveal that! That’s one of the big unanswered things.
Q: He also says, “I knew she could save me,” so perhaps the question is, “From what?”
A: That’s the big dynamic of that interview. He has the gall to
be speaking about a girl who went through abuse and rape and still be
self-involved and relate it back to himself. So when he says, “I knew
she could save me,” that’s the best and worst line. He thinks because
of what she went through, she could save him. And from what? Her being
so open and strong is going to make him feel better about himself?
Q: You had a chance to discuss the movie with David Foster Wallace before he committed suicide.
A: We were a month away from shooting and just beginning
casting. When I told him how I had changed the script to center around
a woman who is either a psychology or anthropology grad student and
that’s her connection to these men, she’s interviewing them for her
thesis, he paused, and then he said that’s what he was trying to do in
the book. He wanted to write about a character that you never hear from
and never see, but by all the characters around her, you know who she
is. He never made the leap to have her have a personal connection, and
he said he was intrigued to see if that was the answer to make sense of
the whole thing. That was such a huge boost to me, in a way I can’t
even begin to describe.
I never had the directing bug. I wasn’t trying to be a
director or a writer. But the book is so good, and I wanted people to
know about this world that they were missing. It’s some of the best