If there were a camera filming him right now, John Krasinski would be looking directly into it.
Checking his phone in the back of a car in L.A. and finding his name trending on Twitter, he’d turn and break the fourth wall — like he did as Jim Halpert so many times on NBC’s The Office — to give us that patented “You seeing this?” look.
Apparently, Krasinski learns, he has been cast as the new Peter Parker. Or so say headlines that have been popping up all day, claiming he’ll be playing an older Spidey — or voicing him, anyway — in the upcoming animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Except that he won’t. It’s fake news.
“How did I lose a job I didn’t even know I was up for?” Krasinski wonders. “What happened?”
He isn’t dwelling on it, though. After all, he’s about to go film an episode of Ellen, and Ellen requires focus. She’ll be asking him questions about his A-list movie-star wife Emily Blunt, his new movie A Quiet Place (which he directed and co-stars in alongside her), their two daughters Hazel and Violet, and his beard. Then Ellen will try to scare him with a man jumping out of a box.
That’s a lot of attention for one day. Especially for Krasinski, who, despite being famous, is a pretty normal dude. The public eye, and all its privacy-obliterating byproducts, can feel a bit much to him. It’s obvious his mind is already at home with his family in, yeah, their quiet place.
Even before talking to Krasinski, you expect him to be a relatable, chill guy. Probably because you watched him play a relatable, chill guy on a mega-popular mockumentary sitcom for a decade. He’s Jim Halpert, The Office’s nice, sane audience stand-in. And yet, if the entertainment industry is a dysfunctional mid-cap corporation, then Krasinski is up for a massive promotion. At 38, he’s on the precipice of becoming Hollywood’s next big action hero. You can see him whooping supernatural monster ass in the Michael Bay–produced A Quiet Place, and this summer he’ll be taking down terrorists as everyone’s favourite Tom Clancy character in Amazon Prime Video’s Jack Ryan series.
He’s on his way to achieving Chris status — that is, to being the sort of strapping leading man who gets his own (non-animated) superhero franchise nowadays (see: Hemsworth, Evans, Pratt, Pine). He’s even got a shredded new Chris body to boot.
But he’s not there yet. For John to truly become a Chris, here’s what needs to happen: a) You’ll have to stop thinking of him as a Jim, b) I’ll have to quit it with the Office references, and c) He’ll have to get used to this whole fame thing.
Of course, that’s if he even wants the job in the first place.
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It’s only weird,” says Krasinski. I’ve just asked if being one half of a so-called Hollywood power couple, and the spotlight that comes with it, ever feels awkward. “I mean, it’s a weird thing to have people follow you and know your every move. It’s obviously part of the equation; it’s something that you have to live with. But, bizarrely, I’m a pretty shy person. So to grow up in Boston being timid and then, all of a sudden, to have people know where you had lunch, and with who, is really strange.”
This checks out. Krasinski’s ascent to fame was pretty fast by usual Hollywood origin story standards. After graduating as an honours playwright from Brown in 2001, he thought he’d move to New York to take a gamble on acting. It was only a couple years of waiting tables before he landed the role of Jim on The Office. (Word is the casting directors wanted him to audition for Dwight, but he insisted on reading for Jim, because duh, that’s clearly him.) He was floored.
Then, just a few years later, he’d somehow find himself dating Emily Blunt. The two met through a mutual friend in 2008 and hit it off, despite the fact that Krasinski was a (strangely) big The Devil Wears Prada fanboy at the time. “Before I had to adjust to more attention [from paparazzi], I had to adjust to the fact that I was going out on a date with Emily Blunt,” he recalls. “I was just as starstruck as anybody would be. It felt like I had won a radio contest or something. I spent the first three months wondering how this was even real.”
“‘The Office’ gave me my entire life and career, and I just don’t want to squander it. So instead of relying on doing the same thing over and over, I want to try something new.”
These days, Krasinski regularly finds himself going on double dates with the likes of the Clooneys. And every time he does, shutterbugs are inexorably in tow, looking to sell Popsugar the latest #relationshipgoals shot of him and Blunt in public. It all feels pretty batshit for him because, deep down, he’s still a shy guy from Massachusetts. An Average Jim.
Sure, maybe starring in a movie with your wife isn’t the best way of drawing less heat to your relationship — more on that later — but Krasinski’s just trying to make the most of his lottery-ticket life. “I try to keep up with how much cooler all my friends are,” he says. “The Office gave me my entire life and career, and I just want to make sure I earned it. I don’t want to squander it. So instead of relying on doing the same thing over and over, I want to try something new.”
There’s a parallel universe out there where Krasinski is Captain America. Back in 2010, he made the shortlist to play the patriotic Marvel superhero. The story goes that just as he was stepping into the costume for his screen test, a godlike Chris Hemsworth happened to walk by in full Thor regalia. That’s when reality smacked Krasinski like a star-spangled shield to the forehead. This is stupid, he thought. That’s okay. I’m not Captain America.
Today, Krasinski has no hard feelings toward any of the Chrises. “People ask, ‘Man, were you bummed when Chris Evans got it?’ And I go, Look at him! He’s Captain America. Of course he got that role!” he says. Not that he still wouldn’t jump at the chance to don a Kevlar suit. “I don’t know who’s left, but if there’s anybody, I’d love to play a superhero. It would be a blast.”
Let’s address the obvious: we’ve seen this narrative already, this whole unassuming-funnyman-goes-Schwarzenegger thing. The industry term for it is “pulling a Pratt,” and it seems like the most obvious roadmap for Krasinski to stick to if he hopes to be Chris-ened. Like Krasinski, Chris Pratt first gained notoriety as a goofy, aw-shucks character on an NBC sitcom, the modelled-after-The-Office hit Parks and Recreation. Then he opted for a hard rebrand, signing on to play a Navy SEAL in Zero Dark Thirty, getting jacked and, eventually, becoming the box office dynamo he is today (read: a bona fide Chris).
So far, it seems Krasinski is on the right trajectory. He’s buffed up — dropping from twenty-five to just nine per cent body fat — and starred in his own Zero Dark Thirty, 2016’s Bay-helmed 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Tasked with defending the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya from Islamic terrorists, Krasinski’s military contractor is convincingly conflicted. One moment he’s crying, fearful of leaving his daughters back home dadless, the next he’s standing heroic amid a Bay-gasm of gunfire. It’s the kind of performance that proves Krasinski can carry a blockbuster.
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Soon you’ll see him as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who always ends up in gunfights. Yes, this all seems like a lot of military-industrial-entertainment-complex agitprop, but Krasinski’s a little more nuanced than the pro-Reagan action heroes of yore. (We’re looking at you, Stallone.) “There are a lot of voices speaking very loudly today,” he says. “And what we have to do right now is listen. I’ve never believed in a one-sided country or a one-sided party. There’s never one side to any story. So I take every issue, every candidate as they come. It’s about understanding. I try to always be what the situation needs.”
There’s that good-guy charm again. It’s hard to unsee him as your best cubicle buddy (though the beard helps), largely because he possesses many of those same qualities IRL. What’s more, he turns right into the skid: “I feel incredibly lucky to be seen as such a nice guy,” he insists.
But maybe he’s onto something. This is, after all, the age of the Everyman Action Hero. The Mr. Universe–sized ideals of masculinity that dominated movies in the ’80s and ’90s are long gone (with the exception of The Rock), replaced by relatable dudes with actual personalities and just enough muscle to look imposing. Guys like Pratt and Paul Rudd and Ryan Reynolds (and, before them, Will Smith, Bruce Willis, and Nicolas Cage), who are funny and fallible and possess that have-a-beer-with-me geniality. Krasinski may be the most actualized version yet: America’s new most accessible tough guy.
Now imagine, if you even can, having the stupid luck of marrying your favourite movie star. You’d think your prime objective in life, moving forward, would be to not fuck this up.
Starring in a movie with her and directing it? That seems like a surefire way of fucking it up. History’s proven the Hollywood couple vanity project to be a tremendously bad idea. Schadenfreude-hungry audiences always want these movies to fail, which they often do, which then becomes relationship cyanide. Jersey Girl is about as memorable as Bennifer. And from By the Sea, it’s a short ride to #brangelexit.
“I was in early-days-of-parenting, terrified mode. I was a wide-open nerve, so the script hit me right between the eyes. I started thinking about what I would do to protect my kids.”
“Oh my God. I was so nervous,” admits Krasinski about directing Blunt in A Quiet Place. “Being married to someone who you admire that much, you just want to do right by them.” To be fair, it was her crazy idea. They were both moved by the script, which Krasinski received as a spec (and would eventually rewrite, using that Ivy League degree of his) shortly after the birth of their second daughter. “I was in early-days-of-parenting, terrified mode. I was a wide-open nerve, so it hit me right between the eyes. I started thinking about what I would do to protect my kids.”
A Quiet Place follows a family forced to live in perpetually silent fear of a sound-sensitive evil. It’s dialogue-free, the characters communicating via sign language. Krasinski, who’s directed before (The Hollars, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men), plays with our imaginations by refusing to show what’s causing the terror. “We’re trying not to be helicopter parents,” he offers, “but any parent will tell you the thoughts in your head are always scarier than what goes on in the daily world. So you try to prepare for everything.”
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There’s probably a connection to be made between the eavesdropping monsters and the paparazzi. The point is, what matters most to Krasinski, even more than his Chris-ening, is his family. While other celebrity couples mug for the cameras (see: Kimye), he and Blunt (Krunt?) are good just hanging at home. “We feel like normal parents, just trying to not screw this whole thing up,” says Krasinski. “You hope to be a better person for them. It’s about raising your game, and there’s fear in that, because when you fail as a parent you’ll never live that down.” So he’s stepping things up, in every way.
In 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Chris Pine (another Chris!) portrayed the CIA agent like a smouldering Jason Bourne. Krasinski’s iteration will come equipped with weapons we’ve never before seen in the spy’s arsenal: zingers. Showrunner Carlton Cuse wanted to allow the actor’s particular brand of charming, smartass humour to shine through. “If I was whisked away to a CIA black site, I would probably make a joke out of nervous energy,” says Krasinski. Besides, who wants a self-serious protagonist these days? “The ass-kicking superheroes of the past who never cried or smiled felt fictitious. A guy who can crack a joke feels more real to people.”
That last part is important. Whereas the A-listers of yesteryear just had to look good on-screen, this social media age demands that celebs actually be decent, likable, real people (i.e. The Rock). Brando wouldn’t last a day in 2018.
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All of which is to say that Krasinski is the ideal leading man for today’s Hollywood. Humble as hell, puts his family first, and unafraid to take a backseat to his lady. Just as comfortable behind the camera as he is in front of it. He’s a nice guy, and he’s alright with that, because he’s secure enough not to care about finishing first — even though he usually does.
What’s more, he knows what it means to be a good man at this very moment. “I hope the idea of masculinity is always changing,” he says. “Above power and sex appeal and confidence, what I look up to most is understanding and figuring out ways to deal with an ever-changing environment. You’ve got to be ever-changing too, constantly wanting to be better, constantly rising to the challenge of a new day.”
And if that definition is always shifting, then Krasinski may just represent the next evolution of male lead. He’s a bit too ordinary to be a Chris, but a bit too powerful to be a Jim. What he truly is, then, is a John. (Okay, that one could use some work.) And he’s exactly the hero we need right now.
Just don’t expect him to keep making eye contact with us. “I’ve outgrown looking into the camera,” he laughs. “I can’t just do that for every movie. Though fun, it’s very unprofessional.”