Cillian Murphy explains how the world expands for audiences in ‘A Quiet Place Part II’

Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Emmett (Cillian Murphy) in 'A Quiet Place Part II.'
Johnny Cournoyer

It’s safe to say that anticipations have been high for the second installment of John Krasinski’s horror film series surrounding one family trying to survive in a world where monsters roam and hunt through sound. ‘A Quiet Place’ premiered with rave reviews and huge numbers at the box office in 2018, and its predecessor is on the road to the same success—and for good reason.

“I just thought it was pure, cinematic experience, you know? I don’t like to go to the cinema when it’s entirely passive viewing… this was the opposite of that. You were engaged in the movie and the experience. Everyone in the cinema was invested in it so much,” says actor Cillian Murphy when referencing his first time seeing Krasinki’s heart-pounding thriller in theaters two years ago.

The seasoned Irish performer was so moved, he was planning to reach out to the ‘Office’ actor turned writer-director-actor on just how much he enjoyed it, but as he’s told in this story before, that email never was sent. Instead, something a bit more serendipitous occurred when Krasinski reached out to him instead to play a key role in ‘A Quiet Place Part II.’

With the original cast and crew, including Krasinski behind the lens, the results for Murphy were falling into place, especially after reading the script.

Emmett (Cillian Murphy) braves the unknown in “A Quiet Place Part II.”Johnny Cournoyer

“I really connected with the character [Emmett], I loved the journey that he went on,” Murphy explains. “It feels like he’s one man in the beginning, then he’s another man when they meet him at the steel works and then he’s another man at the end. You don’t get that too much with writing, characters remain the same. But he changes so much even physically over the course of the story, and I like that in a character because there’s a lot of meat and there’s a lot to get into. That was the appealing part of it character-wise.”

The second film in the series follows the Abbott family led by Emily Blunt’s Evelyn, her daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), eldest son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and newborn baby fleeing their family home after the events that took place at the end of the first film. In fact, as audiences remember, Krasinski’s Lee was killed just before the first movie ended in an attempt to save his two children, and it worked. Now with their farm and home invaded, the family flees to find a new sanctuary and to possibly find others… and they do. Murphy’s Emmett comes in as neither a hero or anti-hero—he’s a man trying to survive. After losing his own family, he’s become a shut-in finding solace and shelter in an old factory. But it’s not his first introduction to the Abbott’s. In a time before disaster struck he knew their family through normal circumstances, as shown in a flashback in the film, but just like the world, Emmett changes and continues to as well.

“It was simple for me—this was a man who was in grief, a man who is deeply swallowed by loss. His reaction to it is many people’s reaction to grief—to retreat and to isolate, and to just kind of keep existing,” explains Murphy. “It was the opposite of what the Abbotts were trying to do in the first movie, which was to constantly reach out to find others. People react differently to crisis, no one knows how they’re going to react. I think when he has family stolen away from him, he can’t function. He feels like the community has turned on him where the Abbotts are all about community. It’s really Millie’s character who changes him.”

Murphy’s character interacts the most with Simmonds’ Regan, who in the first film goes through her own transformation, and continues to do so in the second. “It’s really her film and her story, it’s how she changes everybody that she meets. She profoundly changes Emmett,” Murphy continues.

Pictured are, from left, Marcus (Noah Jupe), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt). Johnny Cournoyer

Krasinski has described what the first and second film mean to him through the lens of relationships, but Murphy also took his own meaning from both films.

“The first movie to me, was a film about family. This film is about community,” he explains. “[John] did a very clever, very elegant thing in the first movie—he started tiny. You’re just presented with a scenario and an event, they weren’t explained and you just have to deal with it and get on with it. I thought it was brilliant, because a lot of time is wasted in film explaining stuff to the audience, who don’t actually care. I think in the second movie, you get a little bit more of how they tend to be where they are. But again, not in a didactic or descriptive way. What he’s doing is he’s zooming out and making the world much bigger. It’s more exciting and more thrilling.”

The world does become larger, and you begin to peel back more layers as to what else is out there. The same context of focusing more on action rather than dialogue is still there, and it’s a part of the film that drove audiences into the first film intoxicatingly anyway—as it did for Murphy. The actor explains that he prefers work that conveys emotions or conversations through looks or movement, as it makes the work seem more intimate and real.

“I’ve never been a fan of very verbose or very heavy writing. [We got] to act with [our] whole body, which is rare. It was liberating,” says Murphy. “You just react instinctively, you don’t think about it. If you consider things too much in your performance, the audience can see it.”

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ takes Murphy’s character through an adventure he never wanted to go on. As a broken man and one who has gone through trauma, it’s really Regan and the family that begin to change how he handles the state of the world. It’s almost a poetic way to compare what has happened in the past year with a more outlandish story… but with the absurdity on the level of the monsters and the monsters only.

“I think why people respond to these sort of apocalyptic movies is because we’re always on the precipice of some sort of catastrophe. It feels like something bad is going to happen at any minute, and then in 2020 it actually happened. It was a worldwide event that affected all of us, and this movie talks about something that is entirely different, but there are residencies,” says Murphy. “But it’s done in a hopeful way. When John was writing it, he never knew or predicted, but good writing speaks to us. Always. That’s why good books sustain over years and good films sustain over years, because they help you… They have a universality and speak to the moment, even though they’re written many years before. Plus there’s just the entertainment there—it works on both levels.”

Director John Krasinski on the set of “A Quiet Place Part II.” Johnny Cournoyer

With that keen outlook on relationships, both familial and not, it’s fitting to once again be able to watch a film such as this on the big screen. It’s not just the cinematic aesthetic, but who’s there to see it that will help drive the universal ideology home.

“The sound is like another character in the movie, you need to see that in a room with other people,” says Murphy. “I feel now, if people feel safe themselves, then it’s a hopeful thing to go out and watch something—it’s good for us after this year of isolation and separation. It’s a good thing for us as humans to do that because I certainly can’t wait to go back to the cinema…I spent a lot of my formative years in the cinema and I can’t wait to go back.”

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ opens the world up even more for audiences. But will a third movie hopefully be announced with even more of an expansion?

“Why not? It’s a great story and these are great characters, and there’s so much left to be revealed… the origin of how this thing happened and what’s happening in the rest of the world,” says Murphy. “We don’t really know, but like I said, if you start small then you can tell pieces of the story as you go along.”

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ opens in theaters May 28.

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