Image Credit: IMdB

Hollywood actor John Krasinski who wrote, directed, and produced the live-action fantasy comedy ‘IF’ says his movie is all celebration childhood imagination.

Krasinski, who also plays the main character’s father and voices “Marshmallow” in the movie out in UAE cinemas this week, spoke at length about how his kids and their unfettered imagination spurred him along.

And the actors? A-list all the way. Think Emily Blunt, Ryan Reynolds, George Clooney, and Steve Carell. Krasinski claims he has never heard so many actors saying yes without any hesitation.

"We believe that you can be a kid for the rest of your life and that we can play for the rest of our lives. I think that it was that message, and how important that they think it is, that meant they all jumped on," said Krasinski in a supplied interview. 

Excerpts from the supplied interview with Krasinski on his passion project,  collaborating with Hollywood heavyweights and more …

Tell us more about where the idea for this movie came from …

I had the idea about ten years ago. I knew I wanted to do something with imaginary friends, but wasn’t exactly sure what the take on that would be. And then, once I had kids, I started finding myself completely enamoured by this world that they can go to; how they are so specific in their ability to imagine things, whether it be a tea party or fighting dragons, or doing a dance party, or whatever. Whatever it is, it’s so real and so believable to them. And then, during the [Covid] pandemic, I started to watch their light kind of go out, as they started to let the real world in. They started asking questions like, ‘Are we going to be okay?’ And I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I need to make the movie. I need to write a love letter to them to tell them everything will be okay. That there’s always someone who has your back. That you can always go to that world of joy and happiness, even if you’re not having a great day. And what that led to was this bigger concept, which is: when is it in our life that we decide that childhood is gone and we accept this new version of ourselves? Do we ever change? Or are you never too old to be a kid? Whether that means listening to records you loved as a kid, or watching movies you loved, or hanging out with people you used to, or just choosing to have life be a little less stressful. This idea that we can change our lives every single day. And I think – I hope – that this movie inspires you to remember all those things that you used to love.

Ryan Reynolds IF
A still from 'IF', featuring John Krasinski and Cailey Fleming, out in UAE cinemas this week

All the IFs are amazing creations. Where did they all come from?

I came up with almost all the IFs when I was writing the script – because I didn’t trust myself to wait until down the road, thinking, ‘Who knows what these characters will be?’ I had to write Blue [Carell], Blossom [Phoebe Waller-Bridge] and Lewis [the late, great Louis Gossett Jr.] first because they were the three major characters who would interact most with my actors. Then, once I came to writing the interview sequence [in which Fleming’s Bea, Reynolds’ Calvin, and Lewis, interview a series of IFs], I thought, ‘This is where we can have some real fun.’ At that point, I started introducing things from my real life. In fact, both my daughters’ real imaginary friends are in the movie. Maya Rudolph’s pink Alligator is my seven-year-old’s imaginary friend. I asked her, ‘Where did you come up with that?’ And she said, ‘Oh, she lives under my bed.’ I said, ‘Isn’t that scary?’ She said, ‘No. She’s there to eat any bad guys who might come into my room.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s really good...’ And then my oldest daughter came up with Melting Marshmallow. That’s because she’s an incredibly empathetic person. We were making s’mores one day, and when the marshmallow caught fire, she had tears in her eyes. She said, ‘What happens to this marshmallow?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry. That’s just who he is now. He’s become this flaming marshmallow.’ And she thought that was great, so he became her imaginary friend.

Your daughters aren’t the only family members involved in this movie. Tell us about Emily’s [Blunt] input in the creation of Unicorn …

It’s funny because I had come up with the idea of Unicorn. We’d designed her and she was such a rad character – one of the first characters we had created. Before Emily played her, I don’t think I had in mind a personality that big, with that brassy laugh that Emily does. [Laughs] When she did that, Emily said, ‘I think I sound psychotic.’ But I thought it was great. And she had so much fun with it. It’s hard doing ADR because you really are conjuring up something entirely on your own. All of us actors on set, we have the set, the lights, the cameras – all these things that tell your brain you’re in a movie. But when you’re in an ADR booth by yourself, there are none of those things. So you basically think you’re insane.

John Krasinski and Cailey Fleming   IF
John Krasinski and Cailey Fleming in IF (2024) Image Credit: IMDB

Your cast for this film is basically ridiculous. How did you get them all?

Listen, I was so lucky. I know that I will never have a cast as good as this again. Also, working with your friends is the best part of the job, for sure. So, getting them to all say yes was huge. But the other thing for me was that I think they all really connected to the idea of the movie. Whether they had kids or didn’t, the idea behind this movie was also really why we all got into this business in the first place, which is because we believe in imagination. I’ve never had so many yeses in my whole career. I won’t again, that’s for sure.

Did anyone get competitive about which IF they were going to play?

No, I deliberately didn’t even let them know about the other IFs. I just sent them a picture and said, ‘Would you play this guy or this girl?’ It was great, because I let them all do what they wanted before I even told them what was happening in the movie. I let them do a voice that came purely from that character. And then, as we went down the road and more VFX came in, I was able to show them more of what the character looked like. Steve [Carell], for instance, the first time he did Blue, he had no real idea about him. I’d just shown him a drawing. And you could hear his voice change, the more we showed him the scenes. Like any actor, he started realising what he was doing in the scene, and it was magical to watch. You could just see that he got it. It was a blast.

When did George Clooney come into the mix?

George being in the movie is a very inside-baseball joke. I was with him one day and said, ‘I have this character who is going to be a spaceman…’ I had no idea if George would do it. The idea came on set one day, when Ryan pushes him [the spaceman character] into a room. When he did, he said, ‘Just get in there, Matt.’ And Matt is George’s character in Gravity. So I said to George, ‘Would you ever want to pretend that your character from Gravity actually ended up being someone’s imaginary friend?’ He thought that was a really funny idea. That’s how we got him.

You’re also a bit of a menace to Ryan in this because for one sequence you give him a horrendous mullet. How did he take that news?

He was great with it! [Laughs] His hair and make-up team did that whole look [for the ‘80s-inspired dance sequence set to Tina Turner’s Better Be Good To Me]. The idea was that as soon as Ryan’s Cal gets pushed onto the Tina Turner stage, he would be in the ‘80s. And he really went with it. In the script it just said, ‘He looks like he’s in the ‘80s.’ And that was what he and they came up with, so he was personally involved in that decision. Maybe secretly it’s a hairstyle that Ryan has always wanted to model.

What are your memories of Ryan walking onto set, sporting the mullet?

He just appeared – and everyone laughed. Luckily, Ryan Reynolds knows that that’s a good thing. Anyone else might have quit the business if they had 200 crew members laughing at them.

Ryan Reynolds IF
Ryan Reynolds in 'IF'

This movie was inspired by your daughters, but kids can also be the harshest critics. What notes did they have for you when they saw it?

It’s funny because they’ve been in the process from the very beginning. I showed them early sketches of the characters. I brought them to set and showed them around production design. They got to meet Cailey [Fleming] as soon as she was cast. So this has been an amazing experience for me because I’ve not only gotten to share this movie with them; I’ve also gotten to share moviemaking with them. For the first time – because, obviously, I didn’t share A Quiet Place with them! – they’ve gotten to see what I do. And why I love what I do. But, yes, to answer your question: I’ve never been more scared to have anyone watch a movie of mine, ever, than them watching this one. It’s actually extremely emotional. I put a lot of my heart and soul into this, so if they don’t like it, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The only two reviews I’m worried about are theirs. I hope it’s two tiny thumbs up.

Speaking of dynamic duos, Ryan Reynolds is also your producing partner on IF. How does that dynamic work?

The truth is, everybody knows Ryan is funny and wildly talented – as he very clearly is. And when you’re lucky enough to know him off camera, you realize he’s also got this deep well of being a very soulful, caring, sympathetic person. I thought that if I was lucky enough to get him in this movie, I’d be able to show the world even a fraction of that side of the guy that they don’t know as well as I do. And I got way more than I bargained for. His performance is unlike any other he’s ever given. It’s so special to be one of the first directors to get to show him off in that way. I’m really excited for people to see it.

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IF is out in UAE cinemas on May 17