by actor/director John Krasinski
The Hollars was one of those “greatest scripts never made” scenarios you hear about in Hollywood, having been written nearly ten years ago. I signed on as an actor about seven years ago, and I don’t know if I’ve ever said yes to something so quickly. The heart of this experience for me, both as an actor and a director, was the incredible script written by Jim Strouse. I was a longtime fan of Jim’s from the early scripts like Lonesome Jim through his written and directed ventures like Grace is Gone and The Winning Season. But this script was… well it was something special. Reading much like his piece de resistance, Jim led me through what I believe to be one of the most honest and real portrayals of family I have ever read. Let’s be honest, we have all seen a fair amount of family films. But, for me, a great majority of them disappoint when they feel disingenuous and, what’s worse, manipulative. Jim’s script navigates hairpin turns between emotion and comedy in ways that are not only near impossible to pull off, but as I've realized, are the key to mirroring the truth of real life. In Jim’s script you are laughing out loud in one moment and ugly crying in the next. Comedy bubbles up from places like stubbornness, misunderstanding and insecurity while heartbreaking drama seems to blindside you without warning… just as it might in life. So, several years after attaching as an actor, when the financier at that time called to tell me the familiar story that he could not get the movie made and asked if I would be interested in buying the script from him to direct, I didn’t hesitate. Once again, a decision credited 100% to Jim’s script. It was a story I thought had to be told. The true test would be… would anyone else agree?
My first acting job ever was in college. I was thrilled to be an extra in a Marshall’s commercial. I somehow got bumped up to “featured extra” which allowed me to interact on camera with the lead actor of the piece… one Margo Martindale. That day was my introduction to this one of a kind woman, who over the years has solidified herself as one of the best actors we have, period. So, seventeen years later, she was my first call. The reason being every indescribable flash behind her eye, twang in her voice and explosion of emotion you will see her display in this movie. There is no one like her and thus there is no more honest portrayal of a real mother. She is the heart of this movie… and the heart of this cast. I remember when I asked Richard Jenkins to play the father, he wrote me an email saying, “Yeah, I like the script. Get Margo Martindale and I’ll do it.” I wrote back “hahaha.” He wrote back “…I’m not kidding.” And so Margo brought me Richard. And when you have two of the best actors on the planet that elevate any movie with their class and professionalism, it becomes easier to convince people we have something special. Anna Kendrick signed on to play my character’s girlfriend and true north; Sharlto Copley, who made an indelible mark with his insane performance in District 9, to play my lost and searching brother; Charlie Day as the angry and insecure nurse; as well as the amazing Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Randall Park, Mary Kay Place and the very special Josh Groban.
Our band of merry misfits headed down to Jackson, Mississippi to shoot a small movie that always felt bigger. In attempting to paint a quintessential portrait of family, it certainly helped that we became one, without exaggeration. Through an experience that can only be compared to the sanctity of something like your childhood summer camp, we never wanted it to end. The result? Well, through the eruptive laughter and heave crying you may experience, the true magic trick of the movie happens at an indeterminate time. It’s the moment you realize, consciously or otherwise, that the fundamentally flawed and love-hindered family on the screen has seamlessly transformed into projections of your own family. It’s the moment you recognize, whether you can’t hold your family close enough or run far enough away… they’re the only family you’ve got. And that on your most loving or most frustrated day, there will always be an existential magnetism forever holding you closer to these people than anyone else you will ever meet. With any luck, that just may be the exact same pull you feel at the end of the movie.