“A Quiet Place” executive producer Brad Fuller is still startled that the film had a $50 million opening weekend, taking the top box office spot from none other than Steven Spielberg. “Something magical just happened,” he told IndieWire during a Monday afternoon call. “The tracking on this movie was never very impressive until the last week…It felt anemic.”
When the post-apocalyptic thriller opened Friday, Fuller — who produced with his Platinum Dunes co-founders Michael Bay and Andrew Form — said all involved were expecting the movie to earn about $20 million to $25 million in the next three days, per estimates from Paramount. Yet Platinum Dunes titles, which range from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to “The Amityville Horror” and the soon-to-be four-part “Purge” franchise, have consistently bested ticket sales predictions.
“We have made a lot of these movies,” said Fuller. “Unless the movie’s a bomb, most of the time the tracking is not reflective of our audience.” The weekend total for “A Quiet Place” isn’t even a company-wide highpoint for Platinum Dunes: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” opened to more than $65 million in August 2014.
Fuller and his collaborators have yet to take next steps: “We didn’t know that there was going to be anything after this, so it’s a big jump,” he said. Screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck — who share their credit with director and script reviser John Krasinski — are already mulling a sequel, and Fuller is game (“I’d love to”). “We had a great relationship with John and Emily, and we want to continue working together,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “Listen, I’ll do whatever John wants. He’s incredibly talented, and now the world knows what we knew.”
In July 2016, Fuller remembers being “in the dating phase with John” while planning the upcoming Amazon series “Jack Ryan,” another Platinum Dunes production starring Krasinski (like “A Quiet Place,” its first trailer premiered during Super Bowl LII). “He was just so impressive in the way that he was talking about ‘Jack Ryan,’ and he’s a great guy,” recalled Fuller. “One day, we said to him, ‘You know, we’ve got this [spec] script in and there’s a role for the dad,'” thinking Krasinski could take on the role during his Amazon hiatus.
“He called us back a week later and he said, ‘I’ve got great news for you, I’m going to play the dad. And, I’m going to rewrite the script, and I’m going to direct it,'” Fuller remembered with a laugh. At that point, Krasinski had directed just two films, “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” and “The Hollars,” which earned a combined $1,000,035 in theaters.
“What I said is, ‘Let’s talk about what you want the movie to be,'” said Fuller. “He was so smart about the way that he described the story, and he was so smart about about the characters and their interactions, the dynamic between all of them, within an hour you think, Well maybe he can do this. And it becomes our job to go and sell the studio on that.”
Krasinski was integral to their sales pitch — “he came into the room and sold his vision” — and it didn’t hurt that “a bonafide huge movie star,” Emily Blunt, had agreed to play his wife onscreen and off (her fan-favorite final scene was scripted by Krasinski). Paramount, a studio that had recently greenlit Darren Aronofsky’s risky, divisive “mother!,” did not balk at the 67-page script for “A Quiet Place,” a film that features just two-and-a-half minutes of dialogue.
“When I look back on it, it’s an insane, insane thing for the studio to say yes to,” said Fuller. “I applaud them for having the courage to do it. Because it’s not an easy yes, but we got the yes, and thinking back on it, I don’t feel like we suffered so much to get it.”
Part of why Paramount agreed, Fuller believes, is that the studio “trusted us to make a movie with John because we worked with people who had not made other horror movies before.” Platinum Dunes — which revived a nixed name for one of Bay’s graduate student films — was created in late 2001 with the mission of “provid[ing] a place where first-time directors could make their movies” for studios.
Fuller and Bay had been Wesleyan University classmates. Their partner, Form, the former assistant to Jerry Bruckheimer, got to know Bay during the making of his early Bruckheimer-produced forays into features, “Bad Boys” and “The Rock.” Once Bay introduced Form and Fuller and proposed they start a company, “Drew and I sat down for about and hour, and we looked at each other, and we said, ‘This is probably the greatest opportunity we’re ever going to have, let’s not blow it,’” said Fuller. They celebrated over Coronas.
They did not set out to disrupt the horror genre. However, after assessing the cinematic landscape, Fuller said they decided, “If someone gave us $10 million, we could make a pretty great horror movie if we found the right shooter to shoot it and make it scary.” Budgeted at $9.5 million, Platinum Dunes’ 2003 debut, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” generated $107 million at the global box office, and more creepy storylines came their way. The company still prefers to make their films for less than $20 million apiece; “A Quiet Place” cost $17 million, a total that covered 35 days of shooting in rustic Pawling, New York, about 90 minutes north of Manhattan.
Krasinski studied spine-tingling classics like “Jaws,” “Alien,” and the cannon of Alfred Hitchcock before officially entering the genre himself. When the credits roll on “A Quiet Place,” seeing Michael Bay’s name is a jolt — Krasinski’s film feels far removed from Decepticons and Aerosmith ballads. “He never wants to squash the director’s vision,” said Fuller. “I think that Michael saw his responsibility as supporting [Krasinski].”
Each Platinum Dunes project requires a different amount of Bay’s attention. “Certainly on a ’Turtles’ film, Michael’s involvement [grew] — we need him so much more because it’s such a complex, huge thing,” said Fuller. “On a horror movie, that’s more what Drew and I spend most of our time doing, so Michael is a great sounding board when you have a cut, when you have a mix, when you have visual effects, those type of things.” The ticking terror that preys on the film’s unnamed family, and nicknamed “Happy” by its creators at Industrial Light & Magic, was made possible by a simple phone call; Bay had worked with the visual effects studio on the “Ninja Turtles” and “Transformers” film series.
But visitors to the set of “A Quiet Place” encountered very little of the guttural, mechanical clamor that has become synonymous with Michael Bay. No one even wore headsets. “In the beginning, people would just talk, because we weren’t rolling sound,” said Fuller. “It felt very intimate. Everyone was kind of connected, that there wasn’t anything isolating us.”
In the end, Fuller attributes the film’s success to two factors. “It is truly a cinematic experience, he said, referring to the sound— or lack of it — as a “character in the movie.” “The level of enjoyment increases by being around a group of people. The fear is palpable.” Plus, “In a world where there are a lot of franchise movies, an original story can stand out and find an audience, and we were very luckily the beneficiary of that.”