The Hollars, a tender feature about ungratified graphic novelist and expectant father John Hollar (John Krasinski), forced home to support his dysfunctional family after his mother (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a deadly illness, was itself in danger of dying after writer James C. Strouse lost monetary backing in 2014.
Fortunately, John Krasinksi (The Office, Away We Go, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi), who had already signed on to star in 2010, believed in the film and decided to do everything in his power to save it, even if it meant assuming financial responsibility and directing it himself.
SF Weekly hollered at Krasinski about getting back into the director’s seat, how fatherhood has changed him and why The Hollars still brings tears to his eyes.
Why was The Hollars a movie worth saving?
I signed on six to seven years ago as an actor. Jim Strouse, the writer, was actually going to direct. I don’t think I’ve ever signed on to anything faster. I loved what it was saying and how I related my own family to it. Then four years later, after the financier said he couldn’t get the movie made, Jim asked me if I’d buy the script outright and take it on myself.
Honestly I’d never made a financial commitment like that before and there was no reason for me to have done that other than there was no question that I had to do it on this film because I believed so much in the script.
When you’re investing time and money in a project like Lip Sync Battle or The Hollars, do you consider your decision more carefully, now that you have a family with Emily Blunt?
Yeah, 100 percent. Everything changes now. I make every decision based on my family. But I think investing emotionally in stuff like this has been a lot more exciting because once I had a family, it was a whole new experience then when I signed on as an actor and thought it was a good script.
The time I went on to direct, my first daughter was four-and-a-half months old, so the movie impacted me in a whole new way. Not only as the guy who understands being on the doorstep of having a family but more importantly the ties to parents and brothers and the idea of coming from a family name. Big things like that I hadn’t really thought of. Having a child puts you in a whole new perspective of that.
Now that you’ve directed two movies, starting with 2009’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, what appeals to you about the directing process?
Everything appeals to me about it. I think it’s a terrifying position to be in, to be at the helm, which makes it very invigorating. And it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.
I’m such a huge fan of movies and directors that I know that there isn’t just a guaranteed transition. To me, the only reason I’d direct a film is because there’s something there that I feel like I connect to and have a take on that no one else does. If I don’t have that, let it be one of the other hundreds of amazing, talented directors doing it. For me, once I make the decision to do it, I’m willing to take on all that stress and all that crazy decision making of helming something.
This one was particularly easy because it just felt special. It’s sort of its own litmus test. When something is this funny and emotional, you know when you’re getting it right or not. One of the benefits of being an actor in the movie is being able to tell right then and there in the scene if I thought it was funny or emotional. So I didn’t have to go back and review a lot of tape.
Are there any scenes in the film that make you cry?
Yeah, I would hope that they’re the same scenes that everyone gets emotional watching. I don’t necessarily cry at the same scenes each time, although I still cry every time I watch the movie. I don’t cry at those scenes because of what we shot. I cry because I still believe wholeheartedly that Margo is going through this onscreen, in front of me, for me, and we’re just lucky to have performances like that because it helps us connect.
You’ve said that you can relate to the expectant dad aspect of your character in the film. But have you also personally been touched by cancer?
I certainly have had family members and friends who have dealt with it and also have been involved with a whole lot of charities. One that I was involved with last year was Family Reach, which is an incredibly important charity organization, which helps fund families that are dealing with cancer with direct contributions toward their bills. So through those experiences I have met people who have not made it and people who have survived a guaranteed death sentence. I’ve been lucky to meet the strongest, most gracious people you’ve ever met going through the hardest thing.
The last time I interviewed you was in 2009 when you were promoting Sam Mendes’ Away We Go. How would you say you’ve changed since then?
I certainly have had many more experiences. Since then I’ve been married, had two kids, so a lot has changed. Also, leaving The Office. I always say that show has been the most special thing I do because it created everything else. It led financially and career wise to an opportunity that I think of as a fantasy camp. It’s not real life, and I think I’m lucky to be in that position. But my way of dealing with it is don’t squander the opportunity. Be a part of new things. Try different things. Don’t just get complacent.
This script had been around for 10 years, so to actually have any part of getting a script like this made and bringing it to light is something that I take as a true honor.