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A Quiet Place Part II stars say Millicent Simmonds is the horror sequel's real hero
How do you make a follow-up to one of the most scintillating standalone horror films of the new millennium? Once A Quiet Place became a critically heralded box office smash, John Krasinski, who co-wrote, directed, and starred in the film, faced this daunting task. Awed by the resilience and terror rung from a tale of monsters who hunt down sound, audiences craved more time with the loving Abbott family, who’d survived this scary scenario with patience, teamwork, and sacrifice. Still, Krasinski had a major challenge ahead of him in creating A Quiet Place Part II.
Last year, ahead of the film’s initial, pre-pandemic 2020 release date, Krasinski and his co-stars Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds sat down with SYFY WIRE to discuss how this superb sequel carries on the legacy of its acclaimed predecessor.
“Obviously, people's biggest concerns with sequels are that it's just a cash grab from the studio. It’s a blockbuster movie,” Krasinski said, noting that this perception was why he’d initially rejected the idea outright. “I said, ‘No. I wouldn't do it.’”
Then, an epiphany hit. Krasinski, who is the sole screenwriter on the sequel, found the seed he needed to grow a new branch of the Abbott family’s story.
“What happened was I really started thinking about this one small idea,” Krasinski explained, “Which is about the kids in the movie, and about how [a sequel might] continue the metaphor of the first movie. The first movie is about parenthood and the promise you make to your kids: If you stay close to us, we can keep you safe forever. That promise is inevitably going to be broken by every parent. That’s what growing up is. I think that's what adolescence is. And so that's what this movie was for me. And that was my way in, an organic family roots kind of vibe.”
In A Quiet Place Part II, this idea blossoms with the evolution of Krasinski’s onscreen daughter, Regan Abbott, played by Simmonds. In the first film, Regan is a brave and intelligent girl, although her father fears she is at greater risk in this monster-infested world because she is deaf. Though she can’t hear these critters coming, Regan proves to be a force to reckon with. In the sequel, she boldly steps outside the relative safety of her family’s farm — and her parents’ protection — to a realm of unknown dangers.
On this path, Simmonds goes from supporting player to leading lady, which came with some terror of its own. “It was actually kind of stressful to take on the role,” Simmonds signed, “Especially after what happened in the first Quiet Place. Everything changed [for Regan], her personality, her life mission. And, it affects her and her relationship with her family.”
Out in the world, Regan faces new threats and unfamiliar faces. “Now she's having to gain her own confidence,” Simmonds explained. “She also has a lot of pressure to become an adult very quickly.”
Beyond the pressures of being a teen girl carrying a much-anticipated sequel to a beloved blockbuster, Simmonds also felt the weight of representing the deaf community on such a grand platform. “I did feel a sense of pressure and obligation,” she said.
Part of the pressure came from making sure American Sign Language would read on camera. “I had an ASL coach to make sure my signs were clear art, my articulation was clean, that I wasn't being lazy,” she signed, adding that she wanted Regan to be a relatable character for all audiences.
Critics have been blown away by Simmonds' performance in both films, and they’re not alone. Blunt, Simmonds’ on-screen mom, sang the ingenue’s praises.
“Every time I've worked with Millie, she's just so powerful,” Blunt said. “She's so arresting to be around, and she's also just the coolest person ever.”
“I think that was what John really responded to,” Blunt continued, explaining that Simmonds’ personality helped inspire Krasinski to write the sequel grounded in Regan’s journey. “Certainly, with the first film was the idea of somebody's weakness becoming weaponized in some way. That this kid — who is hard on herself, who blames herself for what happened in the first film — that the weakness becomes the weapon, the disability becomes the answer.”
“Millie is just such a powerhouse that this was very much always the intention to put this second movie on her shoulders,” Blunt said, “because she can really carry it.”
More than carrying the movie, Simmonds carries its message. At the end of the first film, Regan discovers the mysterious monsters’ weak point, which could help mankind defeat them. In this scary sequel, she’s on a mission to spread the word and save the world. These are action-hero stakes — something Blunt knows all-too-well as the leading lady of such action-packed offerings as Edge of Tomorrow and Looper. So it’s with great understanding and appreciation that she concluded her commendation of Simmonds’ performance, noting how the ingenue embodied the movie’s message about the power children have to fight for a better tomorrow.
“That idea of the children being the future,” Blunt explained. “Children [are] the answer to what the world needs.”
A Quiet Place Part II opens in theaters on May 28.