Once you go buff, you can't go back, says ex-nerdish actor John Krasinski

In The Hollars, John Krasinski (left) plays a graphic novelist whose mother (Margo Martindale, right) has a brain tumour.
In The Hollars, John Krasinski (left) plays a graphic novelist whose mother (Margo Martindale, right) has a brain tumour.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

Being a father before directing and starring in The Hollars changed John Krasinski's perspective of the indie family drama

American actor John Krasinski, who is best known for playing a nerdy salesman in television sitcom The Office (2005-2013), is flexing some serious muscles onscreen lately - even in the new movie The Hollars, which is an indie family drama rather than an action film.

He says there is no going back to his old dad bod ways ever since he bulked up for his role as a former Navy Seal in the war movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi (2016).

"Working out for 13 Hours was a major transformation for me physically and getting in shape like that was very difficult - but you feel so good about yourself that it's really hard to go back," Krasinski, 36, tells The Straits Times in a recent telephone interview.

"So I've maintained the muscles although I'm not as big as I was in that movie."

It's not about whether something is about action, drama or comedy. I just go to where the good stories are. I'm always just excited to work on good stuff.

AMERICAN ACTOR JOHN KRASINSKI, on not consciously trying to reinvent himself as an action star after buffing up for the 2016 war movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

According to reports, he had packed on more than 11kg of muscle for his role in 13 Hours, on top of cutting his total body fat percentage from 26 per cent to only five.

His new ripped physique must have had some part to play with him getting cast as the new Jack Ryan in the upcoming Amazon TV series of the same name about the iconic CIA agent.

The show, which is being developed by Lost screenwriter Carlton Cuse, will start filming in January.

But Krasinski says he is not consciously trying to reinvent himself as an action star.

"It's not about whether something is about action, drama or comedy. I just go to where the good stories are. I'm always just excited to work on good stuff," he says.

This is why he felt that it was almost "necessary" to take on directing duties for The Hollars, even though he was supposed to be just its lead actor.

"The financier at the time said that they couldn't get it together to make this movie and asked if I'd like to buy the rights to the script.

"That was financially scary to me because I'd never done anything like that before, but I just fell in love with the script.

"I thought, I could help to shed light on a good story here and so I decided to take it on and come on board as director."

In the new film, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, he stars as a New York City graphic novelist who is forced to return to his small hometown after his mother (played by Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The rest of the Hollars (Sharlto Copley and Richard Jenkins) also have to come to terms with the illness in the family.

This is the second directorial feature for Krasinski, who made his debut with comedy-drama Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (2009) and has also directed a handful of episodes of The Office.

Even with directing experience under his belt, he admits that making this film was a different and much more "personal" process.

The actor, who has two young daughters with his wife, British actress Emily Blunt, says: "My elder daughter was 41/2 months old before we started shooting and that changed everything about how I saw the movie.

"It connects you to family in a much heavier way. There's an existential connection to these people that you can't have with anybody else. I understood my parents better. I understood my brothers better. I understood the idea of coming from a family name."

Off-screen, he and his wife are still learning to juggle work and parenthood.

"We try to work out our schedules so that one of us is at home. Even when I was filming 13 Hours in Malta, I flew home every weekend.

"Our kids are the most important to us and we want to be there for them."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•The Hollars opens in cinemas tomorrow.


Nice drama with heart

REVIEW / COMEDY DRAMA

THE HOLLARS

88 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: New York City graphic novelist John Hollar (John Krasinski) returns to his hometown to be with his mother Sally (Margo Martindale) after learning that she has a brain tumour. Upon his homecoming, he gets swept up in a flurry of events involving an ex-girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a jealous romantic rival (Charlie Day), an upset father (Richard Jenkins) and a troubled brother (Sharlto Copley).

Yip Wai Yee

In English class, students are told never to use "nice" - it is too boring and commonplace a word to accurately describe anything of value.

But if I could use only one word to describe this film, it would be, well, nice.

Everything about the movie is nice - the light and agreeable jokes, the soothing acoustic guitar soundtrack and the amiable ensemble cast, especially, are very nice.

It is all perfectly pleasant, if also all-too-familiar, stuff audiences have seen in numerous other dysfunctional family dramas that dominate the Sundance Film Festival programme.

Many critics have torn this apart for following the indie flick guidebook a little too closely, condemning it for being overly predictable and too eager to please.

While that may be true, there is no denying that this sophomore directorial feature from The Office star John Krasinski, who also leads the cast here, has plenty of heart.

Whether the Hollars are teasing one another over silly things or consoling one another during tougher times, it all feels authentic.

The scene where John volunteers to shave the head of his increasingly anxious mother (Martindale, excellent as always) is particularly moving.

By the time the movie moves into darker territory in the second half, as the mother becomes increasingly ill, the Hollars become characters that you care about.

Despite resorting to ridiculously convenient coincidences to move the plot, Krasinski paints a convincing picture of a loving family.

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