When two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou got the call offering him a role in John Krasinski’s eagerly anticipated film “A Quiet Place Part II,” he didn’t need to hear about the plot, or what character he was to play. He said yes — instantly.
The film (which was originally due out on March 20, but was postponed due to coronavirus concerns) picks up right where we left off at the end of “A Quiet Place,” the surprise megahit of 2018 and actor Krasinski’s impressive directorial debut. Once again, we’re with the Abbott family — fearless mom, Evelyn (played by Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt) and her children (deaf actress Millicent Simmonds and “Honey Boy’s” Noah Jupe) — as they try to escape from a swarm of predatory alien creatures who track humans by the slightest sounds we make. Along the way they encounter a neighbor (Cillian Murphy) and an unexpected stranger (Hounsou).
At 55, Hounsou still seems in great shape, as he sits casually in a suite at the Crosby Hotel in SoHo. Born in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin, on Africa’s West Coast, the model-turned-actor first made a name for himself playing fierce, muscular film characters (in “Amistad,” “Gladiator”) though it was his earnest, emotional performances (“In America,” “Blood Diamond”) that earned him critical acclaim (and those Oscar noms). He spoke with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
So I gather you’re not a horror film fan.
It’s not my cup of tea. I don’t usually venture out to see scary films. Till I was on a plane ride, and I saw “A Quiet Place” — the first one. I thought, oh, wow, a husband and wife (Krasinski and Blunt) creating something together. Let me see. And I was glued to the screen. Fast-forward to a year later, I get a phone call (from John), “Hey, uh, we’re thinking of you for…the sequel.” Really? Let me pack.
You were in.
I hung up the phone and showed up (on set) in Buffalo.
How useful is it to have a director like Krasinski who’s been an actor before?
It’s greatly useful. Certainly in the way they kindly approach you.
I say “kindly,” because it takes a certain sensitivity and sensibility to approach an actor who is emotionally in a certain condition. It takes a bit of care. It’s not about ego. Although that plays into it, sometimes. I’m talking about when you ARE a character, meaning you’re in that state of mind in a scene, and he comes to give you notes. You can’t just say, “Hey, brother, the way you did that thing, can you just like tone it down?” You can’t come in and talk AT someone like that.
He speaks your language, being an actor himself?
It takes a bit of finesse.
He gave you a nice set of wheels in the film, too — that 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88.
Yeah. I liked that car.
Did you actually get to drive it in the chase sequence?
I did. But it was quite slippery and muddy. We tried at first — it would go a little bit, then get stuck in the mud. They had to attach a cable to the car to drag it. Otherwise I’d be stepping on it (he mimics hitting the gas pedal) and the tires would just spin. So I had to be pulled a bit while I was gassing it, to get out of that mud. (Once on the road), there’s no cable, I’m driving all the way. There was a stunt guy on standby, in case I didn’t feel safe driving, and driving into stuff — you had to stop at a particular (spot). I was always trying to hit the mark, like a good driver. (He chuckles.)
How’d you do?
By the tenth time I was about to go through the wall, but every other time was pretty nice.
So I should call you if I ever need a getaway driver.
I can definitely be a getaway driver. If I change my vocation in life, I might use that.
Your next film also has plenty of action — “The King’s Man,” a prequel to the “Kingsmen” spy-film franchise, out this fall.
That’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing that, given how hard it was to shoot some of those action sequences. Just one little mistake and a person can get hurt.
As moms everywhere say, it’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye.
Yeah. Running, stabbing, sword fighting — even fake wooden swords, like we used in “Gladiator,” can hurt somebody. You can damage somebody’s head with that. Having to act like you’re fighting isn’t easy. The more action-driven films we make these days, the more difficult those films get. We’re creating a fantasy, but even in a fantasy people can get hurt pretending.