By Jeff Otto | The Playlist January 30, 2012 at 2:56PM
In person, John Krasinski doesn’t seem all that different from his television alter-ego, Jim Halpert. He’s easy going, perennially charming and usually smirking, ever ready with a clever quip at just the right moment.
In Ken Kwapis’ ambitious new political comedy, “Big Miracle,” Krasinski portrays Adam Carlson, a small town reporter assigned to the small town of Burrow, Alaska patiently awaiting his chance to move on to a bigger market. Just as he gets ready to head for the lower 48, he stumbles upon the story of three gray whales trapped within quickly expanding ice in the Arctic Circle. Carlson breaks the story and, pretty soon, the entire world descends on Barrow to cover it. Set in the late 1980’s, the unlikely story is based on the book “Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World’s Greatest Non-Event” by Tom Rose, which chronicles the often unbelievable tale of how the little story grew into a national media event.
Krasinski co-headlines the ensemble cast with Drew Barrymoore as ex-girlfriend and Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer. The actor recently spoke with press about “Big Miracle” at the oceanside Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, California. Here are some highlights from the discussion.
Truth is often stranger than fiction
When the real events took place, Krasinski was a bit too young to pay attention to the details. “I remember hearing about it,” says Krasinski, “but I wasn’t necessarily the most current events guy at age, what was it, 10?”
Despite the knowledge that it was based on true events, the actor at first found the details a bit hard to swallow. He assumed Kwapis and the writers had added a little dose of Hollywood to Rose’s book. “I thought it was great and really sweet,” Krasinski tells press, “but I said to Ken, ‘It’s really good, but we’ve got to cut back some of this stuff because it’s a little unbelievable.’ And he’s like, ‘No, it’s all true.’ The press secretary and the National Guard pilot falling in love and getting married after being so adversarial on the phone is insane.”
Once he was able to digest the story itself, Krasinski began to see the importance of the film’s message. “It’s a great movie, especially at this time, to believe in the power of unity to get together for a cause. Especially with social media, this is the time where not only can you have a voice but your voice can be the catalyst for something massive.”
The world’s media ultimately take over the story that Carlson discovered and his character is relegated to the sidelines. But as the story continues to develop, he also begins to reevaluate his own ambitions. “I’ve always loved those movies where somebody really wants something and then the thing they want is right in front of them,” says Krasinski. “He wanted the glamour of being in the spotlight and as soon as people came they sort of pushed him aside so he had to become an assistant to get his voice back. I think he discovers the truth of life, which is as long as you’re doing what you love and you’re around people that you love, you’re doing something right. That was sort of the undertone of my character, kind of keeping that in check vs. the others who had specific political agendas.”
A child of the ‘80s explains the ‘80s to a child
Besides Drew Barrymoore, the character Krasinski spends the most time with on screen is newcomer Ahmaogak Sweeney, who portrays 11-year-old native Alaskan Nathan. “He’s so good in the movie,” says Krasinski. “Ahmao is definitely one of the coolest kids. He’s handsome, cool, really funny. It’s frustrating to see how natural this was for him. He was a great energy to have on set and was always really excited to be there. I think our relationship is one of the most important of the movie because it bonds the outsiders with the natives.”
In one of the film’s many nostalgic moments, Carlson gives Nathan a Walkman and cassettes of Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard tapes. “It was pretty wild, that whole thing with batteries, especially for a kid who had a Wii and stuff like that. That’s pretty good acting because these things are ancient. He knew Guns N’ Roses and really liked them. I think when I got into Def Leppard he was like, ‘All right there.’”
John Krasinski was attracted to “Big Miracle” because of two people: Ken Kwapis and Drew Barrymoore. Krasinski had a very positive experience working with Kwapis on the 2007 comedy “License to Wed” (and, of course, on episodes of "The Office") and was excited to work with him again. The circumstances this time around were a bit different though, going from a simple romantic comedy to the challenges of the film's large Alaskan production. “He was, in a good way, very stressed,” says Krasinski. “I think he understands the level he was trying to achieve with this movie vs. the movie I did with him and certainly 'The Office' is a little bit more low rent than this movie. He wanted to make it really fantastic and I think he knew immediately that the visual spectacle would be an essential part of the movie.”
In the case of Drew, Krasinski says he has long respected the actress and hoped to one day work with her and learn from her. “I really appreciate how professional she is. I don’t think people understand what it means to be at the level she’s at and the amount of responsibility that comes with it," he said. "She’s been doing it so long and achieving so much more than any of us could hope to do. You’d be surprised how much the sway of the day wants to go negative. There’s always a reason to be grumpy and the entire crew will go to the biggest head honcho and that was usually her and she was always so positive and that set the tone for the rest of the shoot.”
“Big Miracle” opens in theaters nationwide February 3rd, 2012.