Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Krasinski, Van Sant Totally Immersed in 'Promised Land'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Krasinski, Van Sant Totally Immersed in 'Promised Land'

Article excerpt

John Krasinski says "Promised Land" is "certainly not an anti- fracking movie" and he should know.

The actor came up with the idea, co-wrote and produced it and stars alongside Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook and Rosemarie DeWitt in the film that recently finished shooting in Pittsburgh.

The spark of the idea started two years ago while he was working on NBC's "The Office," on which he plays Jim Halpert, a Scranton paper salesman, husband, father and frequent funny tormentor of co- worker Dwight Schrute.

He called Dave Eggers, who wrote "Away We Go" featuring Mr. Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as an expectant couple, to hash it out, and the memoirist-novelist-screenwriter penned a small first draft.

"It was about something totally different but it was definitely the beginnings of some of these characters and some of these relationships that were really, really interesting and fun. Once I got off the show, I started writing it and I started doing a rewrite with Matt [Damon]."

The Internet has been ablaze with talk about "Matt Damon making an anti-fracking movie," but Mr. Krasinski doesn't characterize it that way. It's far too early to know if the natural gas producers, land men, farmers or fractivists see it that way.

"Fracking for us became a backdrop. The original script was about wind power," he said in a recent phone interview, with the core of the story about fighting for American identity and pride.

That loops back to his father, Natrona Heights native Ronald Krasinski, a Boston physician who recently retired.

It was the "way he described his upbringing and the country and the community that he grew up in, and how everything was incredibly honorable and loyal and incredibly rather simple in the best way -- going to work, having family, having friends, and taking care of what you needed to take care of, and there wasn't really much else. And someone's word was as valuable as anything else."

The 32-year-old actor, the youngest of three brothers and an honors playwright graduate of Brown University, felt as though something had been lost along the way.

"I really wanted to write a movie about a man who is going through a change of his own and living in this current world and debating how he wanted to live in this current country, and so that is Matt's character in the movie ... a salesman."

Mr. Krasinski then needed a backdrop that would magnify the country's state -- economic and otherwise -- and that's where natural gas entered the picture.

"The idea of fracking or natural gas was just a very apropos news story that was beginning to grow a year and a half ago. I just chose that as the background and, of course, that has grown into something quite wild in and of itself.

"I think I was completely ready for people to call it an anti- fracking movie; you know the fevered pitch that it's hit now. But a year and a half ago, it was just more of something that was going on and something to be debated."

Mr. Damon, whose salesman is teamed with Ms. McDormand (a Monessen High School graduate) in trying to lease land, goes into a small town where experiences remind him of his own upbringing and background.

Mr. Krasinski portrays a member of a grass-roots environmental organization that sprouts up, while Mr. Holbrook is a retired high school teacher and Ms. DeWitt another town resident, who is an elementary school teacher.

Most of the filming took place in Avonmore, Westmoreland County, which doubled as the movie's fictional town of McKinley, along with Apollo, Worthington and Slate Lick in Armstrong County, where several of the main farms were located.

Other locations included Alexandria, Delmont, Export and West Mifflin, with one day at the Grand Concourse at Station Square.

"I don't want to give too much away," Mr. Krasinski said, "but the situation people are in financially is very, very real. And what they're protecting is a community and a lifestyle that they believe very, very strongly in. …

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