‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Director Explains the Ending, What Characters Are Still Alive and Says a Sequel Is ‘Absolutely’ Happening

SPOILER WARNING: This story discusses plot points from “A Quiet Place: Day One,” now playing in theaters.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is filled with tense silence, brutal kills and a moving ending, which leaves the door open for more apocalyptic horrors.

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Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o stars as Samira, a terminally ill cancer patient who leaves hospice to explore New York City with her service cat Frodo. But her trip is disrupted when alien creatures with ultra-sensitive hearing invade Earth. Sam, Frodo and Eric (Joseph Quinn), a young English law student then meet amid the apocalypse, attempting to silently navigate through one of the world’s noisiest cities in a moment when the slightest sound will cause the Death Angels to attack. Sam has another mission too — visiting a pizzeria in East Harlem from her childhood, across from a jazz club where her father used to play.

At the end of the film, as the military continues to evacuate civilians by boat, Sam and Eric make it to the jazz club but the pizzeria is closed, so Eric finds a slice from elsewhere instead. Then, Eric and Frodo make their escape — fleeing the creators in a thrilling sequence — but Sam decides to go in the opposite direction of safety, walking out into the street as she listens to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” on her iPod. Once she unplugs her earbuds, the monsters appear and the screen goes dark — indicating that Sam’s story has come to its conclusion.

“What makes this story compelling is that Sam is a character at the beginning of this movie that’s facing mortality in a way that we do not expect of a horror film, ‘What happens when life is slipping away from you any way, and then there’s an alien invasion?'” Nyong’o told Variety, reflecting on the characters’ final moments. “She goes on a journey that, in a sense, the creatures give her a new lease of life in a way and she learns to value life while she has it.”

The movie has also found life at the box office, landing the best start of the three “Quiet Place” films (the first two helmed by John Krasinski) and beating expectations with $53 million domestically and $98 million globally in its box office debut. “Day One” director Michael Sarnoski sat down with Variety to answer burning questions about the future of the franchise.

Why did you want this movie to be your follow up after “Pig?”

I thought a lot about what I wanted to do after “Pig.” I avoided a lot of things. I wasn’t actively looking for a studio thing. I was kind of actively avoiding that. But with this movie, John and Paramount seemed really willing to give me the freedom to explore a character that otherwise would be pretty unconventional to explore in a movie like this. I just fell in love with the idea of Sam’s character, and seeing the world through her eyes. It just seemed really exciting to get to explore a character like her on a large scale like this.

Filming took place in London. How were you able to pull off those shots of the Empire State Building and then the Brooklyn Bridge burning down?

It’s a combination of things. There’s beautiful effects from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), but we also did some helicopter shoots in New York. It was the first time I’ve ever been on a helicopter — it was terrifying. We did some portrait shots there.

One of the few sequences that we got to shoot in New York City was Sam driving across the bridge into the city, which we could have done with blue screen or many different options. But I thought it would be really nice to believe the entrance into New York so that everything else falls into place.

Did Djimon Hounsou know of the “Day One” prequel before he signed on to “A Quiet Place Part II,” since he is the connective tissue between the two movies?

The idea behind the “Day One” prequel was the speech that he gives in “Part II”. And I don’t really know if it was the chicken or the egg situation, if that was the spark of the idea. I’m not really sure. I know his character is intimately connected with the idea of a “Day One” movie.

Did you and John talk about Henri’s backstory?

No, John gave me a lot of freedom there. When you meet Henri on the island, he’s a leader of this community. I thought it’d be fun to get a glimpse into the beginning of what it took to get to that place of peace, and see that he probably had to make some really difficult decisions leading there. John gave me a lot of freedom to have at it and use the mystery and explore as much as I wanted to.

You worked with Alex Wolff on “Pig,” and cast him as Reuben, one of the hospice nurses. His death in this movie was brutal. What was the decision to have him killed off early in the film? What was his reaction to reading the script?

I wrote a character and then realized, “Wow, it’d be a great character for Alex,” and now I’m worried not to write something for him because he’s sort of my good luck charm. I love working with him.

Ultimately, he was excited by that idea. There’s always a reaction of actors being like, “Oh, I don’t get to do any more after that?” But he got it and was excited by it. There’s a moment in the movie right around there, where it could be one kind of movie — the story of a group of stragglers trying to get to this place — and it could be a little more conventional. His death marks that moment where the movie that you think it might be ends up taking a different turn, and it becomes something a little smaller and more personal for Sam.

Did Eric and Frodo really make it out alive?

I think they did. They earned it. I’d like to imagine that they’re safe somewhere, whether it’s on the island or elsewhere. They found a little bit of peace — for now.

Where is the boat going to at the end of the movie?

Who knows what exactly it’s going take to get there. Clearly, at least some of those people end up on the island that we saw in “Part II.” I’m sure their trials and tribulations aren’t over. But, in my mind, some of those people are eventually getting there.

Let’s talk about Sam’s fate. Nyong’o said that she believes the apocalypse gave Sam this new lease of life and allowed her to value life more now. What are your thoughts about that?

That’s very much what we were going for — this idea that a dying person who had counted themselves out of life is finding a new light in the apocalypse, in the depth of the world around them. There’s this unexpected journey of when everything’s crumbling and everything seems to be ending, Sam manages to find one last little moment to cherish and enjoy and some last bit of connection in the world. If the world hadn’t ended, she never would have gotten to have that ending for herself.

Sam’s death mirrored John Krasinski’s character at the end of the “A Quiet Place,” where he also sacrifices himself. Did you discuss the similarities there?

We definitely talked about how, on paper, this is two characters that are committing suicide. It’s just for very different reasons. That scene with John is beautiful — that he sacrifices himself for his kids. There was something fun about doing something similar, but purely for yourself and your own agency, and something that you’ve discovered in yourself. Doing a sacrificial death at the end, that might have stepped on the toes of the first one a little more, but Sam finds it so much in her own way that it has a different resonance. Both, I hope, are beautiful, but I like to think that it rings on its own.

Could we see a sequel, A Quiet Place: Day Two?

Absolutely. I bet you will. But I don’t know — at this point, I’m just recovering from making this one. So I’m sure Paramount will come up with something very fun next.

What would you like to see?

What attracted me to this story was the uniqueness of Sam, following this dying person who isn’t even really fighting for survival. So, I would want to see something similarly off-beat, like an unexpected character in this world. The “Quiet Place” universe does open itself up to any characters that you want to follow and want to explore. I’m not sure. I put so much into Sam and Eric. That was all the love and care that I had right now to find these characters. I would have to think of a character that I could really fall in love with and really want to be surprised by seeing the world through their eyes.

“A Quiet Place Part III” is slated to come out next year. What do you know about that?

Not a ton. I very much approached this one as its own standalone thing that you can watch without needing to have seen the other ones. But I’m sure they are going to make a part three. I don’t exactly know what the timeline is, but I will definitely be in theaters to watch it.

What characters in the franchise do you think could get their own spin off?

Almost any character could. You could easily follow prequels or sequels of any of the characters. They’ve done a really good job casting incredible actors in this franchise. I would watch Cillian Murphy do anything. There’s plenty of options.

I always fall back on an animated musical Frodo singing his way through this world, so that’s always an option.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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