Oscar-nominated writer Christopher Diamantopoulos makes his debut as a director with an original screenplay that bears many similarities to the screenplay that became The Quiet Place. First, though, before the thriller has made even a cheap dime, the 35-year-old credits trickster God as being his key influence.
“God almost decided a year before I was born that I should be an actor,” says Diamantopoulos, who counts as his proudest achievement “being able to fool myself into believing the world was actually real”.
Set over a single New York night, the plot concerns the siblings living in “Treehouse Lane” – a bucolic country house where the neighbours have settled in to a quiet old age. The main protagonist is matriarch Barbara, played by Diamantopoulos’s real-life wife, Dania Ramirez. “I know the audience is going to see her as this teddy bear, old lady who brings her kids up, but she’s also a mother and a grandmother and a professional,” says Diamantopoulos. The film also features one of the biggest recognisable faces in Hollywood, John Krasinski.
Chris Diamantopoulos. Photograph: Ed Araquel/Rex/Shutterstock
On the cusp of stardom, Diamantopoulos is always advised by contemporaries to avoid being typecast. “I love the idea of doing TV, working with good people and helping to tell a good story,” he says. “People always tell me, ‘Don’t do that bad Disney show you want to do.’” But the actor explains his decision to star in an average, family-friendly TV series such as Life in Pieces (the show recently got nominated for a Primetime Emmy award). “I felt like that was a big thing, that we’d gotten away from the idea of a classic family sitcom, like by Christopher Guest or Jim Jarmusch.”
Looking for celebrity in Hollywood can feel like the edge of the cliff. But Diamantopoulos’s Hollywood life doesn’t really read like a “pitchbook”, he says. “I try to follow my gut and my voice,” he adds. “I have to meet people along the way. I try to just surround myself with good people who are telling me things.”
Diamantopoulos had more than a year of plans to make his feature directorial debut, but he refrained from a workable plot synopsis. “One of the things I struggled with most was the dialogue,” he says. “Once I had an outline on paper I kind of knew what I wanted to say.”
His casting director asked him to rewrite a line so he would have more freedom with how Barbara’s story played out. He also addressed the mother-daughter dynamic, which, in other hands, could easily be a disaster, especially at an age where Diamantopoulos is often asked by interviewers to talk about his girlfriend, Ferocity singer Claudia Romani.
“It was important for Barbara to be a mum and want to protect her kids, but I felt like there’s an interesting conflict there,” he says. “You do want someone to love you, but there comes a point where you’re not gonna be good enough for them. It’s really about: do you find a balance between those two things?”
Diamantopoulos was a relative latecomer to Hollywood, as he grew up in Pasadena, California, and married Ramirez only in 2015. But that’s no disincentive to the actor, who admits he is well versed in shaping his onscreen personas into true characters.
“I like to try to get away from the stereotype and the archetype,” he says. “I want you to go into these personas and really investigate the right accent and the right choice of speech.” The fact that his forthcoming directorial debut is based on the screenplay written by his childhood chum Krasinski, just makes the process more gratifying. “It’s my dream,” says Diamantopoulos. “It just so happens to be my first movie as a director, too.”