M. Night Shyamalan‘s new movie Knock at the Cabin is here. The tightly-wound horror movie (which will make you think again before booking an log cabin for a holiday) thunders along at a great speed, with thrills and chills aplenty while it raises potent moral questions along the way.
But, it’s the the Knock at the Cabin cast that turn the tense, psychological thriller into something more affecting than it initially appears to be; something we touch on in our Knock at the Cabin review.
Ben Aldridge’s performance is at the very centre of the thriller movie, where he stars as one of Wen’s fathers, Andrew opposite Jonathan Groff. So, to delve more into Aldridge’s experience of working with Shyamalan and Bautista, and to find out more about the work he brought to his character, we sat down to speak with him about all things Knock at the Cabin.
The Digital Fix: You worked really closely with Kristen Cui on this movie. Can you explain how you built a connection with her, and how you ensured that, given the adult themes, this was a safe space for her, and not some traumatic event?
Ben Aldridge: That’s really interesting. I felt quite protective over her – I think we all did – but it really didn’t phase her.
She’d be like “What are the weapons?” and I’d say “Oh, they get used in the film.” “Oh yeah, when they get killed?” She’d read the book, she’s so smart, and she had taken details from the book. She does this thing where she holds her thumbs in the film and that’s a detail from the book that wasn’t even included in the script.
She’s just such a good little actor. It was her first acting job! We had two weeks rehearsal to bond with her, so we just hung out with her and her mum, we went ice skating, we played Just Dance on the PlayStation which is excessively sweaty – I do love dancing but I sweat my arse off.
I’m just obsessed with her, she’s so cool. She’s got a lot of attitude. She’s really smart. And I think she’s so good in the film: she steals those scenes from me, which is really annoying! She’s so good.
TDF: Your character, Andrew, has a notable temper and it’s pointed out in the script as well as being visible from your performance. How were you tapping into that, and were there any things about Andrew, like his temper, that you were able to relate to on a personal level as Ben?
BA: I don’t ever express anger, so it was quite strange for me. But something that M. Night ensured was that it was never just anger for anger’s sake. Andrew is protecting his family as best as he knows how, whether that’s trying to have a negotiation and talk to these four individuals about what the truth is and what they’re doing and try to disprove them, or moments where he’s screaming because his family are about to be killed.
And M. Night would say to me specifically, “this is about love,” and sometimes I’d look over to Jonathan and to Kristen – just to help me – and be like ‘I love them so much’ and that would help me at the top of a scene to play things.
Not to talk pretentiously about acting, but I don’t think I was ever trying to play anger. It was just him fiercely defending his family the best he could.
TDF: You also worked closely with Dave Bautista, who plays Leonard. You had a scene with him which was quite physical, and he’s actually sat on top of you. Is he as heavy as you would imagine?
BA: I mean, he wasn’t actually putting his weight on me. He gained 40lbs for the role as well so he was even bigger than he usually is.
TDF: He gained weight?
BA: He gained 40lbs, yeah because obviously Leonard is meant to be huge. Yeah, that was really interesting; there’s a portion of that scene where it’s a stunt man because they wouldn’t let me do it, and there’s a portion where it’s me and I did have this moment when his hands were around my throat and I was like ‘this is really bizarre, I’m opposite this action hero right now.’
But he was also super gentle about doing a stunt. He has done years of this, he was a professional wrestler, he’s really conscious about not getting an injury and not injuring anyone else either. He’s really concerned about other people the whole time. He’s just the most gentle bear, he’s a lovely lovely guy.
TDF: He plays the leader of the four invaders, and each of them is very distinct. Who do you as Ben feel like was the most unsettling or intimidating, who scared you the most? Because they’re all different.
BA: Oh that’s really interesting. For me I think I remember filming and the character I found most disturbing was Adriene, played by Abby Quinn, because it felt like she had been brought along for the ride, and it felt like she had been persuaded of something that was really not true.
The rest of them seemed calm and calculated like it could be this homophobic attack that Andrew thinks it is. Whereas I really felt that she really believed not in the most informed way what they were saying about the end of the world was real. So I found her the most disturbing, in a way.
TDF: As well as having an intimidating scene with Dave Bautista, you also had to sing alongside Jonathan Groff. Which of those was more scary to do?
BA: Dave, because singing with Jonathan was a dream come true. The first time I sang in front of him I was intimidated, though.
We were on the way back from dinner at M. Night’s house and Kristen was making us sing karaoke in the car and she made him sing a song from Frozen, and she sang a song, then she made me sing ‘My heart will go on’ by Celine Dion which is very high. I do sing, but I was like ‘oh god I’m going to have to do this’ so I just belted it out. And the next day she told me I had a horrible voice.
TDF: That doesn’t come across in the movie! I thought she was a good singer, too.
BA: Yeah, M. Night does several takes of things and he did so many of that and it never tired. I really enjoyed it.
For more on Knock at the Cabin, take a look at our guide on how to watch Knock at the Cabin, or take a look at our picks for the best plot twists in movie history and our choices for the best movies of all time.