Ben Aldridge stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s new film “Knock at the Cabin” as a dad tasked with an impossible choice.
In the middle of an idyllic escape to a cabin in the woods with his family — a husband and their young adopted daughter — a motley group of four strangers arrive with sharp tools and an urgent message. The family-of-three must choose to sacrifice one of themselves, or all of humanity will end. It’s an allegorical home invasion film, doused in apocalyptic fear.
“Night never discussed what he wanted the takeaway from the film to be, what his intentions were with making it in terms of the message,” says the British actor, who was in New York this week for the film’s premiere at Lincoln Center.
“But having seen it now, I do think its themes are preying upon our collective fears,” adds Aldridge. “We’ve just survived a pandemic. The climate crisis is an ever-looming real threat. And I think the question [Shyamalan] is posing and throwing up in the air, not necessarily answering it, is: would we make the choice for our fellow man? Do we have a shared social responsibility to each other? Would we do the thing that they are tasked with doing as a family? And would we make that same choice?”
The actor has had many opportunities to mull those questions, both on set and as a viewer. Aldridge sat in the crowd and watched the film for a third time earlier this week during the premiere.
“[Shyamalan] really makes his films for the audience. It’s what he speaks about continuously while he is directing the film: the audience reaction, about thrilling them, exciting them, wanting them to feel what we are feeling as characters,” he says. “More than usual I wanted to see it with an audience, to hear their reactions and be part of that.” Despite the film’s heavy premise and violence, Aldridge was surprised by the amount of laughter his own lines drew from the crowd during the first 15 minutes.
“Night plays with tension a lot. This is an incredibly intense film, and there are moments that he breaks that intentionally,” says Aldridge.
Although the film poses an interesting thought experiment, the project’s foremost draw was the opportunity to work with Shyamalan, who’s known for twisty horror-thrillers like “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.” Aldridge sums up the director’s approach to filmmaking as “precise.”
“It’s so distinct. I’ve never done anything like it,” says Aldridge. “[Shyamalan] envisions the entire movie,” he adds. “And then he really sets about executing that vision.”
Aldridge also recently starred in the romantic drama “Spoiler Alert” opposite Jim Parsons. The film is based on a true story penned by journalist Michael Ausiello [editor note: Ausiello is editorial director of TVLine, owned by WWD parent Penske Media Corp.] about his relationship with his late partner Kit Cowan, who passed away from cancer.
“Spoiler Alert” premiered in late 2022, and marked Aldridge’s debut as a leading actor. Just a few months later, “Knock at the Cabin” cements Aldridge’s leading status. And although the films are tonally quite different, there’s a distinct thematic through-line.
“Both projects had this commonality of love,” says Aldridge. “Night would often say to Jonathan [Groff, who portrays his husband in the film] and I before going for a take, ‘think about the love, play the love in this scene.’ Defending the family, negotiating with the kidnappers — it’s all motivated by love,” he continues. “It’s been a real privilege to work on these love stories that are between two men; something that I can really relate to in my life. It’s a transformative experience, this breath of fresh air to be doing that in my work.”
After spending a week in New York — doing press, catching up with friends, and attending a performance of “Wicked” on Broadway with his on-screen “Knock” family — Alridge was headed home to London. While his next project is still TBD, the actor is excited to continue exploring different genres. Comedy, perhaps?
“I’ve done a run of very intense things. It’d be nice to do something maybe a little lighter,” he says. “But I mean, I’m up for anything.”