Dave Bautista Reveals What He ‘Struggled’ With The Most While Filming Knock At The Cabin

Relatable antagonists can win an audience over, causing viewers to wonder if they should even be rooting against them in the first place. Unlike villains, who are purely on the wrong side of the coin, these characters run counter to the interests of those we want to see protected, but aren’t totally vicious. Dave Bautista’s role of Leonard in Knock at the Cabin is definitely that of an antagonist, and when he was filming the 2023 new movie release, Bautista struggled with, but ultimately nailed, the balance that comes from such a figure.

Leonard is still an absolutely imposing character in the traditional sense, especially with Bautista’s built figure inhabiting the role. But underneath his massive appearance runs a current of anxious, yet even tempered authority. During Universal’s Knock at the Cabin press day this past weekend, I sat down with Dave Bautista to discuss his performance in director M. Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of author Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World. When discussing that subject, he told CinemaBlend about how working through the struggle of such a delicate role: 

That was what I struggled with, because sometimes my instinct said to go more emotional, or to be more vocal, be more aggressive, or to break down a little bit. And he would always remind me to remember that Leonard feels this responsibility that he has to be in charge. He has to be, he’s responsible for all these people. He’s in charge of making sure that this goes right, that these people really believe that he’s there out of sincerity, and he really means what he says, he believes in what he says, so he can’t fall apart. So that was kind of my struggle.

When we’re introduced to Leonard and his fellow disciples in Knock at the Cabin’s cast, it’s a scenario that’s a cross between ominous and sweet. In short order, Dave Bautista’s character is collecting grasshoppers with Wen (Kristen Cui), the young adopted daughter of Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff). 

They bond over friendly, innocent questions until the rest of the group appears in the woods. While the energy of the scene turns more threatening, with Leonard warning Wen that she needs to have her fathers let them into the cabin, it’s never completely menacing.

Collectively, the four horsemen of the would-be apocalypse all have weapons and some fighting ability. Though as we watch them progress through the drama that sits at the heart of Knock at the Cabin, we learn more about each member of the team. Another good example of this premise at work is Rupert Grint’s performance as the hot-headed Redmond, which also came up during this press event.

Much like Julian, his character in the M. Night Shyamalan/Tony Basgallop Apple TV+ series Servant, Redmond is another Grint role that’s “unlikable, with caveats.” Obviously the most heated of the four person judgement squad, we still see Redmond break down and explain himself as a person in order to influence Andrew and Eric to make a choice of sacrifice.

Rupert Grint described a similar struggle to what Dave Bautista mentioned with his performance. From his perspective, here’s the challenge that Knock at the Cabin provided in playing Redmond: 

So yeah it’s an interesting one, but we kind of see a bit of vulnerability. He’s someone who’s in reform, he’s trying to be a better person. Just the fact that he’s there. There’s lots of interesting things at play, and also kind of pitching the anger, because that can always kind of come off across as kind of a one-note thing. So it’s always finding colors, which is sort of nice. … it’s such a difficult challenge that I’ve got to be, I just don’t know where you’d start putting yourself in that. And also he’s the worst person to have in that kind of situation. You’d really feel kind of on the back foot with him. Because it’s all about negotiation and kind of trying to make these people understand and believe, and it’s kind of impossible. So it’s a really interesting dynamic.

Balancing the tone between frantic worry and deliberate, cool-headed action, Dave Bautista and his co-stars make for some compelling antagonists. You can see that energy throughout Knock at the Cabin’s trailer, but it’s also on display in some short clips that have been used to market the film. Here’s a moment from early in the movie, when Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff are first approached with the choice of sacrificing someone from their family:

With Knock at the Cabin already getting some enthusiastic reactions from its early screenings, the work from Dave Bautista and his co-stars looks to have paid off. You can experience the horror and heartbreak for yourself in a theater near you, as M. Night Shyamalan’s latest hits multiplexes this weekend. While you're at it, check out Mr. Bautista hyping up Dune: Part Two, another film that's sure to draw moviegoers back to the theaters later this year. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.