'Knock' star Kristen Crui: 'I wanted to see myself on a billboard'

Wen (Kristen Crui) tries to keep the strangers out in "Knock at the Cabin." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
1 of 5 | Wen (Kristen Crui) tries to keep the strangers out in "Knock at the Cabin." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Knock at the Cabin, in theaters Friday, is 9-year-old Kristen Cui's first movie. Kristen, who appeared in CaliStar's Don't Give Up music video, said she's always wanted to act.

"I've always had this interest because I wanted to see myself on a billboard and on a TV screen," Kristen told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


Knock at the Cabin was also the first movie for which Kristen auditioned. She said she had a Zoom call with director M. Night Shyamalan after he saw her audition tape, telling her that her dream was about to come true.

"I just can't believe I'm here sitting in this very chair talking to you right now," Kristen said. "It's hard to believe."

Kristen plays Wen, the adopted daughter of Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). Leonard (Dave Bautista) brings three followers to invade the family's cabin and tell them they will be responsible for deciding humanity' fate in the apocalypse.

Shyamalan has a strong track record of directing child actors. Haley Joel Osment received an Oscar nomination for Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense.


Signs starred young Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin. After Earth featured Jaden Smith, and The Visit had Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould.

The early Shyamalan films were made before Kristen was born. Working with Shyamalan, she learned how he communicated with young actors.

"There was something that he always said, 'Think the thoughts,'" Cui said. "He could help you literally sink into your character."

Wen is the first character to meet Leonard and at one point, he picks her up and carries her. Kristen recalled rising to Bautista's level.

"It felt a bit high and tall, but he's very nice and he's an excellent actor," Kristen said. "He's very gentle. So there was really nothing to worry about."

One of Leonard's gang is played by Rupert Grint. Kristen said she had not begun the Harry Potter series before filming Knock at the Cabin, so she did not get a chance to talk to Grint about his role in the films as Ron Weasley.

The film also flashes back to when Eric and Andrew adopted Wen from an orphanage. She still has a scar from cleft lip surgery, which Kristen said was quick to place on her face every day before filming.


"I think it took like 13 minutes or something," Kristen said.

Knock's filming location in Pennsylvania wasn't too far from Kristen's home in Queens, N.Y. Kristen said she hopes to continue working, but until her next role she is attending fourth grade.

"I'm excited to see what's next," Kristen said. "When I'm not shooting, I'm just in school."

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