The latest entry into the emerging genre of rental home horror is Gone in the Night. The thriller from Homecoming co-creator Eli Horowitz stars Winona Ryder and John Gallagher Jr. as Kath and Max, a couple who decide to rent a remote cabin in the woods for a relaxing weekend. Upon arrival, they are greeted by a mysterious younger couple, Al and Greta, played by Owen Teague and Brianne Tju, respectively. When Max disappears overnight, Kath searches for answers, and with the help of Nicholas, played by Dermot Mulroney, uncovers a disturbing secret.
Gone in the Night plays out the worst-case scenario for many travelers in an unsettling and disturbing fashion. The thriller has many twists and turns and features a gripping performance from Tju. In conversation with Digital Trends, Tju speaks about the two sides to her character, sharing scenes with Owen Teague, and her love for horror and thrillers.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: I know you probably didn’t have control over this, but were you upset when the name was changed from The Cow to Gone in the Night, or are you okay with the new name?
Brianne Tju: I’m not upset. I knew the project as The Cow from the moment I auditioned to shooting and even premiering at South by Southwest. So I was very fond of it. I also think it was great because it was weird and vague and people were like, “What does that mean?” And you know, it made it exciting. But at the same time, at the end of the day, I think the movie is still as great as it was when it was called The Cow so I’m not worried about it.
How did you first become attached to this project?
I mean, it’s really not that glamorous. I got an audition. I think I was on one of Eli’s shortlists. Although I believe he once told me that I was the only person he wanted for the role, but he still made me audition, and I was like, “Okay.” But I’m actually glad he did because Greta is a very specific character with a very specific personality and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. He [Eli] saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself yet so I had to audition to kind of prove it to myself. And clearly, it worked out. But yeah, I read the script, and I was just obsessed with it. I read it like twice in a row the same night. I just would have done anything to be a part of it.
This movie has a lot of twists and turns. I won’t reveal too much, but it’s almost as if every character starts as one thing and finishes as another. It’s like two different performances for each character throughout this movie.
Literally stole my line! That’s the line I’ve been using in all the interviews. It’s true, though, and it’s so great that you recognize that, I think.
How did you shape the two sides of Greta? Take me through that process
I find that with every character, when I start doing prep, I kind of see it like a puzzle. How do I make this character a person? How do I make them real? How do I justify their actions in a way that feels believable? I think most characters, at least a lot of the characters I’ve played, it’s very clear that there’s a duality within each of them. And I really like that because you can play with both of those things.
With Greta, she loves power. She loves to be in control. With that being said, she comes off as someone that’s super confident. And I think as you strip those things away, you just see a far more vulnerable and human version of her, and that her confidence is not all that pure, really. Her confidence comes from her grip on power. So if you take that away, she loses her power. But yeah, it was really fun. I listened to a lot of podcasts about like, psychopaths, actually.
Did any psychopaths stick out?
I wouldn’t say anyone specifically, but the traits [did]. I would listen to podcasts about how to identify psychopaths and what traits are most commonly seen in them and stuff like that. There are certain things that Eli and I wanted to incorporate into Greta.
This is a small, but very established cast between Winona, Dermot, yourself, John, and Owen. When you have a talented cast like this, do you feel an extra sense of motivation? Do you feel as if you have to bring your game up because you’re working with such great actors?
Absolutely, and I love that. I like it when the bar is set higher, and I’m given the challenge to meet it, you know. I mean everyone I was working with is so incredibly talented, but also kind and supportive of one another. We had such a lovely, lovely experience. It’s really interesting to see these actors that you admire, which is literally every single one of them, and see that they’re not invincible.
They’re not completely invincible to second-guessing themselves or needing guidance from the director or needing reassurance and feedback. And so it was nice to see that they’re just human, but it was also wonderful to watch them perform because I could watch them all day long. They’re so talented.
My colleague spoke with Eli, and he mentioned that your scenes with Owen were fun to film. Eli enjoyed how strange he could really make them. Do you have a similar feeling to Eli about filming those scenes with Owen?
Oh my God, I had so much fun. I love Owen. Like I truly love [him] so much. He was great because in the beginning, when we were still in L.A., it turned out he actually was like kind of my neighbor.
That is a good coincidence.
He came over to the house and we just talked about our characters, life, noise music, and psychopaths. He was so great and so collaborative from the get. So I trusted him, and I hope he trusted me as well. So when we were filming those scenes, we really were supportive of one another. We gave each other the room to play and make interesting, weird choices that maybe you wouldn’t want to do in front of someone else. But with Owen, I felt very uninhibited and, you know, as well with Eli. So it was a blast. It was so fun.
Has this experience decreased your chances of going to a cabin for the weekend, or in a weird way, do you want to experience cabin life?
I love weird experiences and I find that they teach me a lot about myself. Sometimes they end up being great and then they start where they told the story. And you know, I have yet to have a negative Airbnb experience.
Knock on wood for that one.
Knock on wood, right? [laughing] Why not though? I’ll go to a cabin in the woods. I basically stayed in a cabin in the woods by myself while I was filming the movie. I was like living the experience. It was pretty scary.
In your career, you’ve recently starred in a lot of genre work in horror and thrillers. What about this type of work excites you as an actor?
I think for me, first and foremost, it’s always about character. You know, the character you’re playing, and then also, who I get to work with is a big thing. I really want to work with interesting creatives who are willing to listen and be collaborative. The projects that have come my way recently have, as you said, had been, in the thriller-horror genre. And I really do love working in that genre because it’s so outside the realm of what’s real, you know? I love to stretch my imagination in that capacity. I also enjoy watching it. It feels very much like an adrenaline ride.
But the challenge in doing it, which is what I like, is finding a way to make these ridiculous circumstances feel grounded and real and finding the moments where it could use a little levity and self-awareness. But yeah, I think it’s it’s just fun. I really enjoy the stunts, [and] the energy on set. I really like to push myself to my limits in terms of what I can do emotionally. So I have a great time. Everyone always asks me how I unwind and [how] it must be so hard doing such dark material. I’m like, “I love it.”
When you get to be something you’re not, that has to be appealing.
Exactly. I think that’s my whole job. But it’s true. There are some jobs where it’s you get to be a little bit closer to yourself. The character feels a little bit closer to you. And I think for me personally, I’m always going to bring a part of myself to everything I play. But the farther away it feels from me, the more fun it can be.
Gone in the Night is currently in theaters and is available on demand.
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