Former Communications Residential College resident Robert Cunningham, a Communication senior, returned home to CRC Friday night for a viewing of Mom and Dad, a horror film starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair in which he also co-starred. Current and former CRCitizens and faculty fellows held a “Munchies” event and chatted before the movie.
CRC faculty chair Roger Boye said he is proud of the former CRC president’s success.
“This is a very rare occurrence,” Boye said. “To have a currently enrolled Northwestern undergraduate in a lead role in a major movie, very rare. Probably happens only once every other generation.”
After the movie – which was filled with lots of laughing, screaming and colorful commentary from the viewers – Cunningham held a Q&A session with his fellow students.
He explained how, the summer before his junior year, he was encouraged to audition for the role by a friend who was working at the casting agency that was casting the film. Though he hadn’t done a lot of acting at Northwestern at that time, he decided to go for it, and fellow CRC residents helped him practice lines.
“That’s why this feels really full circle, being back in CRC,” Cunningham said. “The people who helped me get it were CRCers, so that was really cool to watch it here with you all. It feels like home here.”
When asked about the scene he was most proud of in the film, he referenced an intense exchange between him and Cage – as their characters, of course.
“I really enjoy the scene with Nicolas Cage, because it’s just really surreal,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t really showcase me in any way, but when it happened I was genuinely terrified of him.”
Selma Blair, though, was his favorite from the set. According to Cunningham, she was not only funny, but able to switch her emotions on and off instantly from one scene to the next. And though their characters were not on great terms, to say the least, he did enjoy working with Cage.
“On set, because he’s a method actor, and he doesn’t like my character, he didn’t talk to me very much,” Cunningham said. “But when there was lots of down time he would make small talk. He’s nice. He’s a sweet guy.”
The group touched on slightly more serious subject matter when discussing the racial undertones of the film – Cunningham’s character, Damon, is Black, and is dating Carly (played by Anne Winters), the white daughter of Cage’s characters, Brent. Though Brent never explicitly brings Damon’s race into the rationale for his disdain, it is heavily implied. The students went on to discuss the application and subversion of stereotypes in the film.
Additionally, Cunningham wished his character would’ve been more fleshed-out, but he acknowledged the reality actors of color face in finding complex roles.
“That sort of just goes back to writing, and, like, who’s writing about these people, when it comes to POC and women, et cetera,” Cunningham said.
The experience is one that many current CRCitizens will never forget. It’s not every day you get to critically discuss a film with one of its stars – who, in the end, is a student just like you.
“Especially seeing Robert in person, it feels tangible,” Communication freshman Jerry Lee said. “When you see these movies and everything on screen it’s all glorified and stuff, but when you someone who’s actually in it, it feels real. You feel a little closer to it.”