Northwestern junior set to star in horror film with Nicolas Cage


Source: Tanisha Aker Langston

Robert Cunningham

Kelli Nguyen, Development and Recruitment Editor


Communication junior Robert Cunningham said he doesn’t like horror films, but that didn’t stop him from starring in one.

“Mom and Dad” is a horror thriller about a 24-hour period of hysteria caused by an unexplained surge of parents trying to kill their children. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star in the film alongside Cunningham, who plays the character of Cage and Blair’s daughter’s boyfriend.

“It was just the most surreal experience,” Cunningham said. “Now that I’m separated from it and it’s over for now, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. I got to be in a film, and it was with Nicolas Cage.’”

Cunningham said he went out for the role on a whim, not expecting anything out of his audition. But after hearing about the actor call from Communication senior Dan Leahy, Cunningham threw together a makeshift resume, took a selfie headshot and showed up agent-less to the audition.

He said he initially went in for the experience but ended up getting the role.

“I was in bed, watching Netflix, eating a sandwich, and they just called me and told me I got the part,” Cunningham said.

Leahy was interning at the casting office holding the auditions and found out the call was for someone with Cunningham’s characteristics. Although Leahy had never seen Cunningham act on stage or in film, he said he knew Cunningham was cast in Northwestern’s summer mainstage production of “Hair” and felt he would be a good fit for “Mom and Dad.”

“It was a huge deal for him, and I felt super proud,” Leahy said. “I never thought I’d be so excited for another actor to book a role, but I was just filled with so much elation that I didn’t expect.”

Cunningham spent a month in Louisville, Kentucky, filming the movie, which is set to be released sometime next year. He said being on set and working in front of the camera, particularly with Cage, allowed him to grow as a performer.

Cunningham said Cage likes to improvise on set, once throwing Cunningham a “curveball” mid-scene that he had to go along with.

“He is as crazy as you expect him to be, but it’s in the best possible way,” Cunningham said. “Working with him and the other actors who are established was a really good learning experience.”

Cage could not be reached for comment.

Cunningham said he has always been interested in performing. As a child, he grew up thinking about how he could have his own Disney Channel show.

In high school, Cunningham performed in musical productions such as “Pippin” and “Sweet Charity.” Prior to his work in Louisville, Cunningham spent his summer performing in “Hair” on campus.

“I’m still fairly new compared to a lot of people who go to Northwestern when it comes to performance,” Cunningham said. “That’s what makes it even crazier, that I don’t have too much experience and I got to have this awesome opportunity.”

Coming to NU, Cunningham said he saw the opportunity to explore his interests outside of performance. A radio, television and film major, Cunningham said he chose this concentration because he wanted to learn about the process of filmmaking, both on and off camera.

Aside from acting, Cunningham said he spent his time on set learning about film production as a whole. When he wasn’t filming, he said he would meet crew members and ask questions.

His role in “Mom and Dad” has made him want to explore acting in more professional settings.

“Now I don’t just have my foot in the door; I’m in the walkway, and I think I’m going to try and ride this momentum from this movie and try to do other things,” Cunningham said.

One of Cunningham’s friends, Communication sophomore Lauren Crittenden, said she is proud of him for taking the role and that she looks forward to seeing him on the big screen.

“This will hopefully take him places he wants to go,” Crittenden said.

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