In Knock Knock, the enthralling new horror film by director Eli Roth, two young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) appear at the door of an architect (Keanu Reeves) whose family has gone away for the weekend. What follows is a tense, frightening game of cats-and-mouse that makes it clear nothing a viewer thinks he knows about anyone involved is even remotely true.
Here, Izzo—the Chilean-born actress who also stars in the recent thriller The Green Inferno—explains the draw of scary movies and why a simple haircut might have been the most terrifying scene of her career.
Your character, Genesis, makes a strong case for never opening the door to a stranger. What about her did you like?
Oh, my God, everything. When I read Knock Knock I saw this very troubled human being who at the same time was empowered and very powerful, with a mission to sort of show the world what men can really be, and to say that the rules are not OK with her. What an awesome character to play; there’s so much going on in her little brain, and there’s the love between her and this other character, Belle, which I thought was so interesting.. It reminded me of Fatal Attraction and Hard Candy and Funny Games. I feel like it was a risky script and I don’t see that very often.
Did you create a backstory for the character, then? Watching the movie, you don’t get a sense of how she ended up the way she is.
There are glimpses that you could maybe get, but it’s easy to lose them. They’re not on purpose. I think that’s the beauty of it.
Genesis does plenty of terrible things throughout the film, but at one point she cuts Keanu Reeves’ character’s hair. Was that real?
I really cut Keanu Reeves’ hair! I told my mom, I called her and said, “Mom, I’m really nervous.” And she goes, “OK, but it’s a wig..,” and I told her, “No, I’m cutting Keanu Reeves’ hair! Mom, it’s Neo, what do I do?”
Luckily, Keanu is the sweetest guy. But I had go up to him and say, “I’m gonna have real scissors. How do you feel about this?” He was like, “Yeah, yeah, just cut it, man.” So Ana was sitting on top of him, and I’m cutting his hair. I could not stop thinking about how I was cutting Keanu Reeves’ hair. I wasn’t really in the scene; I was just in my mind thinking, This is happening.”
Of all the destructive things you had to do, which was the most enjoyable?
When we were destroying a set of statues, it was physically very hard, because they were real statues, not props. Our art director, Marichi Palacios, did an awesome job. He found all of these incredible local, up-and-coming Chilean artists to do all of those sculptures. I felt terrible destroying them, because I actually met the artists during pre-production, and they did such a wonderful job, and here I was destroying it. At at a certain point, I just started crying all of these emotional tears. I was like, “Wow, I’m becoming really method here, this is working.” There was a huge, massive release.
What was most difficult about playing Genesis?
Here’s the thing: I thought that what was really important for me was that everything was really subtle. I thought that what worked about Genesis and Belle was that there was a certain subtlety of constantly changing of personalities. What I love about them is that they use their sexuality and their womanhood in their favor. They’re aware of that, and they use it to get what they want, to prove a point. For me, it was very tricky and hard, and fun—because I love a challenge—to portray that. To portray a real person who has all of these different arcs constantly going up and down, that’s always tough.
Still, the hardest part for me was probably the sex scene. I had never done a sex scene before and my fiancé was directing the movie, so it was really weird. Ana and Keanu were cracking up, like, You realize that this is not sexual at all, this is actually the opposite. They were total pros and so after I while I got that it was just funny. And I honestly think that’s one of the most sexy, brilliant scenes Eli has ever shot.
After making this movie, would you ever open the door to a stranger?
I grew up in a family where, since I was five, everyone was like, “Do not open your door ever to a stranger!” And I actually remember when I was about seven, my mom was traveling and she left me with my aunt. My aunt was maybe 20 at the time she thought once I fell asleep that she could go out quickly and then come back. But I woke up in the middle of the night and she wasn’t there. I was terrified and I called the cops and the fire department and everything, but my aunt was ringing the doorbell—she had to be buzzed in—and she was yelling, “Lorenza, it’s me!” but my mom had told me to never open the door. It took the police to convince me to finally open it and let my aunt in. So now, I do not open the door to any strangers.