Locke is the latest film from writer/director Steven Knight, who is perhaps best known for his screenplays for Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises. Starring Tom Hardy, the thriller is also a prime example of minimalist filmmaking, as it takes place almost completely inside a car as Ivan Locke (Hardy) steps away from his job and takes a long drive into London. The reason for this drive becomes clear as the movie goes on, and the ramifications it has on his personal and professional life will be immense.
I landed an exclusive interview with Steven last week while he was in Los Angeles promoting the film. We spoke about how he got the ever so busy Tom Hardy to star in this film, how the role of Ivan Locke differs from the kind of roles that Hardy has played previously, and how he went about casting actors whose voices we hear but faces we never see.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
When you pitched the movie to Tom Hardy, what exactly were you hoping that he would bring to the material?
Steven Knight: If you were going to have one actor onscreen for that long it better be the best, and I think he is the best actor we have. There were a lot of happy coincidences that led to this, but one of them was that I happened to be meeting him for something else. I know he loves theater and I said that I was thinking of doing effectively a play but in a theater that was this background of a motorway; a moving journey. He was very intrigued. So I wrote it with him in mind and within a couple of weeks we were shooting.
With Tom Hardy, he usually has a flamboyance in his roles and in this film, he has to strip all of that away and look very ordinary. Was it hard for him?
Steven Knight: No, it was something he relished because as he said, “This is my first straight role.” He’s always sort of a monster or larger than life or whatever. But with this, the sort of exceptional thing about Ivan Locke is how ordinary he is. When I wrote the part, I wanted him to be the most ordinary person in the world. He’s married with two kids, works with concrete, which is not exactly a glamorous occupation, and the thing that happens to him is not a kidnapping, it’s not a murder and it’s not a drug deal. It’s something that could happen to anyone, so it’s sort of an ordinary tragedy. Tom relished the idea that he would play this everyman and then see what was there and how this person reacts to this dilemma.
Regarding the scenes in the car, I’m assuming you shot the film on an actual freeway. What were the logistics of that? Did you have the car towed?
Steven Knight: What we did was we put the car on a low loader, like a flatbed truck, and took the wheels off so that it was that the right level relative to the other vehicles. And then I was on the back of the low loader and Tom had auto cue, so he had the scripts like a newsreader would have. There were two of those in front of him and one in the rearview mirror as well, so he had access to the script all the time. The other actors were in a hotel conference room near to the motorway, and we had a real phone line into the car, so the calls are all real.
I would say action only once. He’d then set off on the road, cue the first caller, and they would come and make the call. And then came the second and the third, and we’d shoot the whole film beginning to end. We tried to shoot it twice at night, so in the end we ended up with 16 movies which we then put together and found the best bits. We had three Red cameras rolling all the time but each one has a memory of only 30 minutes, so every 27 minutes we’d pull over, change the memory cards, change the lenses, change the angle and set off again and leave Tom alone in character. So we just shot it as if it were a play.
It’s great that the phone calls were live because in a lot of other movies they are usually pre-recorded and they don’t seem convincing as a result.
Steven Knight: Making films is always a reason not to do the logical thing. There was a thought that we would have to shoot each phone call over and over again on the same bit of motorway because of continuity, but nobody cares. If anybody’s looking at the nature of the motorway then you’ve lost them already, so in the end we thought, ‘let’s just shoot it.’