The innovative and highly engaging Locke (out now on Blu-ray, DVD & across digital platforms) see’s Tom Hardy play a man on a journey in every sense of the word, speeding along the motor way from Birmingham to London as his life unravels in front of him.
We had a chat with writer and director Steven Knight who told us about crafting his starkly simple story into the technically complex movie that made it on screen and more importantly his upcoming role as writer of World War Z 2.
Interview with Steven Knight
Love Horror: The script is a superb character study of the physical and emotional journey of the central character Ivan Locke. How did you come up with the idea and what was the writing process like?
Steven Knight: Well I had just finished making a completely different sort of film (Hummingbird with Jason Statham) and in that process we had shot a lot of footage and test footage for the cameras from moving vehicles on motorways and in urban environments just testing out the cameras and when we watched the footage on a big screen I fond it hypnotic. The whole thing of shooting from inside a vehicle outside and seeing the light and the movement and I wondered if it would be possible to turn that moving environment into a theatre to effectively shoot a play inside that theatre. I sort of wanted it to run in real time, its not quite real time but I wanted a journey that was about 90 minutes long and a journey I know very well is Birmingham to London so I thought it could be a man making that journey. Then I wanted it to be that he stared with everything and arrived with nothing and I contemplated how that would work and what would lead to that.
Also I was very keen to point that camera at the sort of person who doesn’t usually get films made about them so I wanted to have the most ordinary man in Britain with the most ordinary job and an ordinary family who makes a mistake that isn’t going to make the papers but is going to destroy his life. I came up with the idea of the baby and all of that and then I had a meeting with Tom Hardy because his people wanted me to write something for him. In the conversation about that project I mentioned this project and he was really keen so I had the idea but I hadn’t written it yet so I was able to write it with Tom in mind. The process was quite quick and I wrote it over the Christmas break and we shot it in February so it was a very charmed project as a lot of things fell into to place for us.
Love Horror: Was there a lot of preparation before any film was actually shot?
Steven Knight: Well we had to do certain things beforehand yes. I was really adamant that we would shot it the whole way through beginning to end every time we turned over. We would be on a low loader with Tom in the car and the other actors where in a hotel with a phone line directly to the car and I would say action and that would cue the first call and then the second and the third and we would shoot everything beginning to end take a break and then do it again.
We ended up with 16 versions of the film but in order to do that we needed to prepare the ground so we needed to prepare the technical side to know that was going to work, we needed to know the phone would work. I also sat with the actors for 5 days and read through the script at a table reading so we read it over and over again so any topics of character motivation and all of that was done in a room before we set off so we where all pretty much prepared for what we had to do. That’s how we shot it so yes it did take a lot of preparation in advance but when we did it, we did it within a week
Love Horror: You also have some amazing actors including Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott who we only ever hear on the phone. What was the logistics of filming their parts and what was the experience like for them performing through only their voices?
Steven Knight: They where really keen to do the project because it was so different. We had two rooms in the hotel, there was a room where they all sat and when they where queued they would go into a second room where there was a microphone where the phone line was and they would do their bit. We would return from being out on the road till 4am and they where all in a very jolly mood. They enjoyed themselves, they were together, there was red wine and biscuits and they had a good time. The whole thing was everyone taking a holiday from how you usually make a film.
Everyone involved was very experienced, the DP (director of photography) was very experienced, obviously Tom and we all wanted to make a film in a way that wasn’t the way films are usually made which can be such a painful process and just have the fun part which is the performance and all of that stuff. So that’s what we did and we didn’t know if was going to work or not but when we got it to Venice (Film Festival) we just realised that people liked it.
Love Horror: I guess the rest of the cast had the opposite experience to Tom Hardy as so the whole film is focused on his visual performance. Was the pressure hard for him having the weight of the film on his shoulders seeing as he is in every scene?
Steven Knight: The whole film I wanted to set it up that there was no pressure on anyone. The budget was so low and there was no studio hanging around. I think often pressure comes from outside when you are making a film its people worrying about schedules and stuff but we had none of that. We didn’t have a particular schedule because we just kept shooting the film over and over again in sequence so if something goes wrong it will go wrong in a different place next time and you can just carry on.
I think for the actors it was very liberating. I said to treat it like the theatre but once we start you have to deal with whatever happens, we are not going to stop and go back. We didn’t have any continuity issues because I could cut together from any of the 16 versions at any time because it’s just lights and movement and the car. There was very little pressure in that sense. I think the pressure comes when you have a huge budget. When you have a budget this small people leave you alone.
Love Horror: Your first project writing and directing before Locke was on Hummingbird, which was a much bigger film. Was Locke liberating coming from that larger project with more studio pressure?
Steven Knight: Yes. Hummingbird was a conventional film, more conventional in how it was made not what it was about but it was made in the normal way. You break up the narrative, you’re moving around in terms of telling the story. It’s all the business of making a film which with most films you have to do. I was just wondering if there was another way of getting a group of people in a room and turning off the lights and have them look at the screen for 90 minutes, how many other ways are there of doing that?
Love Horror: Considering the entire film is one man in a car on the phone it is a visually stunning and unconventional piece of cinema. It has a very dreamlike feel for how real it is did you always have the hypnotic look in mind in terms of the visuals and how they blend?
Steven Knight: Yeah I mean I find nighttimes on the motorway quite beautiful anyway even though they are not conventionally beautiful but they are quite interesting and what I wanted to do was have inside the car Locke is trying to impose order, trying to impose rationality on everything. Outside is the chaos with everything going on and the lights and the movement and it can’t be controlled. That’s what Ivan Locke and John Locke with his philosophy of rationalism don’t understand that it doesn’t work. Ivan can control the concrete but he can’t control al the other stuff. So I wanted the outside to look like this sort of chaotic universe that he is driving through.
Love Horror: The film has a great sense of movement as well, you really feel like you are travelling with the character on his journey?
Steven Knight: Yeah who knew if it was going to work. When you write a conventional film people talk about the journey of a character well this is a real journey so you are seeing the journey. Certain things are there without having to be explained so the future is ahead, the past is in the rear view mirror so he can look back and talk to his Dad who he imagines is behind him. All those literal things you don’t have to explain, you feel it, you know he is on his way to the destination he is on his way to and the Sat-Nav keeps telling him he has to keep going. All of those things clicked quite nicely.
Love Horror: Did the final film look how you had imagined and scripted it?
Steven Knight: Yes, well that’s the ultimate question isn’t it. When you write a film you have it in your head, and you can see it and it’s perfectly edited then you have to bring it into the real world and then the trouble begins. Saying that this is as close to the film in my head on screen as much as I’ve ever done. I think it’s as close as you can get because it was all under your control, there were no variables. Its quite interesting in that sense, that is exactly as I pictured it when I wrote it.
Love Horror: That must be really nice to have that happen!
Steven Knight: Yeah, fantastic but the problem is what if people decide they don’t like it? You can’t blame anyone else as it’s exactly what I think it should be. I was such a big relief when people did get it
Love Horror: What kind of response did you get from the audiences you have shown it to?
Steven Knight: Unbelievable I’ve continued to be astounded by it. In Venice, was the first time when people who weren’t involved in it saw it. It had a fantastic response a lot of emotion. Then wherever we took it the most DELIGHTED people would come up to me even middle aged man would give me long hand shakes saying “that’s the story of my dad” or “my story.” A lot of people identified with Locke who I suspect were dragged to the cinema they heard it was a story about a man in a car and didn’t really want to go. They were the people who responded most, when the lights went up the oddest people had tears in their eyes which was fantastic. Salt Lake City at the Sundance festival, film people responded which was great and I loved it. Then when we showed it in actual Salt Lake City itself to just an audience and the response was almost even better.
Love Horror: I can’t not ask about the fact that you are down as a writer for World War Z 2. Are you a big zombie fan and can you tell us anything about the project?
Steven Knight: Yes it is true. I am totally forbidden from saying anything. I loved the film I thought it was astoundingly stark in the way it didn’t tell you anything, it just happened and I thought that was great. But that leaves me with a lot of responsibly for the sequel!
Love Horror: What else do you have coming up?
Steven Knight: The Hundred-Foot Journey is in cinemas at the moment, which is totally different to Locke and Pawn Sacrifice is at Toronto. We are filming a script I wrote with Bradley Cooper in London at the moment which will be out next year and Peaky Blinders second series will start on TV soon so….
Love Horror: So pretty busy then?
Steven Knight: (Laughs) Yeah very busy which is all very good
Love Horror: Well thanks for talking to us and good luck with everything. I thought Locke was a great film so long may it run as it where!
Steven Knight: (Laughing) Exactly and thanks a lot
Locke is available now on Blu-ray, DVD & across digital platforms.