Locke Poster

With a CV boasting of a Best Original Screenplay nomination in 2004 for Dirty Pretty Things  Steven Knight has had a long and distinguished career in screenwriting and with his latest film, Locke starring Tom Hardy, his second directorial outing proves his capability behind the camera. We chat with Steven Knight about his latest film and working with Tom Hardy.

It seems that Locke goes against the typical story of a man torn but rather one who is determined…

At the beginning you see the lead character pull up at traffic lights indicating left but then changes his mind and turns right, and really the film is a consequence of that decision all the way through. So something that normally happens at the end, in fact, happens at the very beginning. Once he’s made that decision he’s not going to change his mind.  Everything bounces off him because he is so determined. It makes him a very unusual and noble kind of hero.

How did the idea come about for the film?

I had just finished making a more conventional film with Jason Statham and two things had happened. First of all, I had asked myself if there is another way of doing the basic job of getting people to watch a film and engage with the screen for 90 minutes.  Secondly, when we were making Hummingbird to test the digital cameras we had shot footage from a moving car and watched it on the big screen to test for sensitivity. I found it absolutely hypnotic and thought we could take that, turn it into a theatre, put an actor in there and shoot a play in that environment.

That was the initial thought then I wanted it to be journey and really wanted it to be about an ordinary man who has a problem that is not a kidnapping, shooting, a murder or a crime. Instead it is something that anyone could do, an ordinary mistake that is made but he reacts an extraordinary way.

When you were writing Locke, did you have specific actors in mind and what did you see in Tom Hardy to cast him in the role?

I think if you’re going to have one actor on screen for 90 minutes they better be good and I think Tom is the best we got. For the other parts we aimed as high and tried to get the best character actors out there.

To our amazement they all said yes. We were spoiled because they were giving such great performances that would not be envisioned.

This is only your second time out as a director. How did you find it this time round?

Sometimes inexperience is a good thing because you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. So to approach this in the way I did was easier for me because I didn’t have the rules on how to do stuff engrained in me. It is such a luxury for actors to perform as though it were theatre.

The phone conversations we see on screen are live at that moment in time. What made you decide to do this?

Whenever you make a film there is always a logical, practical, reason for not what would be most the most obvious thing to do in my experience, with the level of control we had over this I thought why don’t we just do it in the most naïve way where we put the other actors in a hotel conference room with a phone line between this room and the car.

I would then filter through the calls in sequence and shoot the whole film from beginning to end once, sometimes twice. It is a completely different way of shooting something that has its advantages.

How was that for you?

Very intense because you’re watching the thing unfold for real and the actor is calibrating their performance so when they’re emotional it’s because they’ve been through that experience in the past hour. You have to be aware that if something goes wrong it might go wrong in a different place tomorrow so there was the temptation to stop and do it again but we really didn’t want to do that.

Locke was well received at the Glasgow Film Festival. How do you think it will play with wider audiences? 

Well, the response to it has been breathtaking really. I am just back from screenings in the States and the response from all quarters has been pretty overwhelming. It began life as a modest expression as a desire on my part to make a film in a different way. What has been most gratifying is the response from people who were dragged to the cinema who didn’t necessarily want to see it.

Many people are talking about the film as being an experience after they have seen it.

It’s fair to say you’re most recent films have been fairly different from Closed Circuit to Hummingbird and now Locke. How much of a conscience decision has this been for you?

All forms of film making are equally valid. I write more conventional films as a day job sort of and then do Hollywood films as well. People like options and choices. This is something different and it asks people to use their imaginations given that they will only see one of the characters in the film. One of the great comments I’ve heard are people saying they forgot they never seen the other characters – a couple have said they have seen the wife, which is impossible.

There seems to be a renewed interest in TV, with the success of HBO amongst others. What’s your take on it all?

I think it’s driven by a couple of things. I think actors enjoy having seven or eight hours to develop their character, the method of shooting is better for actors because it is much quicker.

Also, I think an underestimated element is that people have better screens now to watch TV with high definition. It’s almost a movie experience in itself and more actors are doing both films as well as TV now.

You’re also shooting the second season of Peaky Blinders. Anything you can tell us about it?

Still ongoing and the footage we have so far is fantastic.

Locke is released on April 18th – you can read our review here.