'I saw it as a student film by professionals'
Director Steven Knight wrote his experimental indie feature “Locke,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, in only two and a half weeks. That’s a long time compared to the mere five nights it took him to finish most of the shooting. And a typical day on the “set,” located on various freeways in England, lasted six to seven hours.
One reason for such a compressed schedule was that “Locke” only shows one actor: the wonderful Tom Hardy, who plays Ivan Locke. All the action is set in real time on a singular car ride. Then again, there isn’t much action in the dialogue-heavy story, with Locke chatting with a small group of characters on the phone. (The other actors called into the moving vehicle live from a different location.)
Knight and Hardy spoke to Variety about their film.
Did you get the idea for this movie when you were driving?
Steven Knight: Not really. I was looking at footage from a more conventional film I made before. We tested cameras by shooting out of moving vehicles. The result, I thought, was hypnotic and beautiful.
How did you pitch it to Tom?
Knight: We were talking about something else. And the idea had come of doing this about an ordinary man making a journey where he begins with everything and ends with nothing.
Hardy: It was a short film.
Knight: And it became long. Oh, by the way, it’s got 90 pages.
Would you have done it as a short?
Hardy: I would have done anything for Steve, to be honest. I was excited by the premise. Not to be crude, but I saw it as a student film by professionals. We were together to create something in no time whatsoever with a really solid script. And we just went for it.
How did you write it so quickly?
Knight: Anything quick that I write is better than anything slow. Because if it’s right, it’ll come quickly. If it’s slow, it’s because there’s a problem, usually. With this, I wrote it pretty much out of Christmas in two and a half weeks.
Sandra Bullock had said when she did “Gravity,” she felt lonely. Did you feel isolated like that, Tom?
Hardy: Not at all. I was with all my mates. I got a whole team [the crew] surrounding me.
Were you worried it wouldn’t work?
Knight: I always thought it would work for me. I thought it would for Tom as well. I always thought at the end of it, we would have something that we would be pleased with.
Hardy: We couldn’t fail.
Hardy: It’s a creative endeavor. The script is so tight. The dialogue moves sequitur to non-sequitur. There’s a trajectory. The characters and the relationships are so diverse, there’s so much to mine. You could not make a mistake apart from not making the effort. Do you know what I mean? That’s not talking about the financial success of the movie. If nobody recorded it, we just sat in a room, I’ve got this script. We’d come out and say that’s fucking good fun man. It’s got to be made. The question is execution. Did the audience enjoy it as much as we enjoyed participating in it?
Knight: The greatest thing is that wherever we’ve shown it, including Salt Lake City, the West Coast, U.S. audiences, European audiences, they forget this is a film that’s been made in a different way. They engage with Ivan. They engage with his dilemma. Within 6 minutes, people have forgotten. They are no longer expecting to get out of the car. We did a version where there were more cutaways, more shots from outside the car. People didn’t want it. They wanted to get back in again.
You mean test audiences?
Knight: No, nothing about this film was done in the normal way. God knows we all worked the normal way.
How was it financed?
Knight: It was financed by a paragraph to IM Global saying this is what we want to do.
Did you have a big budget?
Knight: No, a small budget.
Hardy: “Bronson” was the same way.
Knight: It was less than $2 [million]. It means people leave you alone a lot more. They leave you alone entirely, because the risk they are taking is quite small. You get the freedom to control and do it.
Was the car on a soundstage?
Knight: No, it’s a car in the back of a low-loader, so we’re driving for real. To do that was breaking all the rules. On the road, you’ll get all of these wonderful happy accidents that happened when you actually moving.
Where were you going?
Knight: M1, M6, M25. These are motorways. We shot from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., so it would be a varied amount of traffic. Because you’re really moving, you’re going to get things happening in terms of reflection, light, other vehicles.
Would you take breaks?
Knight: Every 27 minutes, you’d have to pull over and change the memory card in the three camera. But only like a Formula 1 stop. We’d take the opportunity to change the lens, change the angle and pick up where we started.
Would you get distracted?
Hardy: Of course. And I got calls coming in when Steve decides that they are coming in. I’d sit there and wait, and the call comes and I know what it is. But I didn’t know when it’s coming.
Knight: Opening oneself up to the world is great, [like] Tom having a cold. In fiction, you either have your marriage break up or you have a cold. In reality, that’s going to happen in the same time.
Hardy: I had a cold. That was real. So I needed my Dayquil. We were shooting and I just taking my Dayquil normally and the cameras were on. The stuff with the handkerchief up your wrist, like when you’re snotty rag, up the sleeve, that’s a typical dad or mom sort of things. Stock the tissue away somewhere. It’s just a life thing. Why not use it?
Tom, you played Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Would you do another comic book movie.
Hardy: Yeah, of course.
Have you been offered others?
You’re also playing Elton John in an upcoming biopic. Is there a love scene?
Hardy: With Elton John? No, because I’m playing Elton John.
You know what I mean. Does Elton have a love scene?
Hardy: I can’t tell you anything about the movie. It’s a very interesting take on him. It’s sort of Billy Elliot meets [Terry] Gilliam.