Steven Knight is probably best-known for his acclaimed film and TV screenplays (“Dirty Pretty Things,” which won him an Oscar nom, the BAFTA nominated “Eastern Promises,” “The Hundred Foot Journey,” “Peaky Blinders”) and co-creating the global TV phenom “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” But the British writer’s also an accomplished and technically innovative director (his fraught drama “Locke,” starring Tom Hardy, plays out in real time, largely on the phone). His new film, Global Road Entertainment’s “Serenity,” is a noir thriller with a stellar cast including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.
What sort of film did you set out to make?
Something unexpected and surprising. I wanted to take the genre and upend it.
You assembled a very high profile cast that includes Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou and Jeremy Strong. How did you manage that?
(Laughs) I honestly don’t know. It’s a mysterious process that I really don’t understand, where you write something and it goes out there, and then you hear that someone’s interested in doing it, and how that exactly happens I just don’t know. I was just astonished and flattered by the caliber of actors who wanted to be a part of it.
Any surprises working with big stars like McConaughey and Hathaway?
Just that they’re such totally committed actors, with such ability, poise and grace. They have so many arrows in their quivers, and everyone brought so much to the material. Their performances elevated the whole thing 100%.
You wrote and directed this. What was the impetus to direct this one?
Certain ideas come along and you decide you want to have complete control over it, so by directing you don’t have to compromise so much. I don’t love the whole process of directing, as it’s so hard and brutal and physically exhausting, and you’re dealing with all the deadlines and money pressures. But it is strangely addictive.
This is the third film you’ve directed. Do you want to keep directing?
Yes, but it’s very much a case of when the right project of mine comes along. I’d never direct someone else’s script. I’d never be a director for hire. It’d have to be something I’d written.
I wrote “World War Z 2” and I have some very interesting TV projects lined up. I’m just about to fly off to Stockholm to do some research on a true story that I’ll write but not direct.