Locke is out one of the standout films of 2014, and marked the return of Steven Knight to the director's chair as he teamed up with Tom Hardy for the first time.
We caught up with the director to chat about the film, working with the British actor, and what lies ahead.
- Locke is about to be released on DVD, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Locke is a different way of making a film as well as being a different sort of film. It is about one man's journey from Birmingham to London: he starts the journey with everything and arrives with nothing.
We shot the movie in ten days and we did continuous takes, so when I said 'action' we shot the film from beginning to end before starting again.
The phonecalls that you see in the film are real calls that were made into the car and Tom was taking the calls. It really was a very different way of making a film.
- You have penned the screenplay and are in the director's chair, so where did this project start for you? And what inspired this story?
It began after I had finished making a more conventional film with Jason Statham. In that process, I had used these digital cameras and we had shot a lot of footage from moving vehicles.
I sat and watched the test footage on a big screen and found it quite hypnotic and wondered if that could be turned into a piece of theatre where you would shoot a play in that environment.
I was looking for story where someone has everything and nothing, and I just wanted to point the camera at an ordinary man: there is nothing about this story that would make the papers or the local news. It really is just an ordinary tragedy.
I was lucky enough to get Tom Hardy to play the starring role. After that, it became quite easy to get the thing put together.
- I know that you have wanted to work with Tom Hardy for quite some time, so how did you get him on board? And what was it about him that made you think he would be perfect for Locke? Did you write the script with him in mind?
That was interesting because Tom Hardy's people contacted me because they wanted me to write something for him - a completely different project. During the conversation about this other project, we talked about this idea for Locke and Tom was really keen.
So I had the idea by then but I hadn't written it: I wrote it over that Christmas period and we were shooting in February.
- You are quite a prolific screenwriter but how does your writing process work? Do you start with characters then plot? Or do you develop the plot first?
It depends on the project. Sometimes it is a commission, in other words, you get given a project or a book to adapt or true life story to adapt. In that case, many of the characters are already there, but you do have to choose who you are going to feature more prominently.
If it is an original like Locke, it is a process that I find develops as you... rather than starting off with a clear idea of what the story is or who the characters are, I tend to start writing not quite knowing and see what happens. It takes longer, but it is more fun.
- You have slightly touched on this already but Locke has a play/theatre feel to it - it feels very live in a way. So how did your directing approach differ from Hummingbird?
It was different because I wanted to do everything in sequence, not to takes, and not stop and start. Because I wanted to work like that, we had to do all of the work on the script and characters beforehand.
So we spent five days sitting around a table with all of the actors reading the script over and over again, getting use to it, and deciding on how the characters were going to work.
Therefore, when we got out on the road, it really was just a case of doing it. It really was exactly like you would do in the theatre, and I think it gives the whole thing spontaneity really.
- How much did the actors enjoy working like that? It is unusual that they would get so much rehearsal time before starting to shoot.
It is unusual for a film. They loved it. We put all the actors together in a hotel conference room - not exactly a glamourous job - and they would come to the microphone, which was the phoneline, in sequence.
I think they enjoyed the fact that it was different: everyone involved in the making of this got a holiday from what they normally do because we were doing it so differently.
- I was reading that you shot the film from start to finish sixteen times during the shoot, so why did you decide to shoot the film like this?
I just thought 'why not?' There are so many rules about how you make a film and so many conventions that you can and can't do. I think people have forgotten that they are just rules that were invented for convenience - sometimes it is more convenient not to obey the rules.
In this particular movie, there was no continuity issue because the background is moving and you can cut between any take and it will work.
Therefore, there was no reason not to just simply go through the whole thing, so the actors could calibrate their performance. It really was the most effective way of shooting this story.
- That gave you so much material when you got into the edit, so how was the editing process?
It was good because the choices were purely on performance. There were no continuity problems; there were no issues with explosions or fighting.
It was just purely performance. It really was about choosing the best performance in that moment for the film. It really was a great luxury that you don't normally have.
- This is a film that is shot entirely in a car, with Tom Hardy being the only character that you see on the screen. What sort of challenges did you face in your ten day shoot?
Because we were not doing takes and not stopping - apart from having to pull over every twenty-eight minutes to change the memory cards in the cameras - it meant that things that really happened were in the film.
There was a rattle in the car, normally you would pull over and sort that out, but because it was real, we left it in. The rattling noise in the car does add to the tension in a way.
We would have police cars fly past with their sirens on lights going and we would hit traffic jams, but all that was fine because we were inviting the chaos of ordinary life into the film. I tried to turn what could be disadvantages into positives were possible.
- As I said earlier, you have wanted to work with Tom for some time, so did you find that experience? He is terrific in the film.
It was brilliant. He brought the beard, the knitted jumper, and the Welsh accent to the role. I wanted him to be the most ordinary man in Britain.
Tom is famous for playing monsters and larger than life characters, but this man has two kids and an ordinary job: there is nothing extraordinary about him. To play that is more difficult than playing the bigger roles I think. However, Tom was absolutely brilliant.
- We are always hearing about how difficult it is to get films made in this country, but how difficult was it to sell Locke when you were trying to get it off the ground?
Surprisingly, it was quite easy. The budget was very low and when the budget is low, people are taking a much smaller risk. It was green-lit off the back of a paragraph description. I met Tom in October and we were shooting in February.
I have got a film coming out in September, and it has been ten years in the making, so I am use to it not being like that. It was just one of those projects that seemed to have a charmed life somehow.
- Locke played at London Film Festival last year and has now had a theatrical release, so how have you been finding the response to the film?
It has been unbelievable. We also took it to Venice, and everywhere I have been with it, it has had the most amazing response. Critically it has done brilliantly and that is fantastic.
Also, when you show it in the cinema you find that it is the people that you least expect that are the most emotionally moved by it. A lot of middle-aged men have said 'this is the story of my father' or 'this is the story of me'.
It is very gratifying that people who you wouldn't call film buffs are really responding to it. It is great to get the good reviews, but it is even better to get ordinary people loving it.
- Locke is only your second feature film, so how have you found the transition into the director's chair?
It is hard work (laughs) it is physically hard work. Writing is warm and dry. It is a great experience and very collaborative.
I am definitely going to continue directing, but I am always going to try to explore new ways of making films. It really is possible to make films in different ways.
- Finally, what's coming up for you going through the rest of the year? You have got quite a lot of scripts that have been made into films.
I know, it is all happening at the same time. We have got The Hundred-Foot Journey set for release this autumn: it is already out in the U.S and doing really really well. That is good.
I have also got Pawn Sacrifice coming out at the Toronto Film Festival with Tobey Maguire. Another script I wrote is being shot at the moment in London: I suppose that will be out next year. So yeah, there is a lot.
Locke is available on Blu-ray, DVD & across digital platforms now.