Cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Tom Holland
Director: Steven Knight
Running Time: 84 minutes
Synopsis: Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has worked hard to craft a good life for himself. Tonight, that life will collapse around him. On the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job, and soul. Taking place over the course of one riveting car ride, LOCKE is directed by Academy-award nominated writer, Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) and stars Tom Hardy in a tour-de-force performance.
Release Date: August 28th, 2014
Writer-director Steven Knight began considering the nature of film-making when he was putting the finishing touches to his directorial debut Hummingbird at the end of 2012. 'I wondered if I could strip the whole process down to the basics," Steve Knight explains. 'The idea is to get a load of people in a room, turn the lights off and persuade them to look at a screen and engage with whatever is there.
'People talk about the journey and the arc and all that stuff. Locke boils all that down," continues Steve Knight, who received an Oscar nomination for his script Dirty Pretty Things in 2004. 'In this film, the journey is a real journey and the arc is a real arc. Someone begins with a job and a family and a wife and by the end of the journey, pretty much in real time, he's got nothing left."
Locke, starring Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke, is set almost entirely in a car. Ivan's is the only face we see; the other characters are the voices at the other end of his sometimes angry, sometimes funny, often shattering telephone calls. The backdrop is a hypnotic vista of motorway lights, illuminating Ivan's face as well as the demons he is battling and the choices he is making.
The concept was inspired by a series of camera tests Steve Knight had done for Hummingbird in which he had shot the view from a moving car using an Alexa camera. 'It was mesmerising," recalls Knight of the footage. 'Cities and roads at night are beautiful, I could look at them for hours. And so I started thinking about whether you could tell a story that all takes place within a vehicle." Knight, whose writing credits also include the 2007 crime thriller Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, has a reputation in the industry as a very likeable and supremely talented writer. He took his idea for Locke to Shoebox Films, the emerging new UK company also producing Hummingbird, in November 2012.
Shoebox is comprised of a troika of renowned film-makers: leading film executive Paul Webster, first assistant director-turned-producer Guy Heeley and acclaimed director Joe Wright, whose credits include a startling, innovative take on Anna Karenina (produced by Webster). Their interest was piqued by Steve Knight's simple pitch.
'Steve Knight said, -I'm thinking about doing a movie and it's not going to be a movie. It's going to be like an installation piece, something you might see in a gallery'," says Paul Webster with a smile. 'As a producer you remain impervious to all kinds of shocks, so Guy and I said, -OK, fine'. You think about how you would achieve that. You think, 'OK, he wants to make a movie, we like him, we love his talent, and it will be good because everything Steve Knight does is good. But how the hell do you pull this off?'"
Steve Knight and the Shoebox producers knew to make it work they needed a world-class film star. 'In my opinion, the best actor around is Tom Hardy," says Steve Knight of the british actor who has most recently starred in Christopher Nolan's blockbusters Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.
Neither Steve Knight nor the producers had worked with Hardy. However Tom Hardy had been close to playing both Joey in Hummingbird and Mr Darcy in Joe Wright's Pride And Prejudice, also produced by Paul Webster, a role for which he was ultimately considered too young at the time.
'We asked Steve Knight how he was going to get Tom Hardy, who is the busiest actor in the world, to commit to this," says Paul Webster. 'Steve Knight said, -I'm having a drink with him tomorrow at the Groucho Club and I'm going to talk him into it'. We said, 'OK, well call us after that", and sure enough Steve Knight did and said, 'Tom Hardy's in". We didn't believe it for a second and followed up with his agents, both here and in America. They said, 'Yeah he likes this, so once there is a script, he'll do it, and he'll give you a window to do it in. And that window was two weeks." Tom Hardy's wafer-thin availability in early 2013 presented the filmmakers with an enormous but appealing creative challenge.
'The conversation became, -can we make a film in two weeks?' " says producer Guy Heeley. 'We decided we could. We could if we were absolutely sure it would work technically and we had all our ducks in a row. I was a first assistant director for 15 years so this is my area of expertise."
The team decided to rehearse for a week and shoot for a week. Stuart Ford's Los Angeles-based sales and financing company IM Global, which had also backed Hummingbird, agreed to finance the project in December 2012 on the strength of Steve Knight's two-page outline. Steve Knight then wrote the script over Christmas 2012.
Locke is a compelling human drama about how one man's life is irrecoverably altered one night as he drives from Birmingham to London. While driving, Ivan makes a series of devastating phone calls to his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) and young sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner). Ivan also has to handle the calls from Bethan, the woman who was his assistant on a job site months ago, as well as a series of work-related telephone calls, including from his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels), who reluctantly fires him, and his scatter-brained but loyal colleague Donal (Andrew Scott), who Ivan needs to help him finish the job and oversee a vital delivery of concrete.
'I wanted it to be what I think of as an ordinary tragedy," says Steve Knight. 'It's an ordinary man to whom an ordinary thing has happened. It's not a car chase or an alien invasion. But to everyone involved it is a massive tragedy."
Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke
Steve Knight never had anyone else in mind for the role of Ivan Locke than Tom Hardy and his finely calibrated performance has rewarded that belief.
'Tom Hardy is one of those people who, as soon as they are on screen, all eyes are on him," Steve Knight says. 'People want to see inside his head. He is so brilliant at the complexity of a reaction, the complexity of an emotion. He keeps it in when it is necessary and lets it go when necessary. He knows when it's right and he knows when it's wrong. He's brilliant."
Tom Hardy's resume is crammed with rich, picturesque characters for which he has rightly won much acclaim. He was a homeless alcoholic in Stuart: A Life Backwards, frighteningly believable as a violent psychopath in Bronson, and menacing as the villain in The Dark Knight Rises, to name merely three. Ivan Locke is his first -straight' performance. There are no elaborate costumes, no tics, and there is nowhere to hide.
'He's not a monster or a demon, just an ordinary bloke," says Steve Knight. 'The beard makes him more ordinary still as he didn't want to be too pretty."
It was Tom Hardy's idea to give Ivan a Welsh accent. 'The Welsh accent is very neutral," says Steve Knight. 'It's perfect for Ivan. It doesn't have the swagger of a lot of urban accents."
Steve Knight's intention to shoot the entire film each night was attractive to Hardy. 'This method is very actor-friendly, they love it," Steve Knight says. 'As an actor, you want a length of time to get into your character. Normally when you're filming it's a line here, a line there, it's difficult. This way really gives everyone a chance to get into it."
Locke's short, sharp shooting schedule has also helped. 'It's not taking eight weeks of your life," says Steve Knight. 'It's going in, doing it, getting it done and getting out. When people see the light at the end of the tunnel they give everything in that short burst so you get fantastic performances." For editor Justine Wright, tasked with watching hours of footage of his face, Tom Hardy's performance is stunning. 'All the different Ivans he gave us are interesting and different," she explains. 'When you watch a performance over and over again, you can become bored of it, but I haven't. It's constantly surprising. You see all these little subtleties. He's very,very,very good."
Working with Steven Knight
If Hummingbird marked Steve Knight's arrival as an exciting new filmmaker, Locke confirms his talent as a world-class talent. 'Steve Knight's best quality as a director is his unflappability and his continued focus," says Paul Webster.
Steve Knight approaches filmmaking as a collaborative process. 'Everybody is given a lot of latitude. But he's always very, very, very clear what he wants," says Webster of Steve Knight's relationship with his crew.
'What Steve Knight does is, in a completely relaxed, calm, articulate way, he tells you what he wants to do and he's very encouraging," confirms director of photography Haris Zambarloukos. 'He said, -Go out there and give me the craziest shots'. And at the same time, he is steering it."
For editor Justine Wright, Knight is very clear about what he wants. 'He gets to the core of an issue very quickly," Steve Wright explains. 'He is great because he comes in and says -ok, like this, what if you did this, this, this' and then off you go."
Steve Knight is a director who believes everything stands and falls on the actors. 'You can have very pretty pictures but they don't make an iota of sense with a human being communicating with an audience," Webster points out. 'He understands that and gives them a lot of space. He wins trust very easily. He's the nicest guy in the world."
Actress Ruth Wilson, who plays Ivan's wife Katrina agrees: 'Steve Knight has done a great job at the unravelling of a man, bringing in the claustrophobia, and all these different characters who swirl around this man's mind. Steve Knight knows how to create a thriller, and has given it the pace to drive the motion forward."
Concrete: The ground beneath their feet
Locke is the story of a construction of a building and the demolition of a life. Knight wanted his lead character to be the most ordinary man in the world to whom one thing has happened. 'It's an exploration of how one mistake, if you call it a mistake, can lead to the complete collapse of someone's life," says Steve Knight. 'That to me felt like an analogy of a building, of destruction, of demolition. I liked the idea this very ordinary man did this very practical, solid job."
And there is nothing more solid than concrete. As the foreman of a building site where the foundations are being laid for the construction of an enormous building, Ivan is regarded as a safe pair of hands. But in trying to make up for a past mistake and do the right thing he abandons his post at a crucial time.
'I worked on a building site many years ago," reveals Steve Knight, who spent some time with the Senior Project Manager of the site on which the Shard was built at London Bridge while preparing Locke. 'I remember the arrival of the concrete was this big thing. When it comes you have to have everything ready for it because it's a disaster if the concrete sets in the wrong place."
The tragedy is that by choosing to lay the right foundations for the next part of his life, Ivan is turning to quicksand the ground beneath himself and his family.
Casting Locke: The voices on the end of the line
Tom Hardy is surrounded by some of the industry's most compelling actors. 'We made a dream team list of who we wanted and we pretty much got everybody," says Knight.
'There is a certain sort of -alone-ness' about being in a car and driving on your own," he continues. -People do very odd things when they are driving alone. They sing to themselves, talk to themselves. I wanted to capture the loneliness of that moment. And then these voices come in and their lives change."
The actors were impressed by the quality of the script, the opportunity to work with Tom Hardy and the intriguing concept of Steve Knight's 'anti film".
'It's a fascinating, quirky piece, experimental and interesting," says Ruth Wilson. 'I won't do anything like this again because it won't happen ever again I think, so that's why I did it." Katrina's life falls apart over a series of telephone calls with her husband. We hear her shock, then anger and eventually the process of the decision she makes. Like reading a novel or listening to a radio play, we create what Katrina might look like for ourselves.
'Ruth Wilson gives such a brilliant performance," says Steve Knight. 'When you hear her you see her in your head. You see the bedroom she's in, you see the kids and you see that domestic situation."
It's a situation Ruth Wilson relishes. 'What's interesting for all of us is that you might not recognise who we are," the actress says of the supporting cast. 'That's a joy and a benefit for us."
Olivia Colman, who plays Bethan, is one of the UK's most in-demand actors. She compares the audience's perspective to being a passenger in Ivan's car. 'You're watching this guy's life unravel, going, -Oh God! Who's going to phone him now? Please have some good news!' He can't see anyone so you are going through his emotions with him."
Olivia Colman does not have much sympathy for her character. 'She's a home-wrecker!" says Olivia Colman. 'When I first read it I was thinking it's just awful, it's really sad."
The Irish-born actor Andrew Scott, well known for his role as Moriarty in the BBC TV series Sherlock, provides light relief as Ivan's subordinate Donal. He has to be talked through a very difficult process over the telephone.
'He goes from calm to slightly hysterical, from sober to slightly drunk," says Scott of Donal. 'And he's running around. I have to imagine what he's going through so I'm not coming with exactly the same energy each time, so it gives Tom something to play off."
'Andrew Scott is very funny and gets so many laughs," says Steve Knight. 'It's very important people laugh because it's a tragedy and a comedy, often at the same time. As the pressure builds on Ivan, we should release that tension with laughter."
Locke's sons are played by 17 year-old Tom Holland and 18 year-old Bill Milner. 'It is an incredible story," says Tom Holland. 'It happens in such a short space of time, which is so scary. It's very interesting and very fun to do as an actor."
Just five weeks after Steve Knight delivered the first draft, Locke started four days of rehearsals before beginning eight nights of principal photography on February 18, 2013.
'Those five weeks were a pretty exciting ride as we had to put the film together very quickly," Heeley explains. 'Even though it's a film set in a car, it's still a film and it's still got every element of a film there. It still needs the right director of photography, the right editor, all the right heads of department."
'It was lean in some aspects and not in others," the producer continues. 'There were three cameras on every set-up so there was quite a large camera crew to support but we didn't have standby riggers or chippies for example. And no art director or production designer as essentially our only set was the car with a few hand props in it."
It was decided early on to shoot the film live to capture the progression of emotions rather than record the supporting actors' end of the conversations in a sound studio at a different time. Hardy spoke and responded to the other actors as if in a radio play.
How to pull that off was the challenge. Hardy was in a BMW with its wheels removed on the back of a low-loader. Driving the actors in a minibus on the motorway behind Tom Hardy was briefly considered but almost immediately rejected.The calibre of the actors involved suggested they might not entirely enjoy nine hours each night in a minibus on the M25.
Instead the actors were based in a specially-equipped hotel room in London's Docklands, near to where the filming of Hardy in the car took place. There was a phone line into the car, a phone line out of the car to the hotel room and another phone line for Steve Knight (also on the low-loader) to be able to talk to the hotel room and give direction to the other actors. Tom Hardy had an earpiece to ensure his dialogue was clean.
With only eight days to shoot the film, and just six of those with Tom Hardy, the production team went through a rigorous -what if' process.
'It couldn't go wrong. We had to cover every single base," says Heeley. 'Given that on paper it was one of the simplest films I've ever been involved with, it was one of the longest production meetings I've ever been in."
The BMW was fitted with three RED Epic digital cameras in a variety of different positions, which recorded for 37 minutes before their memory cards needed replacing. This allowed Knight to shoot the entire film each night.
'I said to all the actors, including Tom," treat it as a play," Knight explains. 'If something goes wrong, deal with it, as you would on stage. And they did that brilliantly."
The set-up has also enabled director of photography Haris Zambarloukos to give the film a sense of visual dynamism.
'Every night we would do a different angle on each camera, and every time we changed the card we changed the lens," Haris Zambarloukos explains.
Ivan's journey takes place mostly on the M1 motorway between Birmingham and London. However the UK's Highways Agency, which runs the country's motorways, now does not allow filmmakers to shoot using low-loaders on the motorway. The production mimicked a motorway with a section of the North Circular road which is run by the Transport For London agency and a section of the A13 between the Docklands and the M25 and from the North Circular to the M25 which is owned by a private company. It is a three-lane carriageway on both sides and looks exactly like a motorway.
Cast and crew started together at the hotel at six o'clock each evening. This gave Steve Knight and Tom Hardy time with the other actors before hitting the road on the low-loader. Also on board were the script supervisor and sound mixer.
'It was a traveling circus of the hero car being pulled by another truck," says Heeley. 'We also had the police behind us to make sure it was safe and a couple of cars driven by support crew so it felt like there were moving lights around us. We were sometimes shooting at three o'clock in the morning when the roads were quiet."
Still, traffic noise and shooting on a noisy low-loader have presented a challenge for sound editor John Casali during production. This is a film where what is heard is of the utmost importance. Casali had worked on Hummingbird with Steve Knight and Anna Karenina with Paul Webster and Joe Wright. 'John Casali is the best in the country," says Webster. 'Around 98% of the dialogue is what we recorded at the time, which is unbelievably good."
'Fortunately we've got a nice car that's quite well sound-proofed, and we got him close- mic'ed," says John Casali of Hardy and the BMW. 'We managed to feed an earwig to him, so the conversations that come from the hotel room were only heard by Tom Hardy in the car, and we got the cleanest track possible for the cutting room."
In the hotel, the other actors were in the recording room with headphones on, either receiving a call from Hardy or making a call to him. John Casali made sure there were props in the room such as drawers to rummage through and mobile phones to pick up. 'Steve Knight wanted them to be able to act and have that received in a car," says the sound editor.
'There is a camaraderie that comes from when you do something that's so unusual," says Andrew Scott. 'We're all in this together and we're all here to support Tom because his is the big responsibility."
As Bethan, Colman was presented with a particular auditory challenge. 'It's just quite embarrassing, going -moaaaaaaah', hoping people around aren't laughing."
The look of Locke
Finding the right director of photography for a film set almost entirely in a car was almost as essential as finding the right lead actor. Guy Heeley had worked with Haris Zambarloukos before on two previous films and knew he had recently done a series of car sequences for the CIA thriller Jack Ryan using the RED Epic camera.
'I thought he would be interested in the visual challenge," says Guy Heeley. 'It's quite a peculiar environment to photograph but quite interesting. Haris Zambarloukos is someone who would be excited by the limitation of it rather than put off."
Haris Zambarloukos was enthused from the moment he read Steve Knight's script. 'You always want to do that low-budget, independent film that's a great script, that will be a performance, but that doesn't seem to be compromised by the limitations that being independent and not as financed as a studio picture might be. Steve Knight conceived this in a way that's -shootable' within a confined time and place, but without ever feeling like it's a compromise. The face is the most interesting thing in the world to photograph"
Locke is Haris Zambarloukos's first digital film. He decided to use RED Epic cameras in part because they work well at night and can cope with very little light. He matched them with very old Panavision anamorphic lenses. 'It's a marriage of two worlds that seems to work really well together," says Haris Zambarloukos. ' I've never felt freer on a film, it's really liberating."
Shooting on the North Circular road rather than on the much more open M1 meant the buildings were much closer to the road and exuded a great deal of ambient light.
'The idea was to be as reflective in our shots as Ivan is in his thoughts," says Haris Zambarloukos. 'We would almost make a motorway into a seascape or outer space. I wanted to do this as if I'm shooting a spaceship, not a car.
As a way of introducing the outside world into Ivan's automotive cocoon, Haris Zambarloukos played around with beam splitters, the 50-50 mirrors used in 3D cameras. 'The camera can shoot through this piece of glass but it will also take a reflection," he explains. 'So if we want to be on the face but we want a reflection we just put a beam splitter in, take it down and angle it the right way."
Steve Knight is thrilled by what Haris Zambarloukos has achieved. 'I wanted Locke to be something where you could just turn the sound down and look at it and see the lights and the movement and the motorway," says the director. 'It looks like a natural organic process and Haris Zambarloukos has done it fantastically."
Editor Justine Wright had the responsibility of piecing the film together from around 50 hours of footage. The footage was comprised of five complete versions of the performance, from numerous different camera angles, as well as various other shots and pick-ups.
'It felt more like putting a documentary together than a feature film," says Justine Wright. (Paul Webster knew Wright's work with Kevin Macdonald on the documentary Touching The Void and Guy Heeley had worked with her on The Iron Lady. Her further credits include State Of Play and The Last King Of Scotland.)
'You've got a structure but within that you have a lot of footage to assimilate. You've got the drama part, which is the script and the acting, but then you have all this other footage, and that's a giant jigsaw puzzle."
Faced with multiple combinations, Justine Wright waited until everything was assembled before she began. 'Every night a new performance would come and watching it the next day I'd think -that's fantastic'," she recalls. ' But then the next day it was something quite different. The temptation was just to put it all together, but I decided to step back. The first thing to do was to find the Ivan Locke performance. It involved taking some of Tom's performances and changing the person he was talking to, or changing the performance that had played against it.
'We had the ability to change that out for a performance that played on a different night. For example, sometimes the wife would be very angry and Ivan would be holding it all in, and sometimes we would want the wife to be more sympathetic to us the audience. Sometimes when she was angry she became a bit abrasive and that was not at the right moment. Or the boss, Gareth, was sometimes very shouty and angry, and sometimes he played it more sympathetic. It was about finding the right combinations and Ivan's responses to those."
Once she had the first assembly of the performance together, Wright started working with the other elements.
'Normally what happens with a film is that you have a scene with a beginning and an end, which is shot in a day or two. As the editor you get all the footage of that scene as a contained unit, and you put it together," she explains. 'With this film, you get a series of phone calls, all in the same location, and there is no beginning or end. There is a beginning and an end to a phone call, but you don't change location, you don't emotionally go anywhere else, you're with the central character the whole time, in the same space. It means that I've got to work out where the right place is to slightly step away from Ivan's story and create a break that the audience needs, but to also keep a momentum going, the tension of the calls ticking over.
'That was something Steven Knight had quite strong views about, especially at the beginning. He wanted the phone calls to come relentlessly, and once Ivan had suffered quite a lot, you need time to pause and reflect where he's at with his feelings. It was quite a different way of putting it together."
Release Date: August 28th, 2014