Prolific British writer and director Steven Knight (the author of “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises”) wanted to do something unconventional when he came up with idea of “Locke,” a film about an ordinary man (Tom Hardy) driving across England while dealing with personal and professional crises via speakerphone. What’s unique is that the entire story is told from within the car, seemingly in real time. It was an idea so unique, Knight found, that some car companies didn’t want any part of it.
Where did the idea to do such a contained setting for a film come from?
I’d just finished making a conventional film, and a couple of things had happened. One was that I’d noticed how beautiful and hypnotic urban environments at night shot from inside moving vehicles are. You get this moving light show, which I found quite beautiful. At the same time I was trying to take filmmaking back to the very basics of what the job is, which is to get a load of people into a room, turn off the lights an have them engage with a screen. How many other ways are there of doing that? To make life more difficult for myself, I wanted to make the main character the most ordinary person in the world — he’s married, he’s got two kids, he works in construction, with concrete. There is nothing about him that would make the papers. This is a very ordinary tragedy, and I just wondered if audiences would go with it.
And how did you go about getting Tom Hardy involved?
He was quite keen to play a straight role because he’s always larger-than-life monsters or villains or whatever. This is probably his first straight role as an actor. It was Tom who brought the Welsh accent into it because he’s got a friend who’s Welsh, and he said, “He’s a very ordinary, straight person so I’ll do that voice.” The character was always going to be concrete, he was always going to be ordinary, and then Tom invested that with the thing that he brings to every role.
So how did you like the BMW?
It was fine, but originally we were going for a Land Rover, and they didn’t want to do it. Because it’s such a weird concept and weird idea, I think people just thought we were mad. And so we went to BMW. A lot of people have asked, “So did you get some sort of great deal from BMW?” But we didn’t. They just said, “You can have two vehicles for 10 days, and then give them back to us at the end.” That was it. Retrospectively, I wish I had made more of it.
The car comes off very well in the film.
I know! It never breaks down or anything. [Laughs]
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick