Screenwriter Steven Knight Thrills Us Again With ‘Locke’

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Steven Knight, the screenwriter who brought us 'Eastern Promises,' delivers the thrills and suspense with 'Locke' starring Tom Hardy. (Photo by Dorri Olds)
Steven Knight, the screenwriter who brought us ‘Eastern Promises,’ delivers the thrills and suspense with ‘Locke’ starring Tom Hardy. (Photo by Dorri Olds)

It’s hard to decide which was more exciting, talking with actor Tom Hardy or brilliant screenwriter Steven Knight. We met up last week to talk about their movie, “Locke.” Knight is the Englishman who wrote the screenplay for the 2007 thriller “Eastern Promises” — one of my all-time favorite films. He’s also known for TV’s “Peaky Blinders” and the film “Dirty Pretty Things.”

With “Locke” Knight is both writer and director. It is perhaps the most unlikely nail-biter because it is about a man alone in a car. Ivan Locke (Hardy) manages to decimate his life via Bluetooth and cell phone during a drive in his BMW.

I was struck by Knight’s laugh lines, which advertise a life full of amusement. He was also warm and eloquent.

Dorri Olds: Was it as stressful for you to shoot Tom in five days, as it was for Ivan to supervise the concrete?

Steven Knight: We knew Tom’s performance was the only variable, but I knew that would be fantastic. He’s the best actor we have. It was only stressful in that certain technical things could’ve gone wrong but when they did we tried to use it.

Can you give an example?

The BMW wasn’t driving so we hadn’t bothered to fill the petrol. The dashboard kept doing this little brrring to let you know gas was low. But when we were editing we just put something over that sound, like “You have a call waiting.” So, yeah, all happy accidents were welcome.

How was Ivan’s experience affected by being in a car?

When you’re alone in a car it’s not like being alone in a room. Your body drives and your mind is free. On a long journey I think everyone starts to analyze their life, their past, things they’ve said and shouldn’t have said. That’s why a lot of people talk to themselves in cars, because they’re having this inner dialogue. That justified Ivan seeing his father in the rearview mirror. Sometimes Ivan’s lips aren’t moving because it’s all in his head.

What were the challenges for shooting in the confined space?

The advantage was no continuity issues. The background was always changing and it’s chaotic but there were only lights to worry about. When it came to editing we could choose according to performance and not really worry about anything else. The nature of the space and the journey offered all kinds of metaphors that you don’t have to force. Ivan’s future is the windscreen. His GPS is navigating his present. His rearview mirror is the past, like when he’s talking to his father. So, the space itself is giving you the journey and you know that there is a destination and a beginning, middle and end. We had three cameras going at all times. That way, after our very short shooting period, we had everything we could possibly get from within that space.

How was it working with cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos?

He is so brilliant. Basically I said, “Harris, please make it interesting.” [Laughs] And he did. What I said was, “If you could just hear the sound it would work, or if you turn the sound down and just look at it, it would be hypnotic.” There is something beautiful about nighttime motorways from a moving vehicle. Haris also used a device that hadn’t been used since the ’50s to enhance the look. Not only did he get the real reflection, but the reflection of reflection as well.

Because we were moving on the real road we got happy accidents. We got lovely reflections and shaking on the road, sometimes exactly at the moment when Ivan is shaky. All of those things were really welcome in the edit. A truck comes alongside at one point; it’s there for a moment and then it goes away. I mean you couldn’t have planned that and you wouldn’t even think of that, but the randomness of the real world comes in and helps you and then goes away again.

“Locke” is in theaters now. Drama thriller. Rated R. 85 minutes.

Watch the “Locke” trailer:

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