locke-posterIvan Locke (Tom Hardy) has worked diligently to craft the life he has always envisioned, dedicating himself to the job that he loves and the family he adores. On the eve of the biggest challenge of this career, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job and his very existence. All taking place over the course of one riveting car ride, Locke is an exploration of how one decision can lead to the complete collapse of a life. Written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Knight (Easter Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) and featuring an unforgettable performance by Tom Hardy, Locke is a thrillingly unique cinematic experience of a man fighting to salvage all that is important to him. While Tom Hardy is the only actor who appears on screen, the film also features the voices of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland and Bill Milner.

I sat down with Steven Knight in Los Angeles to talk about the film which opens in select cities on April 25, 2014.

Danny Miller: I have to admit that when I heard this film consisted entirely of Tom Hardy driving in his car with all the other actors off-screen on telephone calls, I was a little worried, but I was on the edge of my seat throughout! Still, I imagine that the unusual idea for this film must have been a bit of a hard sell? 

stevenknightSteven Knight: It definitely was in terms of the concept but it helps when the budget is as low as ours was — and it certainly helped having Tom! I’d just come off of a film that made some money for the people who financed Locke so they were great — they agreed to support the film on the strength of a two-paragraph synopsis!

Were you at all worried that you could pull it off?

Oh, absolutely! There was no way of knowing if it would work. When we shot it, I thought, “Well, I like it!” and then when we showed it at the Venice Film Festival, the reaction there was amazing. People were very emotional about the film.

Ivan Locke is such an interesting character. There were times I wanted to scream at him to NOT be so honest with his wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson). Part of it felt like the great George Stevens movie, A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. Bethan (Olivia Colman) reminded me of the Shelley Winters character in that film and I felt guilty for wishing that she would go away so that Ivan’s marriage would be safe. Did you start out with a clear idea of Ivan’s moral code that would prevent him from keeping what he’d done from his wife?

That sort of evolved during the writing. My initial premise was just that I wanted to take the most ordinary person in the Britain. He’s married, he has two kids, he works in construction—

Of course he does look like Tom Hardy!

Yes, but even so, we didn’t pretty him up at all in this film! Ivan works in concrete, which isn’t the sexiest of professions. And then, instead of giving him a kidnap situation or a hostage situation or a drug deal or murder, I wanted to create a very ordinary tragedy — something that could happen to anybody. This is a story that would never make the papers or the nightly news — but it’s something that happens to people that just destroys their world. I think some filmmakers feel that they only have permission to make a film if it’s about something really big or has a lot of explosions, but I think people really respond when we turn the camera on things that happen to regular people in their lives.

I thought the high stakes of the concrete pour that Ivan is dealing with throughout the film was such an interesting backdrop to what was happening in this life.

I used to work on construction sites when I was younger and the arrival of concrete is the hugest thing you can imagine —millions of dollars are on the block and it’s all on the shoulders of the foreman. And then when it’s over, everyone goes home and they’re just blokes who work on a construction site, no one realizes the high-stakes pressure that they experienced.

Fascinating. I’ve never really thought of how important a concrete pour is and how it all has to happen in a very short period of time or the concrete is ruined.

I spent some time with the man in London who worked on the Shard which, I think, had one of the largest the largest concrete pours ever. He was a lot like Ivan Locke — very solid and practical but there were a lot of sleepless nights and major stress leading up to that moment.


Did you and Tom talk a lot about Ivan’s back story — what made him the way he is?

I tend to avoid such conversations because I think they often end up going in a very conventional direction. My theory is that fiction is obliged to obey certain rules whereas reality never does. Sometimes you know a story is true because it’s so weird! If it’s fictional, it’s got certain beats and things happen that you expect so I try not to overthink it.

I thought Bethan was wonderfully complex, and so well played by Olivia Colman. You definitely could have made her a lot more sympathetic — or, for that matter, more of a villain.

What I definitely didn’t want was the idea that he’s leaving one woman for another. That’s not what’s happening at all — he barely knows this woman!

And it would have been a totally different movie if Bethan was some hot young babe.

Exactly! I tried to stick with a more true-to-life reality. What happened with Ivan and Bethan is the kind of thing that happens on a cold night and with a bottle of wine between people in that situation. Life can be really messy sometimes! There’s nothing romantic about this scenario at all.

Certainly the specter of Locke’s deceased father seems to be present for him as he makes his decisions during this car ride.

Yes, this is exactly the kind of thing that would have happened to his father but his father would have bolted. Ivan is trying to prove to himself that he’s different from that — he wants to show that what happened isn’t because of some genetic defect or that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He has to prove to himself that he has free will, that he can change things, even though proving that will really hurt the people that he loves. And then, in the end, we see that there’s another force at work. You can make mistakes, you can make excuses, but concrete is still going to arrive and babies are going to be born.

I imagine this film leads to some very interesting discussions between couples on the way home from the theatre!

It really does. People who’ve seen the film have told me how close it hits home for them. Some are really affected by watching the journey that their own fathers didn’t take. I’ve been surprised by some of the reactions, though. I remember after one early screening, someone asked for a show of hands of women who really liked Ivan Locke — not the film, but the character himself. Almost all of the women raised their hands! That might have something to do with the fact that it was Tom Hardy playing Ivan Locke, but I was still surprised by their empathy.