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Interview: Writer & Director Steven Knight On 'Locke,' Tom Hardy & Future Projects Including 'Eastern Promises 2'

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist February 3, 2014 at 3:25PM

One of the chief pleasures of the Göteborg International Film Festival, aside from the charming Swedishness of it all (particularly fond of the helper whose novel take on the “switch off your f*cking phone” message was to implore us not to forget to turn our phones “back on, the second you leave”), is the quality time we get to spend with our interview subjects. One of or most enjoyable meetings this time out was with screenwriter Steven Knight, whose fascinating sophomore directorial outing “Locke,” (our review from Venice is here) played the festival. Here are the fruits of our wide-ranging conversation with the “Eastern Promises,” “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Peaky Blinders” writer (who also—random trivia—devised and originally pitched “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”), including his thoughts on writing for TV vs. film, his crowded upcoming slate and lots about “Locke” we should probably give a little background.
Locke Tom Hardy (skip crop)

Historically you’ve done similar things with making us feel really embedded in a subculture, be it the Russian mob, the homeless population or the immigrant experience. Here it’s a construction site foreman, but it still feels very much an insider’s view. How important is research to this aspect of your work?
On “Locke” I spent some time with someone who worked on The Shard in London. So he was just the engineer—the architects will win the awards—but this is the guy who started with a plot of land and built this massive building. So working with him was great and I loved picking up the jargon, you learn these words and you don't really understand them, but you sort of know what they mean...C6 or C5? I love all of that, I think it's more interesting because it's the real world, and if you go beyond that and you do normal plot stuff, you're just making it up. But I will say the research on this was much easier (and safer!) than on some of the previous stuff.

["With 'Redemption'], I think the distributors didn't know what to do with Jason not being 'Jason Statham.'"

Is there a significant difference in your writing approach when you know you're going to be directing?
Yes. I mean, with “Hummingbird” I wanted to write something manageable, which is potentially dangerous. But the cast were fantastic and I really want to work with Jason [Statham] again and I really want to work with Agata [Buzek] again. I will, definitely. But if you come to something new, you do question it much more, and on “Hummingbird” I had the best DP in the world, Chris Menges, and he's been tearing his hair out for about 50 years about it, he keeps asking, “Why are all these trucks here?” So he was of the same mind.

The other thing is, you've gotta have fun doing it too, because it's brutally hard work, so if you can find a way where everybody is enjoying it, you can work with deeper subjects because you can survive it.

Did the way “Hummingbird”/“Redemption” was weirdly buried on its U.S. release bother you?
I think the distributors didn't know what to do with Jason not being "Jason." Subsequently, people are discovering that film and people are really interested in it now. It will “develop in the can.” They were worried about a Jason audience turning up and not getting it, but Jason was brilliant he really wanted to do something different, to act and perform, and I loved how he and Agata worked together.

You’re also working on TV, with “Peaky Blinders.” What can you tell us of Season 2?
It's written as far as the last 2 episodes, so I haven’t quite decided how it ends, and it starts shooting on February 28th. And I can’t really say too much about plot, but the business has expanded.

What is your experience of TV as opposed to film? Is it really the “writer’s medium” of cliché?
It really is. I think an under-recognized fact is that TV has changed because the screens have, we now have these massive screen in our homes… so it's worth making your show look good. And you get more time for your story. Also, TV has such evangelical support, people saying, "You've got to watch it.“ It seems to be really personal to people and they've invested so much time in it, maybe it's because you don't watch it with a crowd. I've had more reaction to ‘Peaky’ than anything. People react really intensely. And now, the BBC is wonderful, they leave you alone, no notes. It’s "Oh, it's done is it? Off you go!”

Peaky Blinders

You have a million future projects lined up, it seems. What’s happening next?
They're all out there, I’ve been either planting seeds or planting incendiaries.The “Chef” project with Bradley Cooper is ready to start shooting with John Wells [directing, taking over from Derek Cianfrance] in the summer. “Pawn Sacrifice” is done and is being edited by Ed Zwick—that’s the Bobby Fischer thing, he was a nutcase, a really good story. “The Hundred Foot Journey” with Helen Mirren is done and being edited as we speak and is due for release in August.

How about the intriguing-sounding “November Criminals”?
Yeah, that’s still in development. It's a funny one, that. I hope it goes, it was fun to do, and it was cast with Chloe Moretz, and she's really keen, she’s staying with it come what may.

This article is related to: Göteborg International Film Festival, Interviews, Interview, Steven Knight, Locke, Tom Hardy, Redemption, Hummingbird, Eastern Promises 2, Rebecca, November Criminals, Chef

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