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Tom Hardy and Steven Knight Explain How the Hell They Pulled Off Must-See 'Locke'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 25, 2014 at 2:03PM

Writer-director Steven Knight and actor Tom Hardy shot "Locke" 16 times from start to end in 12 days, locked inside a moving car on the M6 in England, with multiple cameras filming. Yes, Tom Hardy was often driving that car, but not always. In a video interview the two men explain how they pulled off the ultimate film acting stunt.
Tom Hardy in 'Locke'
Tom Hardy in 'Locke'

The whole cast rehearsed intensively for five days around a table --which is rare, says Hardy, who developed a Welsh accent for this successful and controlled family man. "Practically I've not played a character on the screen where I'm a thinking ordinary man, he is actually closer to me than any other really. So it's not such a departure from being myself, obviously he's a character, with camouflaging accents and stuff like that. The actual difficult mental work of some of the conversations was much closer to home than say playing Bronson, when you... create a world and a fantastical character, embellishing it with imagination. This ultimately comes back to script, and connecting with the person on the other end of the phone, the scene partner I'm working with. It's more like an analytical therapy session. This is a bloke in an environment who's having a very bad day, he's performing heart surgery with his thumbs... Whatever voice goes down that phone has to be mellifluous and calm so he can put out fires. There's a hope it's going to be OK, by being honest and straight, at some point in the immediate future or in ten years time. He's broken the foundation of everything that he has built, in order to restore and refurbish and recreate a future...He's a brave bloke."

Knight wanted "to create an ordinary man with relatively ordinary problems," he says. "He does not kidnap or murder, he's not Jason Bourne, he's this bloke driving down the motorway. He does what he can."

During filming Hardy worked off two sets of autocues from the 90-page script in the car, which mirrored his need to watch the road as he managed the phone calls. They kept to the script. While I was convinced (against practical likelihood), that Hardy was actually driving, only when the camera comes from behind him is he controlling the wheel. The cameras were mounted each night in three different positions, inside and outside the car. "It's a theater experience with a script provided," says Knight who was inspired by test footage of urban environments shot from cars. "The audience is required to invent the other characters for themselves. The structure is already quite strange and unusual. It's a radio play and a theater piece. But it has to be a film outside observing both of those things. I wanted you to listen to it without the pictures and watch without the words. It looks beautiful. This should work like an installation piece that moves. The chaos of the universe is outside and the order of Ivan is inside."

Each phone call is preceded by a pause as Locke figures out what he needs to say to the person. "Everyone does this," says Knight. "It's like a master class on our lives. You look at your phone to see who's calling, and become a different person with your boss, kids or partner. It's a gift as a writer with the situation with the man in the car, watching someone do what everyone does but in a stressful situation. He's given 1000 things to fix at once. People like him because he almost succeeds, he almost makes it." 

This article is related to: Video, indieWIRE Video, Video, Locke, Tom Hardy, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews , Interviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.