Steven Knight’s “Locke” takes place over the course of one night, mostly in one place, with only one actor visible on screen.
The screenwriter-turned-director, who wrote “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises” — and developed the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” — says he took a simple approach to filming.
“When you make a film there’s always a logical reason not to do the obvious thing,” he says during a recent visit to The City.
So Knight decided to do the obvious: shoot his movie in sequence, with as little fuss as possible. The story has Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) driving from Birmingham to London in one night. He has suddenly left behind an important job, as well as his family. He has made a decision that could ruin his life, but he knows it’s the right thing to do.
While driving, he speaks on the phone with several people. Knight put several actors in a hotel conference room from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. each night, and recorded them, in real time, interacting with Hardy.
Filming like he did, Knight says, “You get accidents, and some of them are happy accidents.”
For example, actor Hardy showed up on the first day with a cold, so Knight decided to let the character have a cold as well.
“Either you do a load of work to dry it up and paint his nose, or you can say ‘real life is like that.’ It adds to the atmosphere.”
According to Knight, Locke’s car was on a flatbed truck for about 80 percent of the scenes, and Hardy drove for the rest of the scenes. The vehicles traveled in circuits for several nights and then second-unit cameras shot street signs to establish location.
“I felt that the continuity was not important,” he explains. “If people are looking at the nature of the motorway, we’ve lost.”
And so the images outside the car window turn into a meditative blur of lights and weather and other various images.
“There’s one lovely moment where a truck goes by and on the side it just says, ‘It’s always been.’ You’re almost saying to the randomness of the motorway: just give me what you’ve got,” Knight says.
In the end, Knight had shot enough footage for 16 films.
“That could mean that there are 10 billion versions of the same film,” he says. “We found that it was a question of mood. When the mood was right, with the actors and Tom and the lights, suddenly it just all came together.”