The British actor tackles an emotional breakdown in his new movie, Locke

The last film Tom Hardy did was The Dark Knight Rises in which he played the at-times unintelligible Bane.

As Batman’s foe, Bane fills up the whole screen because he’s so big in size. In his latest project Locke, Hardy still fills up the screen but only because the whole film is set in a car and his is the only face that is on screen the entire time.

Ivan Locke (Hardy) is a soft-spoken Welshman who has worked hard to achieve his presently good life, consisting of a beautiful family and a dream job. He is also feeling on top of the world – he is about to go home to watch a match with his family, and come next morning, he is about to receive the crowning moment of his career.

Tom Hardy in Locke.

Unfortunately, everything changes when he gets off work. On his drive back, he makes a decision that sets in motion a series of events that ultimately destroys everything he has built.

Written and directed by Steven Knight (Hummingbird), the idea for the film was to see if a story could be told even if it takes place only within the confines of a vehicle, with the character’s progression of emotions (achieved through a number of phone conversations) being one of the few variables. The challenge was doubled when Knight wanted Hardy to play the title role; and while the actor agreed, his busy schedule only gave Knight a two-week window period to do the film.

So, Knight broke the schedule down to four days of rehearsal and eight nights of shooting, and told the cast to treat the filming like it was a play. In short, if something was to go off track during filming, they just have to deal with it and go with the flow as they would on stage.

In a transcript provided by the film distributor TGV Pictures, Hardy attested: “It absolutely was like doing a play, but we were doing it on film. Even more so, it was a play reading, which is the freshest part of a rehearsal period, for me anyway. When you sit down, and get through the process of reading a script for the first time, with the writer and the director – in this case, being the same person – it’s their work, so you have the opportunity to tweak and fix and add on and take off.”

Locke was a new experience for Hardy as he read the lines from cue cards, allowing Knight to change the lines if he felt something wasn’t working, thus freeing Hardy from having to learn 90 pages of dialogue in a day, and allowing him to just concentrate on producing genuine emotions.

“The versatility of being able to adapt to whatever Steve’s going to give me, is what I need to work with. That was very exciting. To embrace that and say, ‘OK, I trust you, let’s see what we can get with it’, took the fear and the stigma out of having to look at the autocue.”

While the film’s focus is on Hardy’s character, Locke also has characters that are not seen but just heard. The breakdown of the script has Ivan making a series of phone calls to his wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson), his young sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) and him making a couple of work-related calls including to his boss (Ben Daniels) and colleague (Andrew Scott). These conversations gave Hardy a reach to Ivan’s emotions and react accordingly.

He explained: “When you listen to someone’s voice, it’s very different than looking someone in the eye – you’re feeding them in a very different way. It’s like texts are so impersonal. Language is so specific.

“When it’s spoken … you’re not watching one man in a car, you’re watching somebody’s thoughts, and how they’re listening, reacting and responding to the articulate word, which is being spoken to them. It’s like disarming a bomb – psychologically.

“Ivan’s a shock absorber; he maintains a sustained, constant, contained voice, but at the same time, it’s all going in. It would crack a rock. And he doesn’t crack. Well, he does once – I think it would be unnatural for him to not explode at some point. But on the whole that’s what you’re dealing with – a study. And Steve shot a character study of a very, very well constructed screenplay.

“So, yes, it’s theatre but at the same time, it’s compelling because you’re listening to it and you’re seeing somebody dealing with general crisis and trauma, but they’re trying to manage it.” 

Locke opens in
cinemas today.