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The prison break-in subgenre goes into orbit in LOCKOUT, the
latest production from one-man action factory Luc Besson. For this film, the
feature directorial debut of Irish filmmakers James Mather and Stephen St.
Leger (who also scripted with Besson), a pair of leads were chosen with plenty
of experience in screen survival: Australian actor Guy Pearce and LOST star
Maggie Grace, who spoke together to Fango about their LOCKOUT roles.
Pearce, whose long résumé includes L.A. CONFIDENTIAL,
MEMENTO, RAVENOUS, THE PROPOSITION, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK and Ridley
Scott’s upcoming PROMETHEUS, plays Snow, a former government agent framed for
murder who’s on his way to MS One, a space prison revolving around the Earth
where 500 vicious criminals are imprisoned in stasis. When a mutiny breaks out
and the thugs take a visiting humanitarian party hostage, including Emilie
Warnock (Grace, who has experience with such a situation from the
Besson-produced TAKEN), the daughter of the President, Snow is given an offer
he can’t refuse: inflitrate the place, rescue Emilie and win his freedom. (Any
resemblance to the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell ESCAPE films is, no doubt, a
matter of homage.) The ensuing scenario gave Pearce the opportunity to try on
the role of cynical antihero, and Grace the chance to take a little more charge
and engage in more action than in her previous Besson movie.
FANGORIA: For one of you, this is your first time on a Luc
Besson film, and for the other it’s kind of a reunion; could you talk about
working with Besson on this movie?
GUY PEARCE: Well, funnily enough, I didn’t really get to
work with Luc, as such. I met him early on, and then he turned up when we were
doing a costume fitting, and then I didn’t see him again until just the other
day in Paris. He was actually directing his own film, THE LADY.
MAGGIE GRACE: In Thailand, so it was quite a trek.
PEARCE: He had some things to say about the design and the
look and the character and this, that and the other early on, and then, as I
said, he disappeared.
GRACE: He made sure the directors had everything they’d
need, and he was definitely available.
PEARCE: And he was probably more present during
postproduction, wasn’t he? When they were putting the movie together, he was
probably there every week.
GRACE: When we started principal photography on this, he had
four other films going. So it was a tall order.
FANG: Was it a similar situation to when you did TAKEN?
GRACE: Somewhat. A lot of TAKEN was shot in Paris, and TAKEN
2, which we just finished. So he was certainly a presence and great support for
FANG: How was it working with the two directors? The press
notes suggest there was a kind of division of labor between them. Did they both
work with you, or did one specialize in the performance side?
GRACE: They both did a little of everything.
PEARCE: Yeah. James was the cinematographer as well, so he
was fairly busy with that stuff. For me, it was more about dealing with Stephen
on a moment-to-moment basis with performance and dialogue, etc. Stephen’s the
one who was more demonstrative when it came to laughing at jokes and the nuance
of character relationships. James was quieter, and so I guess, anything he had
to say, he’d say it to Stephen, and Stephen would come and talk to us about it.
GRACE: They were like good parents; there was always a
united front. There were very few moments when there was dissension.
PEARCE: Yeah, I think I only had one moment, and it was a
technical, physical thing, where James came up and told me to do one thing, and
then Stephen told me something else. And I was like, “Guys, you need to have a
moment…” But that was, as I said, once. And that occurs anyway on a film, when
you have a cinematographer saying to you, “I need you to come through the door
this way,” and the director’s going, “But I need you to pick that up first,”
and you go, “Well, hang on a sec.” So it didn’t really feel unusual. It wasn’t
like they were coming at us constantly with differing ideas or anything.
GRACE: “Mommy and Daddy are fighting!” There was none of
that. They definitely have a sure hand. Sometimes they’d share a look and then
come together and have a united line.
PEARCE: It was an unusual experience anyway, because they’re
Irish, and since James is the cinematographer, he had an Irish camera team. It
was a French production, so we had French heads of department, and we shot it
in Serbia, so we had a Serbian crew. Then we had American, Australian, English
and some Serbian actors on the film as well.
GRACE: A truly international effort. It was very lonely on
FANG: Do you find that’s becoming common in your experience,
because so many films these days, especially genre films, are international
co-productions? Do you find you’re working in more far-flung locations or with
more multicultural crews?
GRACE: Yeah, quite often. The last four or five jobs I’ve
done have been that way. It’s really quite humbling when you come from the
American education system where you only speak English.
PEARCE: We were lucky, though. In Serbia, most of the crew
spoke English very well, so it was made pretty easy. There were some
difficulties, I suppose, where you would see the Irish director say something
to the French 1st AD, and then the French 1st AD would walk over to the Serbian
grip and say something to him. And you’d think, “Oh, I don’t believe that’s
GRACE: It was like a game of telephone.
PEARCE: And then you’d see the grip walk over to his team
and put up the lights or whatever, and you’d go, “No, that’s definitely not
what the Irish director asked for.” [Laughs] So I might just put my hand up and
go, “No, I don’t think that…you might need to…” There was a bit of that going
on. I’ve experienced some multicultural films in the past, but not so varied
throughout the team. You might work with American and English people and that’s
it, whereas with this, having the French element, the Irish element and the
Serbian element made it quite unusual.
FANG: LOCKOUT has a pretty expansive look; how many of the
sets were greenscreen and how many were actually there, and how did that
impact your performances?
PEARCE: Well, most of it was set, wasn’t it?
GRACE: Yeah, and they had a really interesting way of
recycling the sets as well. We had a couple of stages, and while we were
working on one, they’d kind of move the puzzle pieces around and reconfigure
another, so they could create this enormous ship. It was pretty interesting.
Obviously, with the shots with the wider scope of the main containment area,
or, of course, in space, you just had to have a lot of trust in communicating
with your directors and that the storyboards were what you were reacting to [laughs],
so you’re not hung out to dry and reacting to something completely different.
PEARCE: That whole bike chase I have at the very beginning,
that was greenscreen.
FANG: That almost looks like it was styled after a video
PEARCE: Yes. I’ll just say yes to that [laughs]. It’s good
that that seems intentional. Really, that and the wire stuff we did when we’re
flying outside the ship were the two main greenscreen [scenes], really, but the
rest of it, we were running around the corridors of a real set.
FANG: You had some pretty intense co-stars, like Vincent
Regan and Peter Stormare.
PEARCE: And Joseph Gilgun [right] as well. Joe’s the one I remember
GRACE: He’s very…demonstrative, I guess [laughs].
FANG: He definitely has a striking look. What’s his
GRACE: He’s had a great career in London. He’s definitely
PEARCE: He’s popped up in great cameo roles in things, and
he’s done a bunch of TV series.
GRACE: He’s been working since he was pretty young. This is
kind of his ticket out.
PEARCE: He’s from the middle of the country, Manchester or
Birmingham or something like that. He’s a bit of a gypsy, from a traveling
family, so he’s got some really interesting stories.
GRACE: Some really interesting stories [laughs].
PEARCE: And very interesting ways of telling them!
GRACE: Which you can actually follow in his tattoos; he’s
like the Illustrated Man. There’s a lot of tradition around that. So he kept us
PEARCE: He really did. He was fascinating. And obviously,
Peter Stormare is a pretty kooky guy and brings a kooky character to the screen
as well. And Vincent Regan, I really didn’t have anything to do with him on the
set at all, but he’s a far more stable character than those other two.
FANG: What can you tell us about TAKEN 2? Does Kim get taken
GRACE: No, it’s an inversion of the plot of the first one.
PEARCE: Kim takes [laughs].
GRACE: Kim’s parents are taken; Liam Neeson gets taken.
FANG: So you get to save the day?
PEARCE: Snow comes in, actually; she calls him and says,
“Hey, I need your help again!”
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