Steven Knight has two Oscar nominations, and I don't. He received these accolades for the London crime dramas Dirty Pretty Things, directed by Stephen Frears, and Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, and now he has completed the newly-named "Invisible London Trilogy" with Hummingbird, starring Jason Statham as a war veteran turned vagrant, who stumbles into a posh apartment and finds inside an unexpected opportunity for his redemption. In America, it's called Redemption, and it's available now on DVD and Blu-ray.
I talked to Steven Knight from across the pond about the recurring themes in the Invisible London Trilogy, Jason Statham's contributions to the film, spoons, and the possibility that Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and Redemption all exist in the same cinematic universe, and the renewed hope that Eastern Promises 2 will finally go into production in 2014.
Steven Knight will back with his second film behind the camera – Locke, starring Tom Hardy – in 2014, if all goes according to plan.
CraveOnline: A lot of people know your work best from Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises. Watching Redemption, it seems like it’s of a piece.
Steven Knight: Yeah, it’s meant to be a third part of a trilogy about invisible London, and the London you don’t see. So I thought this one I would direct, and it was great fun.
Do you call it “The Invisible London Trilogy,” or do you have another name for it?
No, I mean it certainly could be called that, but yeah… It’s about looking what the window and seeing what’s there, seeing what people don’t normally notice.
What prompted you to make a point of writing about this?
Usually an idea comes from a single scene, and this particular one… It came because London at the time, and still is, going through a difficult times in terms of homelessness. I saw homeless people standing in the doorway of a building where I knew the penthouse apartments at the top were worth millions of pounds. So there was a fire escape between the very poorest and the very richest people in the city. I just imagined that one of those people went up the fire escape and entered one of the apartments, and what would happen to him. That was the original idea, and then I just wanted to explore in a way that was different to the normal way that stories are told, and try and find stuff that’s real. I really think that reality is far more bizarre than fiction, and I try if I can to use reality. The story of the homeless Afghan veteran having a relationship with a nun is true.
Is it really? Who is it?
Yeah, well, the names of the people involved I can’t remember. I wanted to put it on the film, to say it’s based on a true story, but the problem was legal people saying, “That means you have to at some point reveal who those real people are.” […] In the end I have to say in interviews, in response to “Oh my god, that would never happen,” but of course it did, and these things obviously happen in life.
When you cast Jason Statham in a movie, there’s an expectation of action.
Did you intentionally want to play with that?
Yeah, I mean the choice of Jason, for me, was natural because he has something about him that is perfect for Joey Jones. There’s a lot of really good actors out there who could play the part very well, but I just felt that Jason was someone who, in his real life, if he’d made different choices in his life he could have easily ended up in a Special Forces unit. That’s the background he’s from, that’s the sort of person he is. He could easily have returned to London and ended up in the position Joey was in. So he was the right person, and that was confirmed when I went and sought advice from a lot of directors that I’ve worked with as a writer. One of them is David Fincher, and he said the only person he would choose for the role would be Jason Statham. So I thought, “Well, if that’s what he thinks he must be right.”
And I like the idea that people are expecting something different from Jason… you know, a London gangster film… and they get something really unexpected. Which is the idea.