Can a newbie director take a performer known for a certain kind of performance and give them a new acting angle? If you’re the talented scribe behind such masterworks as "Dirty Pretty Things" and "Eastern Promises" like famed writer Steven Knight is it’s not only possible, but probable. The writer makes his directorial debut with the impressive morality tale "Redemption" (out now from Lionsgate Home Entertainment) and playing his sullen and broken lead man is – surprise, surprise - none other than action man Jason Statham. The result is not only a remarkable film, but Statham at his emotional best as a homeless man on the run from a military court martial looking for a way to put his inner demons to rest. We were so knocked out by the film that we had to get some insight via Knight, so what follows is a one-on-one chat about everything from his influences story wise to the casting of Statham in such an intense dramatic role. We give credit where credit is due – here’s Redemption writer/director...
What was your influence with the story of "Redemption?"
Steven Knight: I started writing it knowing I was going to direct it and wanted to make it something different and something unexpected. And something that was relevant to "Dirty Pretty Things" and "Eastern Promises" which were about people that don’t want to be seen.
Every Jason Statham fan knows exactly what to expect from the action star, yet in "Redemption" Statham shows a lessor known more sorrowful side to his layered character. What made you ultimately decide to cast him?
SK: I wanted to cast him anyway and then I had a meeting with David Fincher to say I’m gonna direct and what do you think? He was giving me advice, he read the script and I was like, ‘Who do you think should play the role of Joey?’ And he said, ‘Jason Statham.’ Jason has got something that no one has really discovered and so that was the clincher for me.
How was he about working on the more emotional character work in the film?
SK: That’s what he wanted to do – that was the reason he wanted to do the film. He loved the script and he loved the fact that it changed him to do stuff that he knows he can do. He’s a great actor and he was so committed to the role. We went and met British veterans from Afghanistan, plus we went to homeless charities and met a lot of homeless people and he took it all and brought it to the role.
The relationship between Joey and Sister Cristina walks the line romantically – was it difficult to balance all sides of their complex chemistry?
SK: Yeah. I mean the film is based on a true story so the reality of the relationship is there, but it’s a challenge to have Jason do that. I think he pulled it off so well. Plus Agata Buzek who plays Sister Cristina is such a gentle lovely person and there was a great chemistry between the two.
There’s ambiguity in terms of the idea of redemption and whether Statham’s character has achieved it – what’s your take?
SK: I think he’s got his own view – Joey’s got his own view of what’s right and wrong. And in talking to commandos when we were researching the role they have an expression, which is ‘if you have to choose between peace and righteousness I choose righteousness.’ If something is wrong they would rather put it right then leave it alone. And that’s what Joey does, but everybody in the audience has to have their own view. But according to Joey he’s done the right thing.
Can you talk a bit about collaborating with Director David Cronenberg on "Eastern Promises" and how his and Viggo’s involvement may have changed your screenplay ideas?
SK: With Cronenberg surprisingly the screenplay didn’t change at all. I think the interpretation of scenes obviously were, especially Viggo’s which is the most famous scene in that film the fight in the bathhouse, Viggo and David really interpreting what was there. But in terms of the words or the screenplay, that didn’t change at all really. With Cronenberg he had a definite method where he did a certain number of pages per day and he made sure the script was exactly ninety pages long – he’s got a very methodical way of working.
Your next film called "Locke" you also wrote and directed – how is it similar and/or different from "Redemption?"
SK: They’re different stories, but it’s also a story of redemption and it’s got a great actor in Tom Hardy who again brings a sort of unpredictability and danger to the role. I wanted to try to do a story about ordinary heroism and "Locke" is a story of a very ordinary man who like Joey Jones is an ordinary and discarded human being.
What’s next after "Locke" directing wise?
SK: I again want to do something like "Locke" – performance pieces with really good actors. I’d love to do something with Jason again.
"REDEMPTION" IS OUT NOW ON DVD/BLU-RAY FROM LIONSGATE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.