Today: May 24, 2024

The Liability Interview – Director Craig Viveiros

With The Liability, a hard-hitting assassin thriller starring Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell and Talulah Riley hitting cinemas on Friday 17th May, Filmjuice’s Shelley Marsden caught up with director Craig Viveiros to discuss

Quirky English road movie The Liability, taken from a darkly comic screenplay by John Wrathall, is the second offering by camera operator-turned- director Craig Viveiros (his debut was prison drama Ghosted). Tarantino star Tim Roth plays the cigar-toking Roy, a veteran assassin wanting to get out of the killing game, whose world-weary wisdom is in stark contrast to the naive enthusiasm of Adam (Jack O’Connell), the young driver he is paired with for a long-distance ‘hit’. Adam, who has only been drawn into this madness by his mad-dog stepfather (Peter Mullan) so he can pay him back for the car he wrote off, gets a taste for the criminal underworld. The pair develop an offbeat connection during a road-trip which takes them deep into the woods of North East England. Somewhat inconveniently, they are spotted while chopping up a body and things start to get a little complicated.

Your new film joins a pretty crowded genre– is The Liability a classic Brit gangster flick?
To be honest, I wanted to actively set out to do something different.  I don’t think it’s a gangster movie and I don’t really think it’s a crime movie either. To me, first and foremost, it’s a story about second chances.  Our protagonist Adam is lacking a role model in his life; Tim [Roth] plays a hit-man who’s reflecting on his time as a hit-man, and looking for a way to redeem himself – thus giving Jack’s character a second chance. It’s nothing similar to the slasher, white boy movies.

You’ve been pegged as a ‘modern Guy Ritchie’; I presume for the reasons you cite above that you would disagree with such a comparison?!
Guy Ritchie’s a great director, and I hope to be a great director one day. It’s good that people respond to my work, but I wasn’t actively looking to make a film like that. I got the material, I got the text, I tried to use my instinct with this film, talking about the ideas I wanted to convey with the characters, how I wanted the landscape to represent the journey of the characters. I basically rewrote the draft of the script over a two-month period.

What big changes did you make?
When the script came in, it was set during the daytime, in the woodlands. When you see the final film, they approach the woodlands at one point, but originally they stayed there for the duration.  The original script was written with budget limitations in mind, you could say. But I didn’t want to do that – I wanted to make the right film, full stop. I didn’t want to cheapen it or take anything away from it. I gave the characters more of a back story, particularly Tim’s – I wanted his arc to represent the shifting landscape of the film. For the first half of the film, we’re in daylight in the first half of the leading pair’s relationship. Then, as soon as the light begins to fade, we begin to see a different facet of Tim’s character. We’re in Northumberland, and we start entering into the industrial heritage – with blast furnaces, diners and pump houses. It goes from being an organic to electronic and grimy.

The Liability has a certain American road trip feel. Is there an American influence there?
It may have been subconscious. If anything, I used the inspiration of artists such as John Baeder, Richard Estes… all hyper-realist. I wanted to make this film like a heightened sense of realism. It’s taken from a true story, but there are strange elements to it; it’s a bit quirky. The North East is portrayed so much in a gloomy, overcast light and I wanted to change that. We didn’t push anything to the extreme, those locations are there – it’s a place that can have a very different look and feel.

There is something Tarantino-esque about the black comedy (though you bring an English sensibility to it). Is the Pulp Fiction director a big influence?
It’s funny, I hadn’t thought about it until people started commenting about it. I guess when you have Tim Roth in your film, there are massive associations with Tarantino. Then with the use of contemporary music and the quite poppy photography… But I think the humour in The Liability is a lot drier than Tarantino’s movies. But yeah, I’m a massive fan so to be compared to him in any way, and for my style to touch upon his, is fantastic.

It’s quite a distinguished cast you got to work with– how was the experience?
Tim Roth was amazing, as was Peter Mullan – both great actors and directors in their own right who  I massively respect. It was so great to have them on board; they were completely at one with my vision. Tim took away a serious amount of books to read about the kind of character I wanted him to play; Mullan did a lot of workshops. Everyone had their own unique quality. Jack O’Connell, well, he’s really on fire. He’s got a massive future ahead of him.

Talking of Jack, was his character – a 19-year-old kid who keeps metaphorically tripping himself up throughout the movie – not a bit of a risk as a lead we can believe in?
It could have been deemed risky; I just had to be confident in my casting choice and I knew as soon as I read the script that I wanted Jack O’Connell. He is a cheeky chappy anyway, and Adam needed to be that.  He also has this annoying naivety about him, he rubs people up the wrong way, so I needed an actor that could both be charming and irritating, but also keep an audience rooting for him – and feel sorry for him, he’s basically been wrapped up in a conspiracy without any knowledge of it. Jack covered all of those bases.

The Liability (Metrodome Distribution) is out on May 17.

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