Craig Viveiros interview

The Liability is an exciting, quirky British hitman movie out this week starring Tim Roth, Peter Mullan, Talulah Riley and Jack O’Connell. With some great performances and very funny dialogue, the film is the sort of British indie film that we should all support. We managed to have a few minutes with the director Craig Viveiros.

The liability and the old-timer eyeball each other

The Film Review: What drew you to The Liability?

Craig Viveiros: I enjoy tales of paternal relationships and telling stories of nurturing. My previous film Ghosted was about a young prisoner who was helped to escape by an older lad and it felt like this film had similar characteristics in the sense that Jack [O’Connell, who plays Adam] is a wayward soul, lacking a male role model. He’s trying to prove to his step-father [played by Peter Mullan] that he is a man and can take on the tasks of being involved in his crooked empire. Of course, in trying to be the apple of his step-father’s eye he is introduced to Roy who actually takes a genuine shine to Jack’s character Adam.

That was where the interest kicked off for me – weaving and interplaying that relationship. Jack started off being incredibly irresponsible and naive, and with Tim also the veneer is chipped away and we see the real character behind this. So we have a real damaged soldier of fortune and this naive, computer-game playing 19-year-old. I thought the mix of those to very different characters from such opposite ends of the scale would be the foundation for a brilliant story.

TFR: You’ve talked about about your visual influences being the paintings of Richard Estes, John Baeder, and Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks. What was it about their styles that attracted you?

CV: John Baeder specialises in painting American diners through the decades. It is a portrait of a quintessential part of America, they are an image of the culture at a particular time and location as diners are so prominent. They are kind of run down with weed choked parking lots, so it is interesting to see that kind of perspective. These hyper-realists use such strong colour, which is good to use in the film, because the North East is often portrayed as a dark, over-cast place. I thought after I’d travelled to the North East in location reccies… the original script was all set in woodland, but I really wanted to show off some of the North East’s industrial influences… to show this tired industry that is representative of Tim’s character as an ageing hit man.

Although in the original script there was no blast furnace or pump house or diner or any of these things. Using these locations, and also taking the film into the darkness of night, is a reflective of Tim’s character and his journey within the film. Something about these artists seemed to capture the environment and the space perfectly.

TFR: Was the location of the scene where the van is set on fire a nod to Get Carter, as it looks quite similar?

CV: They filmed Get Carter probably about 20 miles up the road. It was a great location to shoot that worked really well, but it wasn’t a nod to Get Carter, it just naturally happened that way. Whether it was a subconscious influence, I don’t know. Industry is about power and development, a way through to the future essentially. When we came to the blast furnace, where it all turns sour, then he reaches the daylight at the other end it was that was a subtle thing we had going on underneath.

I thought the North East was absolutely amazing, it has all these associations, but it’s only when you go up to Northumberland – I spent a couple of months driving around – long long drives seeing Kielder Water, Lindisfarne, Bamburgh Castle, Hadrian’s Wall – there’s such a rich history there. It was such an amazing place to be. I really enjoyed the people. The majority of the crew came from the North East, they were highly skilled and great fun to work with. We had a really good crew.

TFR: Did you have a highpoint on the production?

I have a secret fetish and I like my industrial heritage. The pump house location was not in use, so to get the cross beams to work they had to set the all furnaces off and burn coal for a week to get the pressure up. I hadn’t seen it moving before other than in videos. After one day of shooting it was extremely late, and I got a phone call from one of the caretakers of the museum to tell me they’d got it fired up. The noise and motion of these hundred-tonne beams was really special.

Read our review of The Liability here.

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