From the time Locke was first announced in Berlin, to its first public screenings here in Venice, much had been kept under wraps about the project. But all was revealed today, and judging by the sustained applause and hoots and hollers for star Tom Hardy, most folks felt it was worth the wait. You could say Locke is about a man in a car, driving from Birmingham to London, while dealing with a series of issues on speaker phone. It would be true, but not accurate. It’s much more than that: part thriller, part psychological study, part family drama – and all with only one actor seen on screen. The movie, however, is not in competition so is not up for the major prizes – which many are lamenting. It next heads to Toronto, where IM Global will be looking to close deals. Its specialty label, Anthem, fully financed the Shoebox Films production and Lionsgate has UK rights.

British director Steven Knight, whose last film, Hummingbird (Redemption in the U.S.), was his feature debut, wrote and directed Locke. His writing credits include Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things, for which he was Oscar nominated in 2004. He said today that prior to writing Locke, he’d been shooting another digital film with a car at night and it looked so good that he “wondered if there was a story you could weave of one man’s journey as he drove down a motorway. I was trying to bring a huge emotion down into a tiny space.” The movie, incidentally, is in real-time.

Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman and concrete expert who leaves his job on the eve of a massive project. When the movie starts, it’s near dusk and he’s settling into a drive in a shiny BMW SUV. After calls to a colleague, his boss, a woman called Bethan, and his wife and sons, the audience starts to understand where he’s headed and why. All 85 minutes of the film are spent in the car with Locke as he makes and receives calls, juggling his own demons and his interactions with the other characters who are voiced by Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland and Bill Milner.

For the film, Hardy sported a soft beard and a fisherman’s sweater. He also chose to employ a lilting Welsh accent which gives him a soothing quality. Soft and soothing are not always terms one equates with Hardy characters and that was brought up at a press conference this afternoon. “It’s nice to play a part in which the main action was containment and having to deal with a large amount of drama,” Hardy said. “Hopefully, there’s life in the old dog yet and I’ve got a few more characters in me and won’t be beating people up all the time.”

The actor’s schedule only allowed a short window to make the movie so there was very little prep time. There were table reads before they got in the car, but “Steven wrote a script which was a 30 page synopsis, which turned into 90 pages three days before the shoot,” Hardy laughed. But that “adds to the flavor, having a short space of time to put it together.” The ultimate shoot was eight days long. They filmed on six days, at night or early in the morning, running through the script from beginning to end once or twice each time. (There were also two days of pick-ups.) Knight says he had three cameras rolling inside and attached to the car at all times. “The only thing that stopped us was the cameras because we had to change the memory cards every 28 minutes.” For Hardy, it was nice to “take a gamble on something in an experimental way.”