Storage 24: Writer and Star Noel Clarke
We catch up with the writer, director, actor and producer to discuss his latest film.
With British sci-fi/horror Storage 24 out this week, we caught up with producer, writer and star Noel Clarke to discuss his influences, budgets, sequels and a truly awesome creature design.
So Noel, A cross between Quatermass and the Pit and Alien, with a few other things thrown in, what can you tell us about those connections? Was Quatermass an influence?
Yeah, that’s a pretty good call – I hadn’t actually thought of it but now that you say it. We were just trying to do something different, for this country anyway, and just to do something entertaining. This sort of thing, we’d usually see come out of America. It’s hard not to be influenced when you’re making a film like this. There’s a shot where the alien’s holding Antonia by her neck, and someone was like “Oh man I loved that shot, from Alien” and I was thinking “oh yeah!”, because I didn’t even remember that.
Are you happy to be returning to sci-fi?
I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, it was always something I always liked growing up. Comic book stuff as well, which is kind of sci-fi. That was kind of a big factor with Doctor Who – not that anyone was going to say no to that job – but I’ve always loved sci-fi, and so just wanting to do one myself was always a goal. I wrote an episode of Torchwood for series one, and a few other sci-fi scripts before, this is just the one that got made.
Could you talk us through the creature design a little?
Yeah, well when I decided I wasn’t going to direct it, and was looking for a director, I hired Johannes, and gave him a base model. I love monsters, but I didn’t want anything crazy, I don’t want an octopus, I wasn’t a cool alien that can chase you. I didn’t want it to be on all fours, because that’s been done in Alien, and been done in Attack the Block. The base model I gave him was Carnage (the Spider-Man villain), I said, “Take that, and go off in your own direction and bring me a really cool, upright alien that we can use.” So he went off with the designers and came back with pictures and stuff, and we all collectively decided on what we went with.
So no Dalek-alikes?
(laughs) that was definitely never going to happen – even though we all know they can come up stairs, what we’ve got can come off the walls, and chase you, that was my idea.
What scared you as a kid?
Cybermen. I was never really scared of Daleks. And Pinhead!
Was there a nod to the Autons in there? With the storage box full of mannequins?
Well I suppose it could be read like that, but that wasn’t intentional. The cool thing about those palces is that you never know what people hide behind those doors. You hear about people hiding bodies there until they can’t hide the smell anymore. There was one guy who got divorced and lived in there, waiting for the staff to change shifts so he could avoid being found out. I heard all these stories and thought, anything you need to fight something could be in those places.
What made you go for playing Charlie instead of Mark?
I was always going to be Charlie. I’ve written quite a few films, and I had a small part in 4321, and I’ve got a wedding comedy coming up called The Knot, where I play the best man to Matthew McNulty. In Fast Girls I had a smaller part, I can’t always be the main guy, but this one, this was for me. You make it different to what you’ve done before, and I thought of this kind of 9-to-5 guy, everyone knows one, who’s always moaning, everything’s about him – even when there’s a plane crash, it’s because he’s trying to get somewhere. He has to realise that everything is not about him, and that he has to man up. It was an interesting journey, so I wanted to play that character.
He isn’t very likable at the start.
That’s the point yeah, everybody goes through changes, it’s like in Kidulthood, my character is pretty despicable, and you think you could never root for him, but then when he’s escaping from the police in the second one you’re like “come on, get out!” and you think, why am I rooting for this guy? Also, he’s not doing it by winning her back, but by becoming his own man.
It’s interesting how some characters take the opposite arc.
Yeah, that was always the plan – to have that ultimate betrayal in the moment early on. A lot of my films are character driven with dialogue, and are about people’s lives, so it was important for me doing a sci-fi film not to just have people running from a creature for 89 minutes and one minute of resolution at the end.
When making a sci-fi, how much was budget a consideration during the writing process? Were you worried about being limited by it?
Well no, because the film wasn’t financed so I wrote to a budget – I wanted to get it made, so I couldn’t do anything that’s going to go over X amount, hence the one location, and trying to keep the film contained. I knew that if it went over a certain amount, in this country it won’t get made.
That must be a huge contrast to Star Trek 2, can you tell us anything about that?
I can’t say anything about what I’m playing, but it is a huge film, I went over to LA and just the scale of it… JJ Abrams is a very smart man, sometimes you meet someone and you think “this is a good person”, but with him it was just like, “wow”.
What was the set like? How does JJ Abrams run it?
It was very relaxed, very fun and vibrant and everyone’s treated well.
The ending leaves the possibility for a sequel open, can you tell us a little about that?
Well the ending changed – up until we were shooting we had a different one. I wanted certain things to happen that couldn’t happen, and without giving too much away I wanted a SWAT team to rush in at the end, and we couldn’t get enough people – out budget was eaten up on CGI and things, so we couldn’t do it. So I spoke to Johannes, and said, well how about we do this, because I’m a sci-fi guy and that would be pretty cool. After Johannes’ horror elements this was cool too, and I was thinking this is what I’d love to see. When we were watching it back to do the commentary, we just thought, well what happens now? We wanted to see what happens next! So I’ve definitely started thinking about another one, but first hoping that people go out, see that this is something that can be done in this country, and get supporting this one.
Why did you pick Johannes? F was a very impressive piece of work.
With F, it’s such a sterile environment, just rooms and corridors, but he made it feel like a maze. The nooks and crannies, places you can hide, you don’t normally see those unless you’re unfortunately a kid that’s getting bullied. So making a sterile environment like a storage facility interesting and scary, that’s why I hired him. That shot in the trailer, where it doesn’t only look scary, but the lights flick off. I know it seems simple, just turn the lights off, but there are ways he does things, and because of his horror background they really worked. Also, what he brought to the table was making the deaths more gruesome, being a horror guy. I’m not a huge horror fan, but he kept coming to me saying “can I do this?” and I was thinking, really? Well OK, but you have to keep it 15.
Was it a bit unpleasant dealing with all the blood and guts then?
Well yeah, but you can’t hire someone to do a job and then not let him do it, otherwise I would have directed it myself. You let someone come in who can bring something new, and I think it works, it’s just edgy enough to be a scary movie.
There’s also a sense of humour, such as the chasing, squeaky dog.
Yeah, well we wanted the creature to have its own personality, thinking, if this thing arrived, how would it think? We kind of put it back to how when you’re young, and you run from a dog, it’ll chase you. So this thing has come out of the plane crash and everything’s running, so it’s chasing. All of a sudden this brave creature is coming at it, no matter what it does! We just wanted to give it a bit of a personality.
Coming back to the subject of ratings, will The Knot be an 18?
No, it’s a 15 – you heard right though, the BBFC did there rating and it got an 18, so I got on the phone. It was one shot in one sequence, so I went back in and changed it – it took about half an hour.
An 18 would have been more than the average rom-com.
Oh it’s still more than your average rom-com! You’ve got Bridesmaids, you’ve got The Hangover, and The Knot is like both, spending the day with the bride and the groomsmen. Kidulthood was borderline 15, so was Adulthood, and I’ve tried to tread the same line. The Knot just had one shot, I’m sure everyone would have loved it but it just needed to be re-framed a bit.
Why do you prefer to stay in the 15 rating?
15 is such a cool thing, because if you’re a kid, the 18s are a bit more explicit, more extreme and I don’t think you need to go there. You do get films that should be 15s but are 12as – like Batman, which really shoulf have been a 15, but Warner Brothers just went – This is a 12a. We all like a bit of a scare, and everyone acts prudish but we all love a bit of nudity! We just push that a little bit and I think more people can enjoy it, as long as you don’t go too far.
Do you think there really is alien life out there?
Of course, I think it’s so arrogant to think there isn’t – our sun is just a star, and not even a very big star, and there are millions of them. So to think that one other star, doesn’t have other planets that can sustain life – we’re just not advanced enough to find it yet. They recently found that Earth 2 didn’t they, and there’s probably life there. We’ll be long dead, we’ll never see it, but I would assume there is life there – any planet that can sustain life probably does.
What else do you have coming up, other than The Knot?
We’re setting up quite a few things. Fast Girls, Storage and The Knot were the three things I had lined up, so now they’re all done I can start looking at other things. 2011 might have looked quiet because we were all doing those, so now we’re setting up next year. Next year might seem quiet because we’ll be shooting things. Then they’ll start popping. Obviously Star Trek in May, Saving Santa in next December which is an animated Christmas feature, where I play an elf alongside Martin Freeman.
Playing an elf?
I’m playing an elf called Snowy. When I was doing the voice I said to them, we should make him a little black elf, and they went with it, he looks really cool.