I recently got the chance to talk to Mark Tankersley about his role in ‘Lockout’. Here, Mark talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and which three people he would invite to dinner…
Hey Mark. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Lockout’.
My pleasure. Thanks for the time.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s 2079. The US has a prototype Maximum Security Prison, MS One, in low orbit. It’s been built by an aerospace multinational, and contains 500 prisoners. The prisoners are in “stasis”, put to sleep for the duration of their sentence, because they are the worst of the worst. The US President’s daughter goes to MS One to investigate the rumours of serious side effects resulting from stasis. While she’s there something goes very wrong and the prisoners take over MS One. The powers that be send in an ex-special agent to rescue her.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the Warden of MS One, who’s not delighted to be giving the President’s daughter a tour, but tolerates her just enough to get her visit over with so he can get back to running the prison…along with some other, clandestine, responsibilities he has on MS One.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
It was 2005…6 maybe. I was asked to read for Stephen and James for a role in a mock trailer they were doing for a film script they had written. Idea being, you make a mock trailer and get it into the hands of film producers and hope they’ll say, “We like it! How much do you need to make the film?” When I read for Stephen and James something special and enjoyable occurred and we found ourselves with a great working relationship. So we shot the trailer and it turned out really well. It made the rounds and still has a life of its own and may be completely filmed sometime in the future.
Fast forward to 2009. Luc Besson had seen a short film Stephen and James had done and asked if they wanted to make a movie with him. They did and began working on the screenplay for ‘Lockout’. They then called me and asked if I could come in and voice some of the characters for the animated storyboard they were making for ‘Lockout’. I did and we also played with some of the dialogue. The final casting was up to Luc but Stephen and James had me read the part of Warden Barnes and showed it to Luc and he hired me.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I’ll answer that from the perspective of living in Ireland. It’s a unique film to come from Irish directors. ‘Lockout’ is not typical of a feature directed from an Irish base. That’s to say that a big, fun sci-fi shot in Belgrade isn’t the norm here for a film. Something like…”Oh, that’s not what we’re used to seeing from Irish directors.”
The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare and Jacky Ido – with James Mather and Stephen St. Leger onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
And Nick Hardin’s in it, a buddy up in Belfast.
It was a very tight schedule. 10 week shoot. Twelve hour day. Six day week. Now, that’s not like diggin’ ditches or loadin’ hay, which I’ve done, but it was a tight schedule. Everyone was aware of how tight it was and seemed not to have time for anything other than being prepared, professional and just plain nice. Lots of humour too. That goes a long way. Some very funny moments on set but always intense concentration on the task at hand. One of the scenes I was in was the first shot, first day. Everybody was maintaining their nerves. “Don’t get behind first day” was the silent mantra you could see chanting in everyone’s eyes. I was on my mark and prepped, focused…ready. So I just relaxed and watched James tell the First AD, David Campi-Lemaire, a wonderful Frenchman, and the Second AD, Ljbomir Bozovic a great Serbian, how the shot for the scene would go. James quickly and specifically described the action of the shot and what David and Ljbomir needed to tell their respective crews to do. When James finished he said, “So that’s what we’ll do on the day.” A very Irish turn of phrase that means, when we do it. As soon as he said “on the day”, David and Ljbomir nodded their heads at him and smiled. Then they both turned slowly to tell their crew and I saw their faces go from a smile at James to abject terror with the most likely thought of “…on the day?!?! What day?!?” Well Stephen called action and pandemonium ensued. A bit like watching 12 wet cats trying to get in a hatbox. But that was all sorted after a brief discussion. Almost all of my scenes were with Maggie, and a couple with Vincent and Joe. They were really relaxing and spontaneous to work with.
Let’s talk a bit about you Mark. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
Beethoven’s Ninth. Second movement. Seriously.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Get good comprehensive training. You’ll be better disciplined and might find out you don’t want to do this for a living at no great personal cost. Have a “money job/skill” that does not interfere time wise with your acting, writing, directing, SFX, etc. work. Nothing will steal your creative energy more than chasing money to live.
What is currently on your I-Pod?
Joe Strummer with and without the Mescaleros, Talking Heads, up to and including Remain in Light. Radio Head, Neil Young, John Prine, Metallica…and a bit more.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
My mother and father. To re-tell some stories and tell some they never did. Herman Hesse would be welcome to dine with us. I’ve a few questions for him regarding one of his books for which I have a screenplay treatment and he’d enjoy my folks. Although, I wouldn’t mind having Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde sitting down together though…I’d like to see how that conversation would go.
What is your favourite word?
Favourite?…that’s hard…I like words very much. I guess at the moment it would have to be curmudgeon.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’m back in the States next month for a bit but have a non-disclose so I can’t speak of it…”on pain of death”. Then back home to Ireland and sit down for a while with some writing to do. Maybe get a pint with Stephen and James and find out what we’ve all learned that’ll keep us doing what we love.
Thanks for the interview!