IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Jeremy Lovering Talks 'In Fear' and 'Sherlock'

Friday, 07 March 2014 10:11 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Jeremy Lovering Talks 'In Fear' and 'Sherlock'

In Fear, arriving in select theaters today, wrings tension not from supernatural chicanery, boogeymen, or violent spectacle.

Instead, this unique British thriller turns a seemingly ordinary situation into an increasingly unnerving scenario, proving that to scare the daylights out of an audience requires little more than two people inside a car.

It's a familiar enough set-up: Lucy and Tom, a young couple still very much in the awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase set out on a minor road trip to a music festival.  As they traverse rural roads, their guide and GPS fail them.  They realize they're going in circles, being deliberately misled by the local signage and possibly tormented by an unseen figure following them.  Slowly but surely, Lucy and Tom go from flirting to sniping to truly desperate.

To lace In Fear with a palpable and real dread, first-time feature film director Jeremy Lovering took an unusual approach.  Working without a conventional screenplay, he shot in sequence and intentionally kept his lead actors, Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Iain De Caestecker (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in the dark, getting genuinely fearful reactions as they more or less improvised their way through a story unfolding right in front of them.

IAR Managing Editor Jami Phibrick recently spoke to Lovering in an IAR-exclusive interview in which the writer-director discussed the aesthetics of In Fear, his small but talented cast of actors, and his experience directing an episode of Sherlock, the global phenomenon starring Benedict Cumerbatch (12 Years a Slave) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).

"I didn't want to do it in an overly glossy way," Lovering said of the film, which he conceived of after a friendly prank on a visit to Ireland illuminated the a certain kind of behind-the-wheel vulnerability. "My setting was always very much peachy characters trapped in this car. It's like being lost in space. I wanted to create a feeling of there being nothing else around."

Rather than rely on jump-scares or over the top violence, he said, "I wanted to make this a suspense movie. The tension was more important to me than any gore. Therefore it was creating that claustrophobia in a way that the intensity of it meant the audience began to feel the intensity of it. There's a lot of things like I kind of tried to frame it so when the shots are from the back seat it's exactly the perspective you'd have if you were in the back seat with them. There's lots of things like that going on."

In order to fill his primary setting with dread, Lovering, explained, he turned the limitations of shooting around a single car into advantages, exploiting an environment with which we're all familiar. "I just wanted to try and give the immediacy of being in the car with these guys rather than objectively watching them," he said. "But being if you step outside their world occasionally to look at them, but by that time there is no escape."

"I had a rule which basically the camera was always in the car or tethered to the car so that you always had this connection and you never just had a free open epic shot apart from the very beginning," the director explained.

His on-the-fly, heavily improvisational approach meant that casting was indispensably important to Lovering on In Fear.  "I had archetypes in my mind. I wanted the film to be a fable and so therefore I wanted to have these archetypes brought to life by the actor," he said.

As Lucy, Ginger & Rosa star Englert had the exactly the right qualities, he said. "Alice was a no-brainer really because she was just absolutely my archetype, but pushed into reality."

"She was seventeen years old, so there's a life experience vulnerability, yet she was incredibly intuitive,' he continued. "So she's been exposed to lots of life experience, but she's still a seventeen-year-old processing it. She's interested in the kind of darker side of life and she's not surly in any way."

De Caestecker, meanwhile, is best known as the nervously brilliant tech guru Fitz on the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  That he's not a strapping, hyper-masculine leading man was part of what made De Castecker ideally suited to play Tom. "He grew up in Glasgow and he used to hang out with the friends who if they quickly have a fight if there was this kind of Friday night drinking thing," Lovering explained of the actor. "His friends would throw a punch where he would try and make a joke because he was skinnier, he didn't like alpha male, he didn't like the kind of swinging dick mentality. That was all what it was about. It was about how he could avoid violence whilst being pushed to violence by an alpha male."

In Fear features only three real roles, with Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), eventually joining Englert and De Caestecker as Max, a stranger who complicates Lucy and Tom's circuitous journey.  "It needed a physical presence, someone who's charismatic, able to be a bit of a bully and physically dominant and has a twinkle in their eye at the same time," Lovering said of the role.

He makes his feature directorial debut on In Fear, but Lovering is an accomplished television director across the pond.  His highest-profile TV effort was the fourth series debut of the BBC hit Sherlock.  A reunion between Holmes and Watson, as well as the resolution of a massive third-series cliffhanger, the episode, "The Empty Hearse," was very much anticipated from day one.

"It's very exciting doing it because you've got this fan base that is they all turn up on the set and what I loved about them they kind of willed it to be good," said the director.

Produced by Steven Moffat, Sherlock runs on the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Freeman. "They're kind of extraordinary. They're top of their game obviously at the moment and in different ways," Lovering explained of the actors. "I think because it was a lead one there's a lot of pressure because it was their reconciliation after two years and all that kind of stuff. They wanted to feel comfortable with me. The first three days I was kind of testing and going on, which I love. I find that all very funny. It settled very quickly and then they...they're just exceptional."

While the third series of Sherlock has already wrapped up, In Fear is just arriving Stateside.

In Fear opens in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston on Friday, March 7th.  Find details regarding specific theaters by checking out the official In Fear Facebook.

If you're prohibitively far from all five of those cities, though, In Fear is just around the corner.  The film becomes available on Blu-ray, DVD, and via Video On Demand starting on Monday, March 10th.

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