Actor/writer/producer Noel Clarke discusses his new thriller Storage 24, currently available on VOD before hitting theaters January 11
Noel Clarke is getting to the point where he may have literally done it all in movies and television. Fans of the BBC series Doctor Who will know him for his arc as Mickey Smith. He has also written, directed, produced, and starred in his own indie features such as Kidulthood, Adulthood, and Doghouse. His profile will likely be even bigger with his mysterious role in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness later this summer. The talented multi-hyphenate can next be seen in the thriller Storage 24, which, of course, he also co-wrote and produced.
The actor stars as Charlie, a broken man who heads to a London storage facility with his friend Mark (Colin O'Donoghue), after his girlfriend Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) leaves him. Things get awkward when Shelley and her friend Nikki (Laura Haddock) are already there, splitting up the couple's possessions. However, this foursome has bigger issues to deal with, namely the vicious alien monster prowling through the facility, killing anything in its path.
I recently had the chance to speak with Noel Clarke about Storage 24, which is currently available through VOD formats before debuting in theaters January 11. Here's what he had to say about this claustrophobic horror-thriller.
Can you first talk about the inception of this movie? Was there some sort of incident in a storage facility, and it evolved from there?
Noel Clarke: Yeah, man. I literally was at a storage facility with a family member, just walking around the corridors, thinking, 'This place is crazy.' There's no windows, there are the same lights, and if you walk too far and try to find your way back, you find yourself looking down a corridor and going, 'Where is everyone?' I thought, wouldn't it be crazy if there was a serial killer that was killing people in one of these places? One day, I woke up and I was like, 'Don't be ridiculous. A serial killer is ridiculous. An alien would be better' (Laughs). I switched it to an alien, had the idea, started writing it, got my writing team on it, then we hired (director) Johannes (Roberts).
I saw there are a number of other writers credited on this. Are those all guys on your team then? Did the story change much after you decided on the alien?
Noel Clarke: Yeah. The way I work with the guys is I'll write the draft, and then say what I think needs changing. They'll come back with their input, and they'll do a draft. Of course, when you hire a director, you have to let him do his draft. It's not too different from what I originally thought, or what I originally wrote. It's in a storage facility, so you can't change it that much. In terms of Johannes changing my character from a tough guy to a weak guy, and stuff like that, he brought elements to it. It really changed in that respect, and that was great.
I asked because I saw you have a story credit, and most times, that means a lot has changed from the original draft to what shows up on screen.
Noel Clarke: We were trying to figure out how to do that. I wrote the screenplay with the guys, but I wanted people to know that it was my idea as well, not just the fact that I was the co-writer. That was important, to me, that people understand I am trying to think outside of the box.
Did you shoot in an actual, working facility like this, or was it all studio work?
Noel Clarke: We looked for a storage facility, and, of course, we weren't allowed to shoot. They're like, 'You can't have a creature running around.' So, we built that whole set in a studio. The walls were movable, and we had three corridors and, of course, green screen at the end. Once you've done that, and you have a couple of left turns, you can do what you want. That was all a build. The exterior locations weren't far away either, so it was a contained shoot.
Can you talk a bit about the look of the alien? It has quite a distinct look. Can you talk about what you really wanted this creature to look like?
Noel Clarke: When I initially had the idea, and hired Johannes, I said to him, 'I kind of want the creature to look like Carnage from Spider-Man, in the comics. That was the basis. I showed him a picture of Carnage, and I said, 'I want you to go away and design your own monster.' Him and the designer went off, and came back with the creature. I was very happy with it. It was important to me that it wasn't some pig, that it was some humanoid thing. Even though the jaw opens sideways, and it has another mouth, you can see Carnage had that stuff too. That was the basis of it.
It's not really shown in the movie, but did you develop a back story about what actually happened on that plane? Perhaps to be explored in a prequel or sequel?
Noel Clarke: Yeah, you could have prequels and sequels. The back story, essentially, is that this thing had been caught awhile ago. It was being transported from one place to another, because they knew that something was approaching, that was connected to it. The thing was what shot the cargo plane down. When the cargo plane landed, our alien ended up in the storage facility.
Can you talk a bit about putting this cast together? What were the things you were looking for to play the other three main roles?
Noel Clarke: The thing about stepping back and hiring a director, is you have to do just that. I just kind of stepped back. Obviously, I'm a producer as well, but I let Johannes bring in the people he wanted. Colin O'Donoghue was in The Rite, and I thought he was just absolutely fantastic in that movie, with Anthony Hopkins. We really thought he would be great to play Mark. With all due respect to Antonia (Campbell-Hughes), Johannes wanted Shelley to have a different look. He didn't believe my character, Charlie, would have a stunning, beautiful girlfriend, because he's such brooding loner. He wanted the girlfriend to be like a girl next door, so he went with Antonia. Then, of course, Laura (Haddock) is her conventionally-beautiful friend. I was very happy with the job they did.
Did you have a lot of time to shoot this? Was the schedule rushed at all?
Noel Clarke: We had five weeks. We did six-day weeks, and we were in that small set where we could remove the walls. I guess the most challenging thing was crawling through the vents. Those were real tiny. People were claustrophobic. That was the most challenging part, but, essentially, it was a problem-free shoot. The one thing that was crazy was the creature. We shot this guy in a suit. In the dark, it looks amazing. The first day, we got to set and we were sitting outside, getting ready, and the guy walks past us, in broad daylight, in the creature outfit. We were like, 'Oh my God. This looks awful.' We could see the rest of the crew going, 'Oh my God. What are we working on?' But, when we went inside, with the lights off, it looked pretty good. For a moment, it was touch-and-go. We were pretty nervous.
That just shows you the importance of lighting right there.
Noel Clarke: Oh my goodness. I wish I could send you a picture of this thing in broad daylight. You'd be like, 'This is not the same thing.' It's amazing.
A lot of people, myself included, are really excited about Star Trek Into Darkness. Is there anything at all you can say about who you play? The only thing I've seen is your character is a family man with a wife and child. Could you expand on that a bit?
Noel Clarke: Yes, I play a family man, who is seen in the first few minutes. I get approached by that other gentleman, and it goes from there. I can't really say anything more about it, but I'm excited. I loved Star Trek as a kid, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. To be a part of this movie was amazing.
That's about all I have. Thanks so much, Noel.
Noel Clarke: Thanks. Take care.