Doug Liman Interview: Locked Down

We interview Locked Down director Doug Liman about the challenges of shooting a film amidst an ongoing pandemic, and the movie’s heist angle.

As the pandemic rages on, so do films inspired by it, with the latest being Locked Down. Out on January 14 through HBO Max, the film mixes several genres such as romcom and heist to pull together a less dreary look at what lockdown down to some couples.

Director Doug Liman spoke to Screen Rant about how different the shooting experience was under the added safety precautions, and how it let to fascinating creative choices for the casting.

This film is so relatable, but clearly shooting in a pandemic is problematic. How do you navigate directing actors during a lockdown with social distancing? What type of creative solutions did you and your team come up with?

Doug Liman: Well, safety was the most important thing to us making Locked Down. I come from making films with stunts, so a safety briefing at the beginning of every day has been part of my life making movies forever. But this really posed some of the most severe safety requirements.

But we came up with really inventive solutions. With Chiwetel’s brother in the film and his wife, his sister-in-law, we were like, “We should go find actors who are husband and wife.” Which we found with DulĂ© and Jazmyn, so that they’re already in a quarantine bubble together.

Anne Hathaway’s boss has a teenage son in the script, so we went looking for actors who had teenage children and found Ben Stiller and his son Quinlan. We embraced the COVID safety precautions, and I just decided to make it part of the process of making them film.

I like having crazy, different experiences. I flew myself and my little plane to London to go make the movie, because it’s like, “When am I going to ever have the opportunity to do that?” Normally, I’m banned from flying during production or doing anything risky. The normal rules just don’t even apply. They weren’t worried about me having an airplane crash, because there’s no “they,” first of all. Second of all, it was just unclear if we’d ever be able to finish the movie, because Boris Johnson was shutting London down all around us while we’re shooting. So, everything about this was a venture into the unknown.

Doug Liman Interview: Locked Down
Doug Liman Interview: Locked Down

At first thought, a pandemic drama and a heist film seem like an odd match. However, upon further thought, it makes sense. Can you speak to the sense of desperation you’re trying to get across, and what it says about this moment in time?

Doug Liman: The heist that’s in Locked Down is really born out of normal people who are pushed to the breaking point by being locked up together. Some people are having these incredible lockdown experiences; they have newborn children, and they’re spending all this time [together]. But other people are not having such positive experiences, and we made a film about characters who are maybe not locked down in the most idyllic situation, and how it pushes them to the breaking point. And ultimately, they snap and decide to do something totally outrageous.

By the way, Steven and I deciding to go make Locked Down was also an outrageous decision born of this moment.