Assembling the Players

To capture the full spectrum, from judges to jailors, the filmmakers assembled a remarkable cast of supporting actors.

With the two leads set, the filmmakers sought to surround them with "a great array of players," says producer Chris Clark. "Eric and Rebecca are the stars, but in filling out the cast we wanted an ensemble feeling."

Irish actor Ciar'an Hinds had been sought by director John Crowley years earlier for his first feature, Intermission. "The [shooting schedule] dates didn't work for him," remembers the director. "He's one of those character actors who lends such distinctive flavor to anything he does, and I was glad to finally get him in a movie of mine."

Hinds signed on to play the avuncular and "old-school" solicitor Devlin, who works alongside barrister Martin. The actor's interest echoed Tim Bevan's instincts for the material's potential. Hinds remarks, "The Americans do these very well, and here was a rare British one that tracks the law and a conspiracy. I felt this would be a proper grown-up film. I liked the script's look at people trying to prevent terrorism: are they on the right path? Are they backing the right horse?

"I also liked the dialogue in the script, particularly what is being spoken about in guarded ways outside of court. The phrasing is heightened; there's a little something underneath. I'd seen John's work in films and theater, and I knew he would be attentive to the lines and the emotions."

The actor was also eager to act again with Eric Bana. "It was a joy working with him on our first movie together, Munich," recalls Hinds. "We were part of a close unit in that. The relationship our characters have this time as colleagues is even more personal; they have great respect for each other, and have worked together for over a decade. Eric and I had to play the kind of connection you have with someone where you go in to work with them with a trust and an ease. We played it, and we have it. I hope that Eric feels the same way!" Bana affirms that he does, adding that "Ciar'an is so gifted; his abilities helped us really get at the nature of the Devlin/Martin relationship. He's a powerhouse."

Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent topped everyone's list to play the Attorney General. The character - never identified by his own name - is the chief legal advisor of the Crown and, as the actor explains, "is the representative of the government who interfaces with the law."

Broadbent had starred in the acclaimed production of The Pillowman that was staged by John Crowley at the National Theatre. Accordingly, says the actor, "John was the big draw for me to do CLOSED CIRCUIT. He's a very practical, imaginative, and honest director. I have complete faith in him."

He adds that "what attracted me to Steve's screenplay was its grounding in reality. It's relevant and topical, with insight into an issue that is unfolding in front of us and I'm sure will continue to do so. The screenplay dramatizes threatening situations, but it also has irony and humor.

"What was great fun for me to play was that my character communicates more in human terms than with legal jargon...and he's never quite saying what he thinks."

Crowley remarks, "Subtext is more often dealt with in the theatre than on film, but Steve gets the specifics in. It's that art of saying something without saying it; the meaning of what you're saying is written in invisible ink alongside what you're saying. Everything Jim's character says has a double meaning, and I know he relished acting that."

Another veteran actor, Kenneth Cranham, was delighted to be part of CLOSED CIRCUIT because after 45 years of making movies he would at last be "playing a judge. I've only ever been [cast as] a QC before; finally, I'm getting somewhere in life!

"The extraordinary thing about playing one is, you sit right up at the top of the court all on your own, you put on the wig and the glasses, you peer over the glasses...and, you're the judge. The room feels it and so do you."

Cranham's character of Cameron Fischer provides guidance for not only the main characters of Martin and Claudia but also the audience. As the actor notes, "Through him we grasp a basic premise of this story, something that is part of the current zeitgeist: certain trials are held almost in secret because the evidence given would be so incriminating to a person that they would be in real danger."

The director wanted Cranham for the part because, as a boy, Crowley had gone three times to see the celebrated stage revival of An Inspector Calls in which Cranham played the lead role. "He put some work my way because I impressed him," muses Cranham. "On the set, John is very thorough; he gives himself choices in [filming scenes'] coverage, and I can tell that he enjoys selecting which bits and shots to use."

Anne-Marie Duff had starred in Crowley's most recent feature, Is Anybody There? and he contacted her to play Melissa, a government worker who is not what she first appears to be. Duff confides, "John and I had been in touch since the last movie, and I wanted to work with him again, but I wouldn't necessarily have cast myself as this character. It was a nice surprise - and there are elements of surprise, different sides, to her.

"Portraying Melissa was new territory for me, so I did as much research as I could. I'd never worn a suit before at work; I'm either in period costume or a track suit. I enjoyed getting to play somebody with sass and authority, 'owning' her language. She has her shields, but I tried to inhabit her as a human being."

Duff admits that she "had no idea, before working on CLOSED CIRCUIT, how intertwined the legal system and the national security agencies are. We are living in a world that is swollen with fear. The film explores questions of what's for the greater good - and who has the right to say so. Riz Ahmed gets to give a great speech which keys into that."

Ahmed, a rising U.K. actor, auditioned to play Sharma, a national security agent of MI5. The actor notes, "Steve Knight wrote one of my favorite films, Dirty Pretty Things. This script also gripped me as a contemporary thriller. The content was bold and timely in looking at how much we will allow the state to intrude on our personal freedoms. These are pressing issues that are close to my heart.

"From his perspective, Sharma sees himself as being at war. In terms of protecting the national interest he thinks, surely that's something everyone can come on board with. He presents himself to Claudia as a helping hand in her investigations, but she may not see it that way and there's a degree of mistrust."

Paradoxically, Ahmed found in acting opposite Rebecca Hall that she was "a warm presence who creates a relaxed vibe, putting everyone at ease with her manner. When you're doing scenes with her, she is infinitely adaptable."

Ahmed felt that he could work closely with Crowley in exploring the character. He explains, "I found that John likes getting into the psychology of characters, which always appeals to me. I constructed a back story for Sharma including a mixed heritage and a certain point where his world view became very fixed.

"When I came to John with this, he was receptive; later, when he was giving me direction on the set he'd kind of tap into the back story. He's unusually sensitive to an actor's process, and he puts performance first as he tweaks each take."

Denis Moschitto, a German actor of Italian descent, heard from his agent that casting director Fiona Weir was "looking for an actor who could play Turkish [for the crucial role of defendant Farroukh Erdogan]. I called Fiona up, and she asked if I could put myself on tape. I guess she liked what she saw.

"Myself, I liked the part: Farroukh's involvement in the attack is certain, but his actual role is unclear. Is he a small-time crook who got involved with worse people? Is he a terrorist mastermind? Or is he something else? Either way, he has something to hide."

The lone American cast member of CLOSED CIRCUIT is Julia Stiles. "My part is small," she admits. "But I wanted to be involved in this movie. I was impressed at how the script combined aspects of political thriller, suspense, and character piece.

"I enjoyed working with Eric Bana - though we don't get to look at each other much because our scenes play out amidst suspicion; our acting was largely about listening."

An accomplished stage performer, Stiles had been to see Crowley's Broadway production of The Pillowman and now found that "John's theatrical experience is evident in how he speaks with the actors. It's refreshing, and the best thing about working with him was that you can trust his judgment; if he was happy with a take, then I was fine with it too."

The director notes, "The actors and their process are always front and center for me on the set. Even if there's an action sequence being filmed, it's important to me that the character aspects come through. The dance between the actors and the camera is what makes moviemaking so much fun. When the camera rolls, that's their moment to crack the scene."

Crowley called for an intensive two weeks' worth of rehearsal with the cast before production began. He relays that "rehearsals are hugely important to me, and not necessarily because I come from theatre. Rather, it's that I've never directed anything for stage or screen that hasn't had characters I'm curious about." A final script read-through brought all the actors together four days before the start of filming.

Hinds states, "You have to prepare on your own, getting background and information. But to have everybody discussing the meat of the scenes helped us. Many of us were going into new territory with this story about the law, and this way we were better prepared for being on-camera with each other."

Hall adds, "A lot of actors use the phrase 'sparring partner.' Well, if you're playing a courtroom scene then you really are sparring with each other. To have an actor responding to your nuances gives you a lot of energy and brings the text alive."

Moschitto remembers, "At the read-through, I looked around and thought, 'I've never been in a room with so many great actors.' When you work in England, even the smallest parts are cast with Royal Shakespeare Company actors.

"John Crowley sensed that I was a little bit overwhelmed; he took all of that away by making it easy for me to blend in."

"For an actor, the prep period was a dream come true," says Bana. "John understands actors and knows how to make the process enjoyable for them. He's also incredibly well-prepared, yet on the set he'd be a lot of fun because we'd already communicated so well in rehearsals. So you very quickly get into the zone of what he's after for each scene."