Preparing the Case

To stay true to the complex court system captured in CLOSED CIRCUIT, Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall began a rigorous cram course on legal intricacies, courtroom etiquette, and physical exercise.

Three months before filming began, the filmmakers tasked Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall with gaining familiarity of the British justice system. "I threw myself into it as much as possible," reports Hall. "Hopefully, this informed everything I did when making the film."

Bana already had the advantage of having "married into a legal family back in Australia" with members in the justice system. He remarks, "People whose career is law are familiar to me, and I know their level of intensity and intellect."

Still, given the story's crucial specifics of the ins and outs of the U.K. judicial process, Bana and Hall were glad to be able to shadow Tim Owen, who had remained with the project as legal advisor in addition to being an executive producer. Joined by director John Crowley, they sat in on cases and learned about processes and intricacies relevant to the story they would be telling.

Crowley notes, "Speaking to barristers, you hear how the progress of a case can be like playing a card game. You never know what the Crown prosecution service actually has until it's revealed in closed session. Even then, you might wonder: 'Is the source dubious? How was this information obtained?'"

Hall marvels, "Every barrister I met was capable of speaking in complete sentences without hesitation, without saying 'um,' and without grasping for words. It's remarkable; that is their training, that is their life.

"There are links between being a barrister and being an actor, in standing in front of people and speaking rhetoric. But it's such a different mindset. The dexterity I witnessed was just brilliant; I watched one woman in a court case turn everything on a dime."

While Bana initially had Australia's judicial system front-of-mind, Hall found that "the go-to place in my head was American courtrooms. I think that's because the film landscape of legal thrillers is pretty much American. So I was glad to be able to concentrate on representing the British law world, quirks and all."

Crowley adds, "I was quite keen to try for an accurate representation of the British legal world. I do feel that people have in mind clich'es from U.K. television dramas. The more I saw firsthand, the less it looked like those depictions."

Hall notes, "During these 'field trips,' there was rarely a question John didn't know the answer to. But when he didn't, he had the confidence to say 'I don't know. Let's ask somebody.' That's an attractive quality in a director, which for me instills a certain amount of trust.

"Since I couldn't watch an SA in chambers, I concentrated on watching defense barristers. With some elements specific to Claudia, I had to imagine - as we do in the movie world. Being with Eric made it a lot of fun to do the background work."

Bana says, "I did 10 days' worth of advance research in the U.K. I then went home to continue research in Australia.

"One great advantage of being in the U.K. before production began was to get started on costuming with [costume designer] Natalie Ward - this is probably the best-dressed character I've ever played!"

"I shopped a bit for Eric at Harrod's [department store]," says Ward. "But we had all of Martin's suits made; Eric loved the whole experience of going to the tailor. It helped him understand the QC's sense of importance. He would move to stand differently."

Ward and Hall visited the Chancery Lane shop of Ede & Ravenscroft, tailors whose business dates back nearly four centuries. Hall notes, "Ede & Ravenscroft is where barristers go to get gowns and wigs, but also their designer suits." Shop staffers advised the duo on customers' choices and habits, and Ward then had the production buy many of Claudia's costumes there.

Steve Knight reminds, "There's a theatrical element; barristers are performers with costumes who have to stand up and advocate."

Bana elaborates, "Truthfully, it was a key part of the role; people in this world take their wardrobe very seriously. Watching proceedings, I was amazed at how individualistic people would be within a narrow [courtroom appearance] brief."

Another advantage for Bana was being no stranger to doing physical preparation for a role; for CLOSED CIRCUIT, he had to learn to row. The sequence introducing Martin shows him "sculling" down the River Thames, and he is seen elsewhere in the movie rowing as well. A coach was hired in Melbourne, and Bana spent days rowing on the Yarra River before continuing his training in the U.K.

Knight reveals, "I wrote Martin as a rower because it puts us on the River Thames, which is one of the finest ways to see London. With regard to our story, going down the river you see the MI5 and the House of Parliament buildings - staring at each other!"

Bana took it all in stride - and in stroke. He muses, "It's always fun to have a physical component with a character; that's an excuse for me to be active and learn a new skill. I had never rowed before. But it was even more physical than I expected.

"I can understand why it's so addictive, particularly for my character as it's a sport that suits him. What was harder than I expected was to get the technique down pat and act like someone who's done it all their life. It's difficult to master - you can't think about much else when you're rowing - but I would be up for doing it again on my own time."

For her part, Hall was intent on "replicating the very specific world that exists for our characters, for instance, the note pads and highlighter pens that Claudia would have in her briefcase. Also, you never see a barrister around London without a small wheeled suitcase because they have so many binders full of paperwork for their cases; this is one profession that can't go all into the digital age.

"Between the actors, the props department, and the wardrobe department, we honed in on all details with regard to the intricacies of the British legal system. One of the things that I love most about being an actor is that it gives you short-term immersion into a world you would never have experienced or inhabited."