The Legal Dream Team

To steer this smart, suspenseful legal drama required two actors who could bring emotional honesty and intellectual rigor to their roles. The filmmakers found them when they cast Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall.

The filmmakers looked to cast actors who would believably incarnate the characters’ intensity, secretiveness, and resourcefulness. Australian actor Eric Bana met all these criteria to star as Martin.

Bana remembers, “I read the script on a plane – and was captivated by it. I thought it was original, strong, and smart.” A meeting with the director quickly followed, and for Bana “sitting down with John and talking for hours cemented my passion for the project.

“My character of Martin Rose has worked hard in a profession that takes a real toll on people’s personal relationships because of the amount of hours required in preparing for cases. Martin’s marriage has failed, but he remains driven, competitive, and confident – an expert in his world.

“The script gave me the confidence to play Martin, because Steve [Knight] did such a great job with the dialogue and the language. There’s no holding back with this vocabulary for these characters; they have command of the English language, and there’s a dry wit among them.”

Producer Chris Clark comments, “There can be a coldness to the legal and government arenas, but Closed Circuit has warmth in the emotions that break through for the characters. Audiences respond to authenticity, and our script makes use of the actual language of the legal profession.”

Knight notes, “I enjoy writing for characters who in the real world would be articulate, because it gives you the dramatic rationale to have people speak their minds. The barristers I’ve met don’t lack self-confidence, and I don’t think they can lack self-confidence if they’re going to be successful.”

Producer Tim Bevan adds, “Eric is playing a man who is king of his game; at the start of the film, he is cocky. But then two things happen: the ‘powers at play’ of the establishments and institutions start to bear down on him, and the woman he has feelings for becomes mortally endangered.

“I knew Eric could deliver the highly calibrated performance we needed, as it has to be credible how the character develops doubts and undergoes a 180-degree turn. Everyone always misstates that as ‘a 360-degree turn,’ but it is in fact a 180.”

Director John Crowley remembers, “The second Eric’s name was mentioned to play the role, I got excited. I knew that he would be believable as a barrister.”

Bana offers, “Closed Circuit is a grown-up drama where the level of danger is slowly amplified. What it reminds me of is some of the great movie thrillers of the 1970s.”

“I adore those great films made in America by Sydney Pollack and Sidney Lumet,” seconds Crowley. “However, there aren’t any references to them peppered into our film because I feel you have to go make the film that wants to be rather than trying to make it like other films.”

Bana adds, “The story we’re telling is extremely relevant now, to how much we’re watched and how much information is being controlled, and to the reduced lack of privacy in society in general.”

To play Claudia, Martin’s former lover who defiantly remains SA on the closely watched case, the filmmakers called on Golden Globe Award-nominated British actress Rebecca Hall. She had played a supporting part in Working Title’s Frost/Nixon a few years earlier, and the company had long hoped to cast her in a bigger role. Bevan enthuses, “There’s an everywoman quality about her, which I believe is important to have in a movie because men and women alike can identify with her. She conveys both strength and vulnerability.”

Clark marvels, “You empathize with Rebecca’s characterizations. Emotionally, she is such a nimble actress.”

“She has a laser-like intelligence,” comments Crowley. “I felt there would be a freshness to casting her opposite Eric.”

Clark adds, “The character is highly organized and controlling, but she also has an idealistic streak. The pursuit of the truth is paramount for her. As the story unfolds, she has to deal with obstacles of a darker nature than she’s ever faced.”

Hall found herself drawn to the material. She states, “This script intrigued me so much that I started reading up on closed court proceedings. It remains a controversial issue. The screenplay also made me think about how much our lives are tracked and logged, which is not something that we can really control or change.

“On a character basis, the dramatic dynamic between two barristers in contemporary England fascinated me. They’re working towards the same goal, yet not together.”

Bana adds, “Martin and Claudia are sharing the secret that they’ve had a past relationship, which puts them in professional peril; they could be stripped of their ability to practice. That points up the drama in the story early on, because the audience is in on their secret.”

“That makes it quite spicy,” laughs Hall. “These two no longer speak, and when they’re not allowed to have any contact with each other – they start to.

“The story is engaging because you care about these characters, and smart because it is about concerns pertinent to the times we live in.”

The characters’ past romantic history was discussed by Crowley with the two actors, both together and individually. The director says, “Martin and Claudia are both sort of in denial about how important their relationship was; when we join them as they re-encounter each other, they disagree about its nature.

“I liked the task of starting with these characters in a fractured place emotionally and then, as the events of the story unfold, having them realize what they are to each other. I felt that this chimed with the film’s larger themes of secrecy and transparency.”

Knight says, “With Eric and Rebecca working so well together, the chemistry between their characters registers on-screen. I wrote his character as being very successful yet vulnerable; he drinks too much and is not particularly fond of himself, and I think that comes through in Eric’s performance.

“Her character is very driven and has principles. Martin used to have those, and as Claudia begins to affect him they meet in the middle.”