Stephen Graham on Venom 2 & Filming Boiling Point in a Single Non-Stop Take

From director/co-writer Philip Barantini, the drama Boiling Point expertly creates an intense, high stakes environment at one of the hottest restaurants in London, headed by chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham), by effectively shooting it all in one 90-minute, non-stop take. Personal and professional crises threaten to derail service every step of the way, which reverberates throughout the staff and customers, as well as Jones himself.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Graham talked about how the previous short film established the basis for this full-length feature, the chaotic atmosphere that can exist at the back of a restaurant, the pressure of shooting the entire movie in one take while, working to finish the film before Covid shut down production, working together as a collective team, and how finishing a successful take felt like winning the World Cup. He also talked about excited his son got about his involvement in Venom: Let There Be Carnage and what a possible return to the role could mean, and whether there might ever be a second season of Taboo.

Collider: I’ve always looked at chefs as similar to rock stars, especially with the level of performance that can be involved and there tends to be a lot of tattoos around. The thing about this movie is that it ensured that I would never consider working at a restaurant, due to the level of stress and chaos, and it also made me glad that we don’t really get to see behind that curtain when we’re eating at one because you don’t really want to know that that’s going on. Were you surprised at how crazy and chaotic and high stress that whole industry actually is?

STEPHEN GRAHAM: Not really because I’ve got friends who have worked in that industry and I’ve heard lots of stories. When we did the short film, we got to go and see two completely different restaurants. One was very zen and practically bordering on Buddhism where everybody was really silent and really focused and really lovely, and they making these beautiful dishes for tables of maybe two, three or four. And then, we got to see the opposite end of the spectrum, which was a big restaurant in a hotel. We had a look in the back, and the chaos behind the scenes, with people running left and right and shouting tickets and on the pass and dishes being thrown in the sink. I got to see both aspects of it.

I love what you said because, in England, there’s an analogy of looking like a swan on the water, but your legs are just going. It was really great to explore that world and try to see the persona, where they try to show this calm exterior to the people who are at the restaurant eating, but yet it’s chaotic backstage. Basically, it’s like any production, really. With rock stars, you go watch a concert and see this great thing, but the amount of running around backstage and what’s going on to get them there and to add the light department and all of those little minutia of detail that go into watching this spectacle.

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You have the pressure of making a movie, and then you’re capturing this specific world, and you have the pressure of a 90-minute single take, you’re working without set dialogue, and on top of everything else, you had COVID nipping at your feet. How did you even get through all of that, as an actor? Do you even feel that, when you’re in it?

GRAHAM: That’s a great question. Overall, there was an overwhelming excitement for what we were doing. Our wonderful director, Phil Barantini, is a really close friend and the idea came when we did the short film, in order for him to get an agent. He wanted to show what he was capable of to get an agent, and we achieved that objective and he’s now with my agency. His agent was like, “This is great. Why don’t you make it into a feature?” So, to be given that opportunity and assemble a really fantastic cast, all across the board, for an ensemble piece, there’s not one person in that piece that’s not part of the jigsaw that we see. Everyone gave it 150%. And you’re right, we had that impending doom of COVID biting at our heels and we were waiting for Boris [Johnson] to say, “That’s it. Everybody get indoors and lock your doors.” We were waiting for that moment. We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know it was gonna come so quick. But what you see on screen, all of those ingredients, pardon the pun, added to that high tension and anxiety and the oppression of it all.

As a collective, once we’d worked out what we were gonna do with the camera and where the camera was gonna move, basically it was like a ballet, with the choreography behind it. What you see is free flowing, but the choreography that we put into it, getting it to look spontaneous and as in the moment as impossible, was a lot of work and effort to get it to that point. And Matt Lewis, our DoP, is 23 years of age. What an amazing achievement. I don’t know what I was doing at 23, but to have that technical ability to carry the camera on his back for an hour and 20 minutes, he was so immersed within the process.

For us, as a collective, every single one of us, the craft of acting is film acting, so it’s minuscule. The difference between theater and film, they’re two completely different disciplines. But to feel like you’re in a live play, but you’re in the moment of filmmaking with its minutia and the details are small, and you’re not projecting to an audience but you’re immersed in the process, thinking about it, I get goosebumps. It was just a wonderful experience. For every single actor, you don’t wanna be the one that gets it wrong and we have to start again. You don’t wanna be that person. And so, it’s everyone performing at the best of their ability. We were all vibrating at the same frequency.

I love the work that you do. I love that you were in Venom 2. The ending of Venom: Let There Be Carnage sets up what might be your character becoming Toxin. Did Tom Hardy or Andy Serkis ever tell you if that was the plan? Were there any conversations about that?

GRAHAM: When the character came to the table, they said they wanted me to play this role and explained what it was, and I took the call and was like, “Oh, that sounds great. Let me have a think of it. Let me have a look at the script and let me see.” And then, I put the phone down, I went upstairs, and I told my son, Alfie. I said, “They’ve asked me to play this part in Venom.” He went, “What?!” I said, “Yeah, and it’s this police officer.” And he was like, “Mulligan? Dad, you said Mulligan.” I went, “Yeah, Mulligan.” He went, “Dad, do you understand? He becomes Toxin.” I was like, “What do you mean?” And then, he explained the whole thing, how he’s the spawn of Carnage and Venom. I was like, “Oh, okay.” So, there’s the possibility that may be explored in the future, and if it is, that’d be wonderful. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time shooting. Tom was a joy to work with, and Andy was amazing to be directed by. I loved that process. Tom is a good friend and I love him as an actor. I think he’s a wonderful actor. It was a lovely experience. It’s not everyday that you get to work with one of your mates.

Did your character have any deleted scenes that we could still maybe see, at some point?

GRAHAM: I don’t know what I’m allowed to say. There was something that was chopped, which wasn’t used, but if they decide to bring him into the future, you might see that stuff then, to tie in.

I also loved Taboo and there’s been conversation about a second season for what feels like forever. Do you think a second season of that show will ever happen?

GRAHAM: I’m not sure. I’m working, myself, with Steve Knight on another project. He’s probably the most inundated screenwriter of the moment. He’s developing lots of projects and he’s a wonderful, amazing writer. I don’t know. You never know. I know that there have been conversations about it in the past, so I’m not sure. Possibly.

Would you ever want to shoot something as a one-shot project again? After doing an entire movie in one take, would you want to do that again, or was this experience enough for you?

GRAHAM: Yeah, if it was the right piece or the right project, I’d definitely do it again because it was such an amazing experience. It really was one of the best experiences, creatively, I’ve ever been a part of.

It seems like it’d be a huge adrenaline rush to do something like that.

GRAHAM: It really is. And at the end of it, because you’ve all gone through the process together, you feel like you’ve just won the World Cup. The feeling was like if you’d just won the Super Bowl. Everyone was ecstatic and running around, jumping and shouting and hugging each other. It was an amazing experience, it really was.

Boiling Point is now playing in theaters, and available on-demand and digital.

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About The Author
Christina Radish (5062 Articles Published)

Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter at Collider. Having worked at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her primary focus is on film and television interviews with talent both in front of and behind the camera. She is a theme park fanatic, which has lead to covering various land and ride openings, and a huge music fan, for which she judges life by the time before Pearl Jam and the time after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.

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