Noel Clarke, better known as Doctor Who's Mickey Smith, co-wrote and stars in the very bloody monster movie Storage 24. We got Clarke on the phone to talk about the weird Spider-Man inspirations behind the alien monster, what really scares him the most about simple storage units, and why he thought he was cut from Star Trek Into Darkness.
Why do you work so well with aliens?
I don't know, luck I guess. I wish I worked more with aliens. I think I've just been lucky and got on a good show [Doctor Who], been lucky and got on a big movie [Star Trek Into Darkness]. And obviously, I've always been a fan.
The premise of this movie seems simple, but it's much more complicated by the end? Where did you get the idea for Storage 24?
It's kind of not that simple — because there's a lot more going on in the movie, because of the people's relationships. And the creature inside is from a military cargo plane that has been shot down by something, but that's all I can say really. The idea came from just going to these places with my wife and being quite freaked out by them. Even though they were just normal storage facilities that are far from town. I would walk around the halls and the corridors and think this place was really freaky, there's no windows. It's like a casino, you lose track of time without windows. The original idea was to put a serial killer in there, but always being a fan of aliens one morning I woke up and thought an alien would be less ridiculous. So I changed it.
Did you always want to construct such a terrifying alien?
The initial idea I had when I hired Johannes [Roberts] Johannes, the director, [was to look at] a picture of this Spider-Man villain Carnage. And I asked for something like this, but more humanoid. And he went off and played with it and came back with the final alien. In terms of CG, it was a man in a suit. He was there all the time.
It's so rare that we get so many huge shots of the alien. It's so much fun movies like this usually hide the monster. This guy gets a lot of screen time.
That was Johannes calling! We really wanted to see this creature and appreciate it. We didn't want the shadows to be the star of the movie. When we saw the monster, we wanted to see more of it. We wanted to see this creature like he was the Predator, as they do eventually in the Predator movie. We thought that in itself would add value in the movie.
How big of a role does claustrophobia and repetitiveness play in this movie?
I think claustrophobia plays a big role in those kinds of places. If you're even remotely claustrophobic, you'll start feeling quite strange in those places. We really wanted to play that up, play up the fact that all the hallways look the same. We have a sequence in a vent, climbing through the vents, and there were members of the crew that wouldn't shoot in there. People did not want to go in the vents. We created the vents on set and if you took a wrong turn in them, you could get lost.
How does this movie compare to Predator and Attack the Block?
Well, I don't think anyone would ever say this is Gremlins. In terms of the ambition of the movie, I don't think many people can top what we've done here in terms of budget. Attack the Block had 8 times more budget than this movie, and that's considered small budget for the US. We really just wanted to be ambitious with the movie.
With the huge increase in popularity of Doctor Who, Attack the Block and the interest in smaller budget pictures like Storage 24, are we seeing an alien renaissance? Do you feel like you're a part of that?
I'm a big fan of science fiction so I would love to be a part of that. Hopefully. We just need people with vision and I think that's coming. Doctor Who has been around for many years, obviously, it's just kind of showing. When you make something that has ambition and broadens the horizon of the industry of your country, especially when your country isn't used to doing that sort of thing. It's tough, but I believe people will pick up on these films.
Is Storage 24 more of a Twilight Zone movie or more of an action monster chase film? Which one did you want to make?
I wanted to make a movie that has a big twist in it. There's something that happens right at the end that makes people say wow. That's the kind of stuff I like. I like things that have an epic feel at the end. It starts out contained and opens itself up to something bigger. I'm not really a chase kind of guy, I'm more of a scifi guy.
What do you think Mickey is up to these days?
Let's see, where did we leave it? We left him with Martha fighting some clone. I'm guessing that he and Martha are doing well, man. I think he's just settled down now, and chilling with his wife.
A few months ago you thought your character might have been cut out Star Trek Into Darkness, and now it turns out you're in the first two minutes of the film, why did you think you'd been cut out?
I think that was an over exaggeration. People — I don't want to say twisted it — but [they] took off with it. I know sometimes you make a film you have people in the film, and then you go away and edit the movie, and they might not end up in the movie. And this is a huge movie. I was there, I shot my part, and now I'm back in London. I don't know what's going on, you know what I mean? I never that I thought I wouldn't be in it, it's just that I've never really spoken about the film. The worst thing you can do is talk about the movie, and then the movie comes out and I'm not in it. So it's like everybody cool down, let's see if I make the film, and obviously I have. I never thought I wouldn't make the film, I just didn't know if I had.
Do you get a lot of screen time with Kirk and Spock?
You know I can't tell you that! I can't tell you that. I can tell you it's going to be a really cool movie.
Storage 24 is currently available on VOD formats and will debut in theaters on January 11th.