Maggie Grace and Peter Stormare on Action, and Humor, of <i>Lockout</i>

In Lockout, the Luc Besson-produced futuristic action thriller, the U.S. President’s daughter Emilie is kidnapped by inmates of a maximum-security prison orbiting Earth, and her only hope for rescue lies with the witty and cavalier Agent Snow (played by Guy Pearce). Spouting quips and shooting prisoners, Snow and Emilie must escape MS One before the approaching military destroys it.

However, the film, co-written by Besson with directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, isn’t typical sci-fi/action fare, co-stars Maggie Grace and Peter Stormare recently told reporters: It possesses a sense of humor that seeped onto the set.

“We were [on location in Serbia] for Thanksgiving, so I brought my family out, and of course the first day on set I forgot they were there and we were shooting a gag where I end up in a compromising position with my head in [Pearce’s] lap,” Grace, who plays Maggie, recalled with a laugh. “That was the day my mom visited set!”

The Lost alum told reporters what appealed to her about Lockout was the film’s tongue-in-cheek humor, and the banter between her character and Pearce’s Agent Snow.

“[Guy’s] great, he’s wildly intelligent and has that Aussie sense of humor,” she said. “I adored him.”

Grace also enjoyed the comedic aspects of the script, saying the first thing that grabbed her about Lockout was the humor.

“It doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re looking for a message-oriented film, this would not be it!” she laughed.

“It’s unabashed and unapologetically a fun ride,” the actress added. “It’s a sci-fi adventure, but with these sharp one-liners and this throwback archetype of a hero who’s funny and got some edge, and you don’t know whether to smack him or kiss him.”

Lockout’s enigmatic antagonist Langral is played by Stormare, a veteran of such cult films as Fargo and The Big Lebowski who told reporters he was attracted to the script’s approach to the secondary characters.

“It was a nice role, it was a beautiful script to get in your hands,” he said. “I’m not trashing the Hollywood action formula, but sometimes it becomes one person -- and maybe a female lead -- but usually it’s one guy all the time and the rest of the cast are shoot-‘em-ups! This is old filmmaking for me, where you build a film with characters -- you don’t have just one guy running around.”

Speaking about his role as the head of the Secret Service, Stormare said he thinks Langral is an interesting character because no one in the film is ever quite sure what side he’s on -- including Stormare himself.

“He’s eluding me all the time,” the actor admitted. “What is he up to? Is he a bad guy? What side is he on? You never find out.”

Diving into her own character, Grace said she saw Emilie as a more proactive heroine than she’s played in the past, including her role as Kim, the kidnapped daughter in Besson’s 2008 thriller Taken.

“I think Luc certainly has a way with the action genre, he has a sixth sense for it, and I’m happy this character’s a bit more empowered than Kim,” she said. “I still think we’re finding our balance in how we communicate gender roles, that you can still be feminine and kick some butt.”

Besides doing some of her own stunt work, Grace revealed that when it came to physical challenges, the greatest was actually related to her wardrobe.

“We had really heavy space suits,” she recalled. “We were so excited because they were really kick-ass spacesuits. They’re not like astronaut suits -- it was more like being an action figure. They’re heavy and yellow and they have these built-out chests. It’s incredible. Then we get in the suits and realize we didn’t really test out the mobility.”

When they called for action, “Guy and I start running and we’re like two tin cans swaying back and forth in a really un-athletic way. The suits were so heavy and so unwieldy they had to CG in our legs!” she laughed.

Grace, who also appears The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, said the next project is Taken 2, reprising the role of Kim, albeit with a little more heft.

“She doesn’t suddenly become Femme Nikita, that would be unreasonable,” she said. “She’s still a young woman but, yes, she’s drawn into taking more of an active role because her parents are abducted, so she has to help them.”

Touching on his own career, Stormare said he hopes to work on a more dramatic, personal film next. “I would love to work with Terrence Malick, I would love to do just a poetic journey,” he said, adding that he hadn’t yet reached out to The Tree of Life director.

Looking back on his body of work, Stormare pointed to The Big Lebowski as the film that continually surprises him by its popularity.

“It’s bigger than Rocky Horror Show now, it’s completely crazy!” he said. “To be born in a tiny village in the north of Sweden, a thousand people, and for me to have done this journey living in Africa, London, New York, working here, being onstage in New York, working with [filmmaker Ingmar] Bergman for 10 years, being adopted by him as his son -- for me when I look back, wow, that’s quite a journey.”

With a grin, the actor also shared his favorite story about the legendary Bergman, whom he met while at the Royal National Theatre of Sweden.

As Stormare recalled, “[Bergman] said, ‘Hey, make a list of your top 10 movies.’” The actor did so, and the two compared lists. “And he had No. 1: Blues Brothers! And he had Close Encounters at No. 3. I was like, ‘Blues Brothers?’ He was like, ‘Absolutely!’”

Ending on Lockout, Stormare told reporters what ultimately impressed him, and what he hoped impressed American audiences, is how different the movie is from other science fiction and action films.

“It’s not Star Trek with strange ears and we’re fighting monsters and giants and everything is CGI,” he said. “It’s not the regular formula, it’s not the regular Hollywood paint-by-numbers action movie. It is a little bit one of the last outposts of old European movie directing.”

Lockout opens Friday nationwide.

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