British actor Neil Maskell’s conspiracy thriller Klokkenluider hits cinemas today (September 1), marking his first film as writer-director after an acclaimed career on-screen.
Set in the quiet countryside of East Flanders, Belgium, Klokkenluider tells the story of British married couple Ewan (Amit Shah) and Silke (Sura Dohnke). Ewan, who works in the Home Office, stumbled upon a dangerous secret while going about his duties – and has fled abroad to a remote house with his wife because he believes the recently acquired knowledge has put their lives at risk. For extra security, he and Silke hire two bumbling heavies, Glyn (Roger Evans) and another Ewan (Tom Burke). Together, they wait for an investigative reporter (played by Jenna Coleman) to turn up so they can divulge the secret to the world.
Maskell, who is best-known for playing tough guy roles in gritty homegrown classics such as Kill List, told NME he was inspired by real-world whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Oscar-winning 2014 documentary about his disclosures on the USA’s National Security Agency.
“Snowden and the Citizenfour documentary was a big one for me,” he said. “And what’s happened to [journalist] Carole Cadwalladr [who helped to break the Facebook Cambridge Analytics data scandal and has since lost a resulting libel case against prominent Brexit backer Aaron Banks]. The bottomless bravery she’s showed. She’s been driven to the edge, physically and mentally… It’s something I find tremendously admirable.”
He added: “Klokkenluider wasn’t made as a campaign or solely as a tribute to people who have blown the whistle… But those people were certainly in my mind [while making it].”
Maskell has recently been enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to the unexpected streaming success of his gangland revenger Bull. Originally released in 2021, Bull was picked up on Netflix UK earlier this month, zipping straight to number one on the platform’s ‘Top 10’ most-watched movies list. Maskell is pleased more people are watching the film, but admitted to having “mixed feelings” about it.
“I’m really glad loads of people have seen it,” he said, “And I was fairly well remunerated on that film as actors tend to be, but there were crew that worked for absolutely nothing… They did an amazing job, worked so hard and they won’t get a drink.
“They don’t even get 50 quid for working 15-hour days, you know. And they love their jobs, but there’s something really wrong. It’s what the strikes are about in America. It’s about going: ‘Could we have, you know, one pint out of your super yacht money?’”
As well as Bull, Maskell is known for playing wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Peaky Blinders, the hit Brummie gangster series which came to an end in April 2022. A standalone movie is currently in development, and there have been reports of a spin-off series set in the same world. Maskell said he hasn’t heard anything from creator Steven Knight, but is keen to reprise his role in any future projects.
“I’d love to do it a bit more because it’s a real laugh,” he said. “I had great, great fun playing that [character] and Cillian [Murphy, who played protagonist Tommy Shelby] enjoyed doing those scenes because, you know, it’s almost like a flirtation really.”
Maskell went on to explain that a lot of the footage he shot for the show has never seen the light of day. “They didn’t end up using a lot of the stuff we did on the last series… It was quite a bit of writing, you know, and, like always, they have to shrink it a bit.
“But if there’s a Winston Churchill in [the upcoming film] and it’s not me, NME readers can be assured that wasn’t my decision… I would be deeply hurt if they decided to [recast], but then again, I understand they could probably throw a stick and hit a bigger star to play him!”
‘Klokkenluider’ is in UK cinemas now