Safe House's Denzel Washington And Ryan Reynolds Talk Waterboarding And Car Chases

By Perri Nemiroff 2012-02-06 07:18:24discussion comments
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When youíve got heavy hitters like Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in the same movie, youíve got know what youíre getting yourself into.

Washington plays rogue CIA agent Tobin Frost. After staying off the radar for nearly a decade, Frost pops up in Cape Town and is brought to Matt Westonís (Reynolds) safe house for debriefing. Having merely babysat the facility month after month, Westonís a bit of a rookie, so having a high profile criminal like Frost in his safe house, is an unnerving experience. And thatís before the mercenaries ambush the location, killing everyone inside and making Weston, Frostís only chance of survival.

In honor of Safe Houseís February 10th release, Washington and Reynolds came to New York City for a press conference. The duo discussed the entire process from studying up for their roles to shooting their particularly gritty fight sequences as well as a disturbing and very real waterboarding scene. Read about that and much more in the interview below.

After doing this film, are you more weary of this countryís security or were you left with any doubts?
Denzel Washington: Weary of this countryís security?

Yeah, and what goes on in the government.
Washington: Why? What goes on in the government? [Laughs]
Ryan Reynolds: Itís a Disney movie, isnít it?
Washington: Years ago, even prior to 9-11, I did a movie called The Siege. I did a lot of research with the FBI and the CIA and I was amazed at that time, I guess we might all know it now, how little information they shared with each other. So after that Iím not surprised by anything.
Reynolds: I always think itís not what we know thatís terrifying, itís what we donít know. I mean, thatís sort of pervasive with everything in life really, but, yeah, Iím sure a book or two could be written about what really goes on.

There are a lot of very physical fight scenes in this movie. How do you keep your body in shape for those?
Washington: We worked with, what was this guyís name? Oliver!
Reynolds: Yeah, Oliver Schneider.
Washington: These French guys who you would always want to be with you. The most unassuming guys and we really had the luxury of time, a good two or three months while we were over there. In fact, thereís a fight I have where I crash through the roof or something and start fighting this guy, and even the fights [Ryan and I] do at the end, we had two or three or four months before we even got to do those fights. I know I did mine, I donít know about you.
Reynolds: [Laughs]
Washington: No, you saw [Ryan] crashing through windows! Your fights were nasty!
Reynolds: Yeah, these guys are really great at making it look real ugly, that knife fight in a phone booth kind of feel and thatís kind of what you want. [Denzel and I] had a couple of rounds that we went, which I practically had to wear an adult diaper before. Iíve seen Hurricane. [Laughs]

Did you work with any real CIA operatives and were there any injuries during filming?
Reynolds: We had a CIA operative on the set.
Washington: Yeah, all the time. And Ryan gave me a black eye.
Reynolds: I did.
Washington: Thereís a scene where I reach over and try to choke him when I have the handcuffs on and we were flying around in the car, and he wasnít actually driving the car, it was being controlled by someone else, so it just happens as I was reaching forward, he was flying back and POW!
Reynolds: And that was my early retirement. That first look you gave me after it happened, I just Ö
Washington: It was a real look!

Denzel, I read that rather study CIA operatives to prepare for the film, you studied sociopaths. What did you learn from your research that helped you portray this character?
Washington: Thereís a book called The Sociopath Next Door and I thought most sociopaths were violent when in fact they arenít. But almost all sociopaths want to win no matter what. Some sociopaths use pity. ĎOh, woe is me. I just canít do it like you.í And then you go, ĎOh, no no. Youíre all right,í and I already got you. Now I got you in a weak position and feeling sorry for me. I read about one sociopath who was actually a psychologist and she was so sick, thereís this other psychologist that she hated and she had a nicer car than the other woman, so she would purposely park her car next to the other womanís car just to make her feel bad every day. She was working with this other psychiatristís patient and all the work that this woman had done, she destroyed. She brought the person in the room and just destroyed them. They just want to win. There was one sociopath who would steal things in the post office and then get there the next day because he just loved the chaos that it created. He wanted to see how everybody was trying to figure out what it was. I guess itís a feeling of power.

In my journal as I was writing, going through the script, as we were shooting, I had to find a way to win every situation no matter what. Thereís a scene we were talking about earlier at the football game, the soccer stadium, heís willing to even act like a scared little girl to get away. A sociopath will do anything to win. Anything.

How you feel about being locked in the trunk of a car and going through the waterboarding? Were you scared at all?
Washington: No, Iím not claustrophobic and I donít want to give it away, but the car wasnít moving. [Laughs] And I knew how to get out! But no, it didnít bother me. The waterboarding was close to real and I really wanted to get into it and see what it felt like. It doesnít feel good. Youíd give up the answers! [Laughs]
Reynolds: That was the most disturbing thing I think Iíd ever seen, watching him be waterboarded.
Washington: Yeah, it was trippy. I wanted to see what it really feels like and I did. [Laughs]

Did you come close to losing consciousness, were you out of breath?
Washington: Once you get caught with an in breath, the water keeps coming and then youíre in trouble. Then you try to hold your breath, but the waterís coming and theyíre filling up your mouth. Youíll give up the answers.

Ryan did you ever get to drive the car?
Reynolds: Oh yeah, lots of it. Whatís odd about the sequences driving the car is that when Iím driving the car itís actually much less terrifying for me than when we have a pilot guy thatís on top of the car for some of those scenes and heíd have that car on two wheels and Daniel, our director, whoís sitting in the wheel well beside me giggling like a little schoolgirl while the car goes up on two wheels and just yelling, Faster! Faster!í He canít see anything and I find out later that Danielís never driven a car before in his life. Being in that position was crazy because we would head headlong for a brick wall and I would hit the break and the guy up top would hit the gas, so that was a very strange feeling. Iíve never been in a situation like that. Iíve never seen a rig like that for a car. And this is a professional driver up top and he just knows the weight of the car. At least thatís what youíd like to believe when heís doing it.

Denzel, do you have more fun playing a bad guy?
Washington: The next picture I made, itíll come out the end of the year or the beginning of next year was called Flight and I play an alcoholic, drug addicted pilot who crashes a plane, but saves a lot of lives. It was the most intense film Iíve done probably in 20 years. I guess itís clichť to say that the bad guy has more fun because you can say anything, you can get away with anything. Sometimes when youíre the good guy, youíre sort of trapped or he canít say that. And even when youíre playing a real person, like Steven Biko or someone, youíre sort of stuck within those confines. So, yeah, bad guys do have more fun! [Laughs]

How was it working with a director whoís making his first American film?
Reynolds: Daniel Espinosa is just a truly incredibly gifted filmmaker and so insightful and a guy who almost acts like a bit of a thug, but heís read every book you can pretty much imagine and heís seen every film that you can imagine and heís learned from the best, and thatís applied everyday to what he does. It really is a craft for him. Danielís a guy you want to buy stock in.
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