Emmanuel Itier: Tell me about this wild ride. What attracted you to it? And what is it about this movie for you?
Ryan Reynolds: I just love this notion of these two polarized characters slowly coming together, and by the end of the film, they’re kind of integrated, in a weird way. Matt Weston – the guy I play in the film – is a God & country kind of guy. He’s a very patriotic, noble character – very idealistic. And when he meets this other gentleman, played by Denzel Washington, those layers are slowly pulled back and he’s disillusioned by a lot of these things and becomes a bit more hard and a bit more cynical, and realizes that he is, in fact, working for a company that is just basically murderers.
EI: How was it working with Denzel?
RR: Great. He’s fantastic. Denzel Washington is an amazing actor.
EI: Did you learn some tricks from him?
RR: Not tricks, but you watch a guy like him and you just have great admiration for his craft and his ability. His skill level is just unparalleled. It’s amazing to see somebody who’s been working the way he has for as long as he has, as well as he has. It was great to behold that.
EI: The movie has a very Jason Bourne type of feeling. Did you call Matt (Damon) and say, “Hey, could you give me some tips about…?”
RR: Actors just don’t do that. [Laughs] I was attracted to the character stuff. The action part, I was so surprised by because I didn’t realize it was going to be so action-heavy. The movie is intense, and for me, it was about the quieter moments of the movie, as an actor. But the rest of it just leapt off the screen. It was incredible to see those sequences.
EI: Aren’t you used to the action now, with the other character you did and this one? Is it getting under your skin, little by little, to be the action star? And do you enjoy that – being the action star?
RR: I love it. I love working in films. I don’t have a real preference. I like both.
EI: What about shooting in Cape Town? Tell me a little bit about the condition of the shoot. What surprised you? What did you like about it?
RR: I loved Cape Town. I love the people there. It’s a place I’ve never been to before. I’ve been to Johannesburg, but never Cape Town, so being there was incredible. Also, the city is really a character in the film as well, so we really used the city in a great way – both the lighter and the scarier parts of Cape Town. It’s an amazing place. You see that Cape Town proper is beautiful and bucolic and gorgeous, and then you go a couple miles out of the city and you see that that poverty and that strife is still very real and very apparent, and a huge part of the legacy of that city that needs to be dealt with immediately.
EI: Working with this young director – how was it? What do you think he brought to the movie?
RR: Daniel (Espinosa) brought a really fresh take on just about every aspect of filmmaking. He’s an incredible student of the game. He loves film. He’s a huge fan. He knows everything about it. He’s like an encyclopedic knowledge of every movie ever made, I think. But he just brings this really grounded reality to it. Nobody is a superhero in the movie. Everybody feels like a real, living breathing person, and he just brought that element of reality to it, which I thought was fantastic.
EI: Where would you have a safe house, if you could have one?
RR: I’d just make it my house. I think I’d be happy about that.
EI: What has been the scene, from all the movies you’ve seen in your life, that has moved you the most?
RR: Oh, I don’t know. I think, gosh, any scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that’s probably gonna move you…
EI: And why?
RR: Gregory Peck is incredible. And I just watched It’s a Wonderful Life again, obviously because Christmas time was here, and James Stewart was just incredible. That scene where he’s about to jump off the bridge is just a beautiful scene.
Emmanuel Itier: Tell me about this movie. What attracted you to it? Was it the idea to do something close to Jason Bourne, or…?
Denzel Washington: No, there’s no real bad guy in Jason Bourne, is there? Or there’s different people, I guess. First and foremost, it was one of the last films that my late agent really wanted me to do, so I felt that it was like a tribute to him. I was really fascinated and excited, not only when I met Daniel Espinosa, but when I saw his first film – or his first film I saw – Snabba Cash, which was a really good and unusual style. And I thought we had the core of a good story, and we worked on the script for months, and we got it to a good place, and then I was excited about it. And the opportunity -- once he decided he wanted to shoot it in Cape Town, I was like, “Oh, that’s really exciting too.” So all the elements.
EI: What surprised you about shooting in Cape Town?
DW: I’d been there before, but I was amazed at – I hadn’t been there in 15 years – just how much it’s built up now, I guess, especially since the World Cup, and it’s just a beautiful city.
EI: What type of challenges does a movie like this present to you? What was maybe the toughest aspect of it?
DW: It was physically challenging, but I enjoy that. We did a lot of extensive martial arts training for the fights, and I did all my own fights, my own stunts, and running on roofs – all that kind of stuff. But it was really an education, just getting to see the people. We shot also out in the townships, and just beautiful African people.
EI: Was it interesting to do a movie that says some interesting things? And what are the things you think this movie is talking about?
DW: It depends upon your perspective, but I think that Tobin Frost is a very bitter man. I think he’s a sociopath. I think he was determined to destroy as many people as he could, as well as make as much money as he could. And he didn’t care who got in his way, including this young kid. And I guess, in some ways, by the end of the film, the young kid has a bit of an effect on him. He warms him up a little bit.
EI: Is it also realizing that maybe in this world there isn’t really any safe house? There is no place to hide anymore, because of the technology, because of all the agencies working: “We will find you, anywhere you hide”?
DW: Yeah. Ask Bin Laden. Well, there are still some guys out there they haven’t found, or they don’t want to find yet. Maybe they know where they are. I forgot how long they said they were watching him or following him, but yes, you can run but you can’t hide these days, with the technology.
EI: Would you like to have a safe house, and if so, where would it be?
DW: [Laughs] I hope I won’t need one. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. [Laughs] Maybe I already have one.
EI: What has been your favorite scene from all the movies you’ve seen in your life? Do you have a scene that always moves you, and why?
DW: That’s a good question. Probably something from the original Godfather. I can’t even say which scene, but I always enjoyed the scene when Pacino has the dinner meeting and then he’s got to go in the bathroom and find that gun and kills the guy.
EI: And why that one?
DW: That’s just the first one that came off the top of my head. I can’t say I have one… Shoot, my favorite scenes are from The Wizard of Oz, probably. [Laughs]
Universal Pictures' 'Safe House' is released in theaters on February 10, 2012.