Ryan Reynolds Interview: Not Into Taking on Denzel in Safe House

While an action thriller like Safe House can put audiences in a terrified frame of mind, according to star Ryan Reynolds what’s going on behind the scenes may be even wilder at times. Reynolds stopped by to shed light on some unusually dark moments in the CIA espionage caper, when butting heads literally with co-star Denzel Washington. Including a self-embarrassing accidental black eye he inflicted on Denzel, and who seemed to thankfully just take it all in stride.

Additional topics on the table were CIA secrets, crashing cars that almost seemed to be driving themselves, a water boarding freakout interlude, adult diapers, and Everybody Loves Raymond in South Africa.

RYAN REYNOLDS: Like your cap. I was gonna wear mine today, but I’m glad I didn’t! Because, you know…

Well, speaking of decisions, has it ever happened in your own life, like with your character Weston in Safe House, where you’ve really worked hard for something. And then you’re smack in the middle of it saying, oh crap.

RR: Yeah. Lots! You wanna start with this morning! Yeah, of course. But I also learned, you know the greatest lesson I think I’ve learned in life, is who knows what’s good or bad.

I mean, things come along that you really want. And then they turn out to be the worst thing in the world. And some of the worst tragedies that you could conceive of that can happen to you personally, turn into the best things. Like the exact medicine you need at that moment.

So I’ve learned to have a bit of faith. In my, you know, cynical ways! I think these days, it’s softened me in all the right ways. So…I hope that answers it!

Hey, is it true you gave Denzel a black eye on Safe House?

RR: I did! And that was my early retirement! Okay, time for me to go home. And that first look he gave me after it happened, it was definitely real. It was weird to feel my face on fire!

But I’m glad I was his first. If it was gonna be anybody, it was an apologetic Canadian!

Well, your fights got pretty nasty. How did you pull that off?

RR: Yeah, the trainers, those guys are really great at making it look real ugly. You know, that knife fight in the phone booth kinda feel. And that’s what you want.

But we had a couple of rounds that we went, which…I had to practically wear an adult diaper before I got in on with Denzel. Hey, I’ve seen Hurricane. Great, I gotta fight him! Terrific…

How about Denzel getting water boarded?

RR: That was the most disturbing thing I think I’ve ever seen. Watching him being water boarded was really indescribable.

With a movie like Safe House about the CIA in peril, do you worry about this country’s security?

RR: Huh? It’s a Disney movie, isn’t it! No, I just think it’s not what we know that’s terrifying, it’s what we don’t know. I mean, I think that’s pervasive with everything in life, really.

But yeah, I’m sure a book or two could be written about what really goes on. Yeah.

Did you learn any top secrets from CIA agents, in order to play one?

RR: We had a CIA operative on the set most of the time. Yeah.

And were you really driving that speeding car in all those dangerous scenes?

RR: Well, yeah. Lots of it, lots of it. Some of the crazier stuff, what’s actually odd about the sequences driving the car, is that when I’m driving the car, it’s actually much less terrifying for me.

Like we had a pilot guy that’s on top of the car for some of those scenes. And he would have those cars on two wheels. And Daniel our director, would be sitting in the wheel well beside me – you know, giggling like a little schoolgirl – while the car goes up on two wheels. And just yelling, faster, faster, faster!

And he can’t see anything. And then I find out later that Daniel has never driven a car before in his life! He doesn’t drive. So being in that position, was crazy. Because we would head headlong into a brick wall. And I would hit the break, and the guy on top would hit the gas!

So that was a very strange, strange feeling. I’ve never been in a situation like that. And I’ve never seen a rig like that for a car. But it’s a professional driver on top, and he just knows the weight of the car.

At least that’s what you’d like to believe when he’s doing it! You know, that this guy knows what he’s doing. But that stuff was pretty intense. Yeah.

What were the slums like where you filmed in South Africa?

RR: Huge. But just teeming with joy. I mean, the people there are incredibly happy, given the horrendous circumstances with which they’re living.

You know, if you’re from the United States and you go over there, you can’t really believe what you’re seeing. But you can get Direct TV. You can get Everybody Loves Raymond! I was surprised.

What was it like working with Denzel?

RR: Well that’s really one of the reasons I wanted to do the film, obviously a chance to be working with who I think is the greatest actor working in Hollywood today. And that was a huge impetus.

But I just love the idea that my character, this guy is slowly disillusioned with everything he believes in. It’s the slow disintegration of God and country for him. And that’s what sort of means everything to this guy.

And watching that be peeled away slowly, you know, measure by measure by Denzel’s character, just kind of feeling that. You know, these days, like what we talked about before, what we don’t know is more terrifying than what we do know.

And so much goes on behind the scenes, that we’ll never, ever know about. And I liked investigating that world. And Daniel Espinoza the director, is just a truly, incredibly gifted filmmaker. Just so insightful.

And a guy who, you know he almost acts like a bit of a thug, But he’s read every book you can pretty much imagine, and he’s seen every film you can imagine. And he’s learned from the best. And that’s applied every day to what he does. And it really is a craft for him. Yeah, definitely.

What can you say about your upcoming movie, R.I.P.D.?

RR: Well, I think it’s just sticking with something. That’s a movie that I’ve been with for years. And believed in. And just to be standing on that set, was an incredible feeling.

We actually just wrapped yesterday. At four in the morning! So…I’m a little slurry right now! No, but it’s just being passionate about something, and sticking with it.

And that’s really half the battle, you know? And showing other people why it is that you believe in something. So…

Prairie Miller
Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.