Safe House Film Interview
Safe House Film Interview
Having featured in over 50 films since his career first took off back in the seventies, Denzel Washington can name roles in The Taking of Pelham 123, Training Day, The Manchurian Candidate, The Bone Collector, The Pelican Brief, Malcolm X and Philadelphia as some of his most memorable. Working alongside relative newcomer, filmmaker Daniel Espinosa, the pair were recently in London to talk to View’s Matthew Turner about their latest project, Safe House, also starring Ryan Reynolds.
The film seems to be so contemporary, what with the WikiLeaks angle and also the elements of water boarding - was all that there in the screenplay you both saw initially, or was that added through further research that you all did?

Daniel Espinosa

No that was in the script, that was part of the whole vibe when I read it, it had a real base in our reality. We also used different experts that had actually worked in safe houses and operatives to be able to base this in some kind of reality, something that's close to our society and our world right now.
They say 85% of sociopaths aren't violent, they're manipulative. They'll lie, they'll use charm, wit...
Denzel does this make it a very controversial film back home because it's not clear who the good guys and the bad guys are as we move through the film until we get a clearer perspective at the end?

Denzel Washington

Yeah. But who knows - what is it over here? MI5, MI6? Who knows what they do? We don't know what they do. We know that we want to be protected then we claim we want them to be fair and to not torture people. But I think that on 9/11 in New York everybody was for torture, they wanted to get to bottom of whoever it was, and the further away you get from that, then you want your country to play fair. I don't think it would have made sense for President Obama to come on the air and say, 'Next Tuesday we're gonna shoot Bin Laden,' they're gonna do it the way they're gonna do it and that's their own business.
Given that these guys are in a world of secrecy, was it quite straight-forward finding out some of the stuff you found out, and getting people to talk to you - such as the consultant on set?

Daniel Espinosa

What moved me about our consultant was not so much the practical expertise, but when shooting certain scenes I could see that he was emotionally moved sometimes and we talked a lot about how this work had affected his personal life and how it affects you as a human being. Because these people that get into this line of business, they go there out of ethical reasons at the beginning, but what they are supposed to do for their country or what they believe in, is sometimes unethical acts and how does that affect you as a human being? That's nothing political, that's something human. How do we live without compromising our own ethics, for me that is the core of the movie.
And Denzel you had a particular book you relied on?

Denzel Washington

Yep - The Sociopath Next Door. I just took it from the opposite angle, as I think that Frost was a sociopath. When I thought of sociopaths I thought of violence; they say 85% of sociopaths aren't violent, they're manipulative. They'll lie, they'll use charm, wit and pity. I took the opposite sort of attack to what Daniel was just saying. I think that Tobin Frost had the skill-set that the CIA appreciated. They didn't know to what degree, they didn't know he was a sociopath, I think his blood pressure goes down when there's murder and mayhem, I think he was interested in winning.

Everyday I wrote in my script or journal, 'How am I going to win today, and what am I going to win?' So when the guys talk about water-boarding I talk about not having the right towels. Sometimes I use charm. There is that scene in the soccer stadium where I started screaming like a little girl. And as soon as I get away, I kill. I think that he was such a sociopath and such a manipulator that he chose not to even kill the young kid there, but to play with him. I should have just shot him.

Daniel Espinosa

We stood there and Denzel just said "I feel like shooting him" and I said "I don't think that's such a good idea, we got half the movie to go."
Denzel I know you've been to South Africa before, and as executive producer, how much say did you have in getting this film shot in Cape Town?

Denzel Washington

None. Originally it was supposed to be in Rio, but we had talked about the fact of not wanting it to be too similar to Man on Fire, but Daniel went to South Africa and he liked South Africa, and that was it. I think it was the right choice. And I think just practically, I mean aside from the look and all that, from my character's perspective it was going to be easier for me to blend in, in a black country than in a brown country.
Brendan Gleeson puts in an impressive performance, how did you go about casting him in that role, Daniel?

Daniel Espinosa

I actually always saw Gleeson in front of me for this character. I've loved him in Harry Potter through to Green Zone. He's a great actor and I have a deep respect for the British [sic] acting tradition, they are very well prepared, they have a deep sensation of soul into what they do and they come with a vision of the character.
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Content updated: 23/02/2020 01:31

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