It must get dull, filming so many studio films in stupid old Hollywood. Luckily for Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, their most recent release allowed them a fascinating break from the norm. “Safe House,” a thriller set both in the gleaming city of Cape Town and the desolate townships that lie outside of it, provided plenty of eye-openers for both actors.
“If you’re from the United States and you go over there, you can’t really believe what you’re seeing,” says Reynolds regarding the impoverished Apartheid-era townships, which remain populated to this day.
Washington, who readily recalls the day he had breakfast with Desmond Tutu and lunch with Nelson Mandela, also notes how South Africa’s violent past still haunts the county’s citizens.
“It was interesting talking to an elderly man who built a nice house for himself in the township,” Washington says. “It’s like, ‘Well, why are you living out here in the township? Why don’t you move towards the beach?’ He’s like, ‘Oh no, I don’t trust these people. They might change their mind.’”
“Safe House” uses Cape Town primarily as a backdrop to the central plot about a rebel CIA agent (Washington) captive in the hands of an inexperienced safe house agent (Reynolds), but the research Washington put into the film wasn’t just focused on what it’s like to be a spy. Instead, he studied up on sociopaths, given that his character displays that disturbing behavior. “I thought most sociopaths were violent. In fact, they are not,” he says. “They just want to win. There was one sociopath that would steal things in the post office and get there the next day because he wanted to see how everybody was trying to figure out what he knew. I guess it’s a feeling of power.”
Waterboarding, car crashingand a black eye
Ryan Reynolds was spooked by being in the driver’s seat of a car that was being controlled by a remote (and going incredibly fast towards a wall), but Denzel Washington gets the real bragging rights, considering he got waterboarded and took a hit to the eye, all in the name of cinema.
Were there any injuries on the set?
DW: Ryan gave me a black eye. There’s a scene where I reach out and try to choke him when I have my handcuffs on. We were flying around in the car and he wasn’t actually driving the car. It was being controlled by someone else, so it just happens that when I reach forward, he was flying back and “POW!”
RR: And that was my early retirement. That first look you gave me after it happened.
DW: It was a real look.
RR: It was very real. It was weird to feel my face on fire.
DW: Yeah it was strange. I’ve never had a black eye in my life, now I can’t say that any more.
RR: I’m glad I was your first. If it was going to be anybody, it was at least an apologetic Canadian.