It’s 4:15 pm and I’m sat in the plush Mandarin Oriental hotel in London eagerly awaiting the arrival of Daniel Espinosa and Denzel Washington, director and star of this month’s Safe House (Check out our review here). There is only one problem; they’re late. Five minutes turns into ten and then to twenty, but when Denzel walks in he’s instantly at ease, joking with us as he gets rushed to the podium. It’s simply hard to be irritated at a guy who’s so effortlessly cool. Once the two D’s got comfortable, chatter began on their new film, as well as Denzel’s career choices and whether or not he still ‘dates his wife’. Find out the answers to this and more after the jump.
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Amon Warmann: You’re an actor as well as a producer in this film. What was it that made you want to become so involved in this project?
Denzel Washington: I can’t do it any other way. You know, when I saw Snabba Cash (Daniel Espinosa’s previous film, also called Easy Money), I was fascinated by this young filmmaker. When I met Daniel we sat and talked, and we talked about his life, and how he grew up, what his father did, I was in, as far as Daniel was concerned. I wasn’t in as far as the script was concerned – I didn’t think it was good enough. So I’d been in the habit of developing, or helping to develop material for a long time – I’ve been doing it for 20 years or more now – so my agent said “hey, you’re doing all this work, you should get credit for it, so we’re going to get you a producer credit”. I don’t think I got any money for it [laughs] – maybe I got a couple of extra dollars. I enjoy helping to develop material; it’s a way for me to get into the part. I’m a logic monster – if things don’t make sense, I’ve got to make sense out of them. Why is he doing that? It doesn’t make sense. We’d sit in a room day after day and we’d work with two or three different writers for five months, and that’s also a way for me to figure out my character.
Question: Action movies nowadays are very big and very loud and certainly there’s a major action element here. There are also a lot of quieter moments. Which ones were the most challenging and fun to do?
Daniel Espinosa: I don’t think you can direct a movie like an action movie. I don’t think you can do that – you can make a movie. When it comes to the fighting, I never saw it as fighting; I saw it as struggling. I think that’s how you should perceive something if you’re trying to do, not a set piece, but a scene. I think that all scenes that are in the movie moves the character, and if you perceive it as an action movie, maybe that’s a testament to you that you think it’s intense, then I’m happy. I did everything I could to get the right people around. We had a fight coordinator. He was the fight coordinator who did The Prophet that also had very intense struggling scenes, and he also did Taken. So I tried to gather around me who wanted to do a movie, not an action piece.
Question: How do you maintain the balance between your family life and career? And do you still date your wife?
Denzel Washington: [Laughs] She’s out shopping now! She is! My work is just work. I take my work seriously but I don’t take myself too seriously. I read a book years ago called Cagney by Cagney written by James Cagney, and he talked about going to the studio, working his twelve-hour day, taking off his costumes, getting in the car and going home. Most of my work is done before we start shooting, preparation work, so my normal day – and I write a lot, I write journals and all that, so my day starts when I get to work, I start writing, even on the way. I even start writing sometimes the night before, again going back to The Sociopath Next Door – how am I going to win today? Am I going to use charm, am I going to use fear, am I going to use intimidation, am I going to use wit? And then we do the scene and we play the scene, and I take the clothes off and I get in the car and I go home. I have a meal. I relax, watch a little television or something, and then I might work for an hour and a half on tomorrow’s work, and I go to bed. I don’t lose sleep over it, I’ve been doing it too long. I work better when I’m alone, although I did Training Day at home, and that worked out alright [Laughs].
Question: But you do still date your wife?
Denzel Washington: What do you mean ‘date her’? We’re going out to dinner tonight. I don’t call it dating. 31 years it’s not a date – it’s an opportunity! [Laughs]
Safe House opens in UK cinemas on February 24.
Starring | Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, Nora Arnezeder, and Rubén Blades.
Director | Daniel Espinosa Certificate | 15 Run Time | 1 hour 55 minutes