denzel washington & daniel espinosa

Denzel Washington and Daniel Espinosa

*When The Film Strip interviewed Ryan Reynolds for “Safe House,” he had the highest regard for its director Daniel Espinosa. “Daniel is a gifted filmmaker and so insightful. He sort of acts a bit like thug but he’s read every book you can pretty much imagine, he’s seen every film that you could ever think of, he’s learned from the best and that’s applied everyday to what he does…I’m excited [for him]. Daniel is definitely the guy that you would want to buy stock in.”

Originally “Safe House” was to be shot in Brazil. Espinosa told me he changed the location to Africa because he felt more comfortable there.  “I mean, there are several reasons,” he explained. “One was practicality. Brazil was just too dangerous, cost too much money to insure, stuff like that. But I grew up in different parts of Africa so I have a close connection there. I was looking for a city that had like the socio-economical differences within a short distance so I could let the characters go through a rich area down to a middle class area, down to a poor area and then come out into something that was almost like a cowboy area and I believed that existed in Rio, that existed in Buenos Aires and that existed in Cape Town.

Since I have some roots in Africa, I want to go back, you know. Who doesn’t?  As far as Africa is concerned, it was more like coming home and feeling the security of being around people that you feel good around. So the joy when we were in Langa, the happiness, support and the respect for our work, that was something that impressed me because normally when you shoot, people try to pass though the shooting area.

Needless to say, it was also conductive shooting in Africa?

When shooting [elsewhere] people would always say, ‘I got a job, I gotta get to my job’ and you want to ‘I gotta job too, man. This is my job.’ But when we were in Langa, we had around 2,000 people standing around. They were watching when we shooting and they would be silent while looking at what we were doing. Afterwards I said thank you and there was applause, like we were doing a show for them. And I appreciate that because that was the respect for work. They understand we’re making a living and they respected that and I dug that. That was coo!

How was the casting process with Denzel and Ryan?

Denzel and me worked on the script for two months and that was nice and we became humans, which is always pleasant when you work with somebody and then we shot the movie and that was great. Yeah, I met them and that’s nice. They’re nice people. I appreciate them taking the time to meet me. For me it was that meeting in new Orleans, that connection, that bond that we created because [that was necessary].  I believe that a director should never choose an actor. The actor and director have to choose each other. So for me I’m in an interview even if a person wants a job, I see him so he can interview me as well as I’m interviewing him because to be able to do good work, it’s a comradeship. You have to be brothers in arms, sisters and brothers. And if you don’t have that bond, it’s never gonna work out. We had a close connection.

Vera Farmiga’s charcter on the page was gender neutras?

I was just looking at a lot of people. When I met Vera she had such a natural rhythm to herself of how she handles language and I think that when you work with these kinds of movies, there’s so much technicality and bullshit they have to say, you want somebody who can invest some kind of emotion into it and Vera’s one of the strongest actresses on the planet. So it was more me begging for her to come onboard than the other way around.

Your background is more European art house. How were you able to work that into this fast paced, high action thriller without losing that flair?

You know I just wanted to do something that I could feel proud of. I’ve done now three features and when you go to Blockbuster and see your movie standing there on the shelf, i you can’t stand tall and proud, it really f—king hurts, you know. So I just know that any compromise I [make], I’m just gonna pay for it with sleepless nights and I can’t do that. So with the art house part of it, yeah, I tried to stay as true as I could and make decisions I thought was fit for the movie as something that I later on can say, ‘yeah I did that and I’m proud of that.’

Meanwhile …

andrew garfield

Andrew Garfield

When The Film Strip received the SONY Pictures Entertainment Special Event invite this week to a “Simulcast Live Around the World Special Event,” I knew it would be no ordinary viewing. However, I didn’t know how un-ordinary it would be. After selective, riveting reels of “The Amazing Spider-Man” were shown to an enthusiastic crowd at the Regal Union Square in New York City, cast members talked about their roles via satellite—Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) in New York, Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) in Rio de Janeiro, Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard) in London and director Marc Webb in Los Angeles.

Webb spelled out how “The Amazing Spider-Man” differed from the others, including emphasis on the parents Ben Parker (Martin Sheen) and May Parker (Sally Field). The love of Spider-Man’s life, Gwen Stacy, also has a distinct place in his life. Stone mentioned “Gwen falls in love with Peter Parker, and Mary Jane falls in love with Spider-Man.” But the most revealing statements came from a seemingly anxious Garfield. “I’m terrified,” he said but “I’m no idiot. This is something everyone in this room wants.” He did add, nonetheless, his role is just that of “the guy wearing the suit,” with kudos to his predecessor Toby Maguire. Then, he made an unexpected statement that especially wowed those of color in the theater. “I hope the next time it’ll be a half African-American, half-Hispanic actor” wearing the suit. “Amazing Spider-Man” hits theaters in July.