In the year or so, few actors careers have been as hot as that of Ryan Reynolds. He's been kicking around for years in pretty much every genre, from comedy (VAN WILDER), to action (SMOKING ACES, BLADE: TRINITY), to horror (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR), to indie drama (THE NINES). Last year's THE PROPOSAL was the film that catapulted him to the top of the A-list, and with GREEN LANTERN coming out this summer, Reynolds is a guy we'll no doubt be seeing a lot of for years to come.
In between his bigger, mainstream projects, Reynolds teamed up with director Rodrigo Cortes for the low-budget thriller BURIED, which is ninety minutes of Reynolds BURIED alive in a coffin, with only a cellphone and a pesky snake to keep him company. The film was a smash at both the Sundance and Toronto International Film Festivals, as well as the recent Fantastic Fest. On October 8th, audiences nationwide will finally be able to see for themselves what all the fuss is about.
Reynolds graciously made some time to speak with JoBlo.com about his experience shooting the film...
Well, if you’ll forgive the terrible pun, how did you come to be BURIED?
That’s not bad, I thought you’d be going with “out of the box”. Well, I got the script through the usual channels, and I thought it was riveting, but, you know, it was like a novel- not a script. But then I got another piece of material in the mail, a letter from director Rodrigo Cortes. Actually, the letter was even longer then the script, but full of extreme passion and foresight. He spelled out exactly how, and why he wanted to shoot the movie. And then, the most unorthodox thing happened. Usually Hollywood, as I’m sure you know, works in a very bureaucratic fashion. You go through agents, and all that crap, and then MAYBE something gets done. But he flew over, we had lunch, and then without any outside interference we decided to do the movie just over a handshake.
I guess that’s the beauty of working low budget…
And the fact that trust can still exist in an industry like this. And Rodrigo, from the moment I met him, I totally trusted him to take care of this incredible narrative challenge, that was married to this impossible technical challenge of the film. And then I was given the luxury of just being able to show up everyday and just do my job, which was nice for me.
You’ve been having a great few years, but you’ve been now for your physicality in a lot of roles, such as the action films or even the romantic comedies. But in this one, you really don’t get to be physical at all and most of the performance is played out on your face. To me, it felt a bit like THE NINES…
Oh wow Chris, you, my mom & Rodrigo are the only other people that have seen that!
No, no- a lot of Joblo.com readers have posted how much they liked it, and I think it’s picking up a cult following.
I LOVE that movie- John August is an incredible writer. That challenge was not insignificant though. I took comfort in the fact that there’s no right or wrong in this movie. It’s such a subjective experience. You just have to be honest, and if you’re not, as 50% is in closeup you’ll lose the audience and never get them back. For me, the biggest challenge was lighting myself. I’ve never been a gaffer, nor had a penchant to be one- but I had to do it for this film. Also, if Paul has a breakdown, you can’t cut away to another character, or central park or whatever. Paul has to have that breakdown, then recover and go on. I totally underestimated that obstacle before shooting, but why wouldn’t I as I never experienced that before. I get really uncomfortable when other actors romanticize their process because usually it’s just some guy using an anecdote to mask his own arrogance or bragging or something like that. That said, it was tough. The shoot was tough and probably not something I’d want to repeat. I mean, I’d want to repeat a challenge like that one, but not that specific one.
You’re not claustrophobic I hope?
Well, I think everyone is to a certain degree, aren’t they? It’s just human nature when you’re closed off in a space like that, you lose your mind. But it was only the last two days of the shooting that all six sides were shot, and one side was glass so you could see what was happening- but that day was panic inducing to say the least.
How big was the coffin?
Six and a half feet..
Wow, and you’re like 6’2, right?
Yeah, I’m about 6’2, so there wasn’t a lot of room. Each of the seven coffins we used were designed to overcome some kind of technical challenge, but they are all about the same. One actually looked like a transformer so Rodrigo could do a 360 degree shot. Yeah, it was definitely tight.
Did you shoot in sequence?
Completely in sequence, which is one of the only times I’ve ever had that opportunity outside of a play. But it was all shot chronologically from the moment Paul wakes up, to the moment the coffin starts to feel like a unitard made up of lawn darts.
Was there a rehearsal period, or did you just jump into the coffin and go?
Actually, that was a point of contention early on, and THE ONLY thing Rodrigo and I disagreed one, because he wanted to rehearse and I didn’t. Once I got to Barcelona, we went to lunch to hash it out. My feeling was that I wanted to experience everything on camera for the first time. I know me, and I knew that if I rehearsed I would get into my own way by trying to manufacture a moment in rehearsal, and I’d start to get into my own head, which is something you can’t do on a film like this. That’s a speed bump we don’t need, we have enough obstacles already with this crazy fucking experiment, we don’t need to do that. I didn’t talk him out of out, but he saw the reason in it, and he knew it wasn’t because I’m inherently lazy, which I think I masked well (laughs). It spoke to the trust that we had. He trusted me, I trusted him. I kept joking that we were like THELMA & LOUISE in that we were going to lock pinkies and drive off the cliff together, and in a way that’s what we did!
Physically, is this as demanding a shooting something like THE GREEN LANTERN? It’s apples and oranges…
But it’s not apples and oranges- that’s a good question. What shocked me weren’t the differences in those two film, but the similarities. All films are problem solving and gambles, and when you’re sitting in the trenches trying to solve a problem with your director, it’s the same thing working on a huge budget studio film like GREEN LANTERN, and an indie like BURIED. The similarities were striking, because I literally went from one to the other.
You have so many big films coming up, do you look forward to the day you can do another gritty indie like BURIED or THE NINES.
Yeah, actually I have something I really want to do with John August, like THE NINES. This is the first time I mention it, as it’s way down the road, but it’s a zero budget kind of film- which isn’t why I’m doing it. It’s just a great story and when it’s low budget there’s creative control.
But this seems like a safe gamble to me. Good buzz, entertaining film...
Yeah- I guess my only reservation going into it was that one day, some guy was going to show up in a well-tailored suit five days in and tell us we fucking needed to shoot some scene in a fucking park. Look, I'm a young guy, but I'm no spring chicken. This is my twentieth year of doing this, and I've seen that kind of shit happen before and it's toxic, and you can't help but adopt a defeatist attitude when that happens.
Can you watch something like BURIED after shooting it?
Sure, I've seen it three times already, and I'm doing screenings and Q&A's. You want to be there and feel what the audience is feeling. Shooting the film was such a fever dream looking back on it that I don't remember details like I do on a typical film. I see things I have no recollection of doing, which is kinda unusual thing that I'll probably never experience again. But I'm not an actor who'll eagerly watch something I did. I have lots of films I haven't seen.
Gotta ask, how's GREEN LANTERN coming along?
It's in full-on post production. I've never really realized how tiny a cog the actor is in a movie like that. The scope is so enormous, and Martin Campbell is marshaling such massive forces in many different departments to get this together. I feel like THE GREEN LANTERN is one of those films that really starts in post-production. Lots of news will be coming up in the next few months, that's for sure.
Thanks so much for your time...
My pleasure, I'm a big fan of the site too.
Great to hear that! Thanks again.