The San Francisco Foghorn and UC Berkeley’s The Daily Californian sat down to talk with “Buried” star Ryan Reynolds and screenwriter Chris Sparling. Their new thriller, “Buried,” is in theaters now.
San Francisco Foghorn (SFF): Ryan, what got you interested in this project? When you got a script that says you’re going to spend 90 minutes in a box by yourself, what attracted you to that?
Ryan Reynolds (RR): You get the script and you get page one and you say, ‘Prove it. Prove I’m going to spend 90 minutes in a box on my own.’ I read this script by this fantastic writer who is close by (looks at Sparling) and I just thought it was one of the most amazing stories I’d ever heard. But I also thought it was impossible. And then I got a letter from a passionate, somewhat strange Spanish filmmaker named Rodrigo Cortés.
As I was going through my letters from Spanish filmmakers that day, I stumbled across his and he’d written an incredible letter about how he would shoot this film and why he wanted to shoot this film and that it is possible. And not only is it possible, it can be good. And I was really intrigued by him. And then he was generous enough to fly over and we had lunch. Forty minutes later we shook hands and we said, ‘Let’s go get buried.’
U.C. Berkeley’s The Daily Californian (DC): Were you terrified though?
RR: I was terrified. I thought if we don’t pull this off, every body’s going to slap each other on the back and say, ‘Good try. We went down swinging.’ The biggest risk for me is being able to sustain 17 days of shooting in this really intensely heightened state of anxiety, which sounds like for a lot of people, ‘Oh it’s just acting. Why would that be so difficult?,’ but it tricks your body into really feeling that way. It’s tough you know.
SFF: How did you prepare yourself for such a physically demanding situation?
RR: There’s no way to prepare. It was probably the only disagreement the filmmaker and I had, which was I didn’t want to rehearse this. It was a leap of faith for him to do that. In his mind he was thinking, ‘Wow. You’re trusting me to pull of the impossible here,’ and he was reciprocating that trust by saying, ‘I trust you. If you don’t want to rehearse, then we’re not going to rehearse. There’s a reason for that. It’s not because you’re lazy, because you’re standing here about to get in a coffin.’ It’s because I wanted to experience everything this character is experiencing for the first time on camera.
DC: At the end of the day, did you find yourself craving wide, open spaces?
RR: Yeah, we had a lot of moments shooting the film… [Turning to Sparling] Did you have any moments craving wide, open spaces writing it? You must have. Did you write it in a meadow somewhere?
Chris Sparling (CS): No. I think I wrote most of it at Starbucks.
RR: Did you really write it at Starbucks?
RR: You’re one of those guys?
CS: The funny thing is I can only imagine what my face looked like as I was writing some of these scenes.
RR: Yeah, of course. Because you’re acting it out.
CS: Exactly. People must have thought I was a lunatic.
RR: I get that all the time on airplanes when I’m reading scripts and my face is getting all scrunched up. So yeah. It’s a little bizarre.
SFF: Here’s a question for Chris, some of the other films you did, you were the writer, the director and the actor. Was that something you envisioned for this project? Did you want to step into those roles at all?
CS: Everything but acting in this one. I learned my lessons hard. Having made a feature where I did all of those things, and I did it for no money, it was too much. As for directing it, I thought it was the only way it would be made. It really took Rodrigo coming along and saying, ‘Look, I want to make this movie exactly as you wrote it. I don’t want to do cut-away or any of that stuff people are probably telling you they want to do.’ Then he sent me his film, which was brilliant. And I said, ‘This is the guy.’ His visual styling is what impressed me the most. It had to be visually interesting for 90 minutes.
RR: You create a universe in a small box. I love the idea that you don’t know anything about (Paul Conroy) and we start this movie in complete pitch blackness and by the end of the film his whole world is in there with you.
DC: Ryan, were you daunted being the only character we see in this film?
RR: Yeah. If there’s a deficit for me in a moment or a scene where I’m not 100 percent authentic, you can’t really cut away; so going into the process you surrender yourself to the moment so that every moment was authentic and honest. If it’s not honest the audience will see it and they will leave, not necessarily physically but figuratively they will leave.
SFF: One of the most memorable scenes for me was the one with the snake and that seemed to come out of left field—
RR: Actually it came out of my pants.
CS: Yes it did!
RR: It was fine. I felt bad because the snake was so bloody scared. The poor reptile was sitting in the corner longing for the sweet release of death. The snake scene is an action sequence in a coffin. For Rodrigo this moment was Indiana Jones in a box.
SFF: I have a question for both of you guys, what is your favorite thriller movie?
RR: That’s a good question. No one’s asked me that yet. (Looking at Sparling) Do you want to go first?
CS: “Saw” did it for me. I really liked the first Saw.
RR: I can’t think what mine would be. Damn it. Damn you, Foghorn! I would say “Rope” is probably up there. Just because it’s one take. I love that Hitchcock always looked for a technical and narrative challenge together, especially in his golden years.
DC: Well that looks like a good place to end. Thank you.
RR: Thank you.