He explains how working with director Daniel Espinosa encouraged him to do the film along with what gave him a better appreciation of acting. Here are a few excepts from DIY:
You’re an actor and a producer in this film – what made you want to become so involved in this project?
Washington: I can’t do it any other way. When I saw Snabba Cash, I was fascinated by this young filmmaker. When I met Daniel we talked about his life, where 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’ve been in the habit of helping 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 – maybe I got a couple of extra dollars. I enjoyed 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 four or five months.
Denzel, as executive producer, how much say did you get getting the film shot in Cape Town?
Washington: None. I think it was originally supposed to be Buenos Aires? Rio! We had talked about the fact that we were not wanting to be too similar to Man On Fire, but Daniel went to South Africa, and he liked South Africa, and that was it. I think it was the right choice. I think just practically, aside from the look and all that, for my character’s perspective, it was going to be easier for me to blend in, in a “black” country than in a “brown” country.
How do you feel your career choices differ now compared to when you were younger?
Washington: I went through a phase where I was sick of acting. I was tired of it, I didn’t really want to do it anymore. I was bored with it. Then I tried directing a movie, and I was like shoot, I’ll get back over here. It made me appreciate acting more. When I turned 50 I looked in the mirror and I realised, hey, this isn’t the dress rehearsal; this is life. I don’t know how much more that I’m going to have, and even if I have 50 more years, I probably won’t remember the last 20 or 30 of them anyway. In the last three or four years, especially after doing this play on Broadway with the great Viola Davis called Fences, it reminded me of how I started, which was in the theatre, and how I worked in the theatre and how thorough you needed to be in the theatre, and I recommitted myself being thorough as an actor. I want to do good work, and I want to do good work with people I want to work with. That’s why I mentioned the screenplay [Safe House] – I wasn’t that impressed with the screenplay. If I hadn’t met Daniel I probably won’t have done this movie because it didn’t interest me that much. I didn’t think it was that good. But I liked Daniel and I liked the way his film was. So when you get the chance to work with people you like and people that are talented, that’s rare. I don’t know how many more movies I’m going to get the opportunity to make, and I don’t want to look back and go, man, I just kind of floated through that one, or I just did that one for the money. I want to be able to say that I’ve worked as hard as I could and I did the best work that I could do.
The film hits theaters in the UK this Friday (Feb. 24th).