Director Rodrigo Cortes on putting Ryan Reynolds through hell
Can you tell us a little bit about the plot?
I cannot say much since this is a movie about a guy in a box - and still you are here. I wonder what it was you didn't understand - you're sick. It starts with a big and expensive credit sequence. That's where the money is; you're not going to see that today, you have to pay money to see that. Then there's two minutes of pitch black, so please stay quiet for that. We're going to see the eight first minutes of this nightmare.
Did you think you were crazy to attempt this?
This is the kind of movie that shouldn't be done. If you have a success, you don't make a movie with a single actor inside a box. But we are releasing the film all over the world, so I guess there are a lot of foolish people out there.
It's like a Hitchcock experiment.
Yes, it's like the technical challenge that the Master used to set himself, like in Rope or Lifeboat or Rear Window. But I wanted to make North by Northwest inside a voice. At the beginning everyone thought this was going to be experimental and obscure, but in the best case scenario it's going to be Indiana Jones in a box, the same excitement and emotion, but in a box.
Why Ryan Reynolds?
Well, it made no sense but he read the script and loved it. He said no way a movie could be done like this, so call an actor. Still, he wanted to see my first feature, The Contestant, that I sent him, and he called back saying he wanted to know more. I sent him more information, but two days later we met in LA and 40 minutes later we were shaking hands. I think it was because of my poor English, i think he misunderstood and he was too embarrassed to back out. When you have this accent people think you are sophisticated.
You put him through a lot.
Well one of the big pleasures in a movie like this is mistreating a star, legally. We sent him back with his back bleeding, his fingers burned by the lighter and sand in his eyes. It was a real nightmare.
How do you get something like this distributed?
Well, it was ridiculously easy, don't ask me why. Everything was done so fast in this film. I wrote the script in March, we were shooting in July and we shot in 17 days. One day we did 52 shots. Everything happened so fast. There were six hour lines in front of the theatre, and it started an immediate bidding war between studios. In one day it was bought by Lionsgate; Icon had already brought it to the UK, and so within two months we sold it to 65% of the world. When I say the whole world, the whole world. Why? I don't know. You have to pay if you want to figure it out.
The film looks great but it looks terrifying. What was the inspiration to stick someone in a box - is it a personal fear?
Well, I wasn't inspired by anything because I didn't write the script, but I've been interested in premature burials since I was a kid. I didn't want to bury someone, but things like in The Great Train Robbery, people were scared of being buried alive so they had bells in coffins and things like that, so I was especially intrigued by this nightmare. But I think it's a very primal fear that we all have.
The clip made the viewer feel he was in the box. Does Reynolds ever get out of the box?
You mean Ryan or the character? Ryan can sleep out of the box. But you should pay to hear that. Buried is a physical experience, I can tell you. You are always in his point of view. If you want to know what being buried alive is, this is in the film. Everyone's going to leave the theatre 4lbs lighter.
The big question is where to put the camera?
I didn't want to use logic or common sense because I'd figure out that it would be impossible to make this film. Then I made it and realised it was impossible! I decided just to think about the tools I needed do. We built seven different coffins for the shoot.
And is it true you had a coffin called ‘The Joker'?
And there was nothing funny about it? Yes. There's nothing funny about any of this movie! Shooting a film is like going to war, don't believe any director who tells you otherwise. Ryan Reynolds said to a an audience recently, ‘I hope you love this movie as much as I hated making it.'
How much scope for improvisation was there for Ryan Reynolds?
No, it's very faithful to the script. We had an excellent script but we made some tweaks to invent a couple of gadgets and ensure it was visually interesting the whole time. We did no improvising. You have to think with an editor's brain the whole time, and think about the final film, so we didn't do any improv.