Oscar® winner DENZEL WASHINGTON (American Gangster, The Book of Eli) and RYAN REYNOLDS (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) star in the action-thriller Safe House. Washington plays the CIA’s most dangerous traitor, who stuns the intelligence community when he surfaces in South Africa. When the safe house to which he’s remanded is attacked by brutal mercenaries, a rookie (Reynolds) is forced to help him escape. As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant protégé, the young operative finds his morality tested and idealism shaken. Now, they must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead.
Legendary spy Tobin Frost (Washington) has eluded capture for almost a decade. One of the best ops men that the CIA’s ever trained, the brilliant ex-intelligence officer has betrayed assets and sold military codes to enemies of the state since he turned. From aiding splinter cells to trading incendiary secrets to the highest bidder, the damage he’s done to the U.S. is immeasurable. Now, Frost is back on the grid with the most explosive intel he’s ever gotten his hands on.
For the past year, Matt Weston has been frustrated by his inactive, backwater post in Cape Town. A “housekeeper” who aspires to be a full-fledged case officer, the loyal company man has been waiting for an opportunity to prove himself. When the first and only occupant he’s had proves to be the most dangerous operative he will ever cross, Weston readies for duty.
As soon as Frost is brought in for debriefing, mercenaries in brutal pursuit of Frost come and level Weston’s safe house. Barely escaping, the veteran spy and untested captor must discover whether their attackers were sent by terrorists or by someone on the inside. With only hours left to get Frost to the next safe house, Weston must figure out who he can trust before he and the world’s most skillful assassin are both eliminated.
Joining Washington and Reynolds is a spectacular cast of accomplished performers including VERA FARMIGA (Up in the Air, The Departed) as CIA Branch Chief Catherine Linklater; BRENDAN GLEESON (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, The Guard) as Case Officer David Barlow; SAM SHEPARD (Black Hawk Down, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) as CIA Deputy Director of Operations Harlan Whitford; RUBEN BLADES (All the Pretty Horses, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) as counterfeiter Carlos Villar; NORA ARNEZEDER (Paris 36, The Words) as Matt’s girlfriend, medical resident Ana Moreau; and ROBERT PATRICK (Flags of Our Fathers, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) as Senior Intelligence Officer Daniel Kiefer.
Supporting international cast members brought onto the action-thriller’s team include Irish actor LIAM CUNNINGHAM (Clash of the Titans, The Whistleblower) as MI6 operative Alec Wade; Swedish-born performer JOEL KINNAMAN (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Snabba Cash) as fellow CIA housekeeper Keller; and Lebanon native FARES FARES (Snabba Cash, For a Moment, Freedom) as ex-paramilitary soldier (and current mercenary) Vargas.
Safe House is directed by the acclaimed writer/director of Snabba Cash, DANIEL ESPINOSA, who filmed on location in South Africa, Paris and Washington, D.C. The action-thriller is written by DAVID GUGGENHEIM, whose spec script for the film became an instant hot property when it landed on the “Black List” of best unproduced scripts in circulation, and produced by SCOTT STUBER (Couples Retreat, The Kingdom, upcoming Battleship) under his Bluegrass Films banner.
Joining Espinosa behind the camera is a talented and award-winning group of film artisans that includes director of photography OLIVER WOOD (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy); editor RICHARD PEARSON (United 93, Quantum of Solace); Academy Award®-winning production designer BRIGITTE BROCH (Moulin Rouge!, 21 Grams); and costume designer SUSAN MATHESON (The Town, Friday Night Lights).
Denzel Washington, SCOTT AVERSANO (The School of Rock), ADAM MERIMS (Breach), ALEXA FAIGEN, TREVOR MACY (The Strangers) and MARC D. EVANS (The Raven) serve as executive producers.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Finding Shelter: Safe House Begins
Producer Scott Stuber was intrigued by David Guggenheim’s screenplay after only a few pages into the read. Recognizing the find, Stuber preemptively purchased the work months before it made a splash in the industry and landed on the infamous “Black List” of the best unproduced script in circulation. “In this job, you read a lot of material—articles, books and screenplays—and sometimes you see a nugget of an idea that you think could be a movie,” offers Stuber. “What was great about David’s screenplay for Safe House is that it read perfectly like a film from the first draft. I saw the movie and the characters, and we were lucky enough to get it.”
In the past, Guggenheim had penned other spec scripts, but none had broken through for the writer. He shares: “I worked for Us Weekly for about 10 years, and I had been writing specs for about 12. I had come as close as humanly possible to selling scripts, and then every single time I thought something was going to sell, it ultimately didn’t. Safe House was the first one that broke. I literally went from working at my job to working on the set of the film in a year.”
The screenwriter was thrilled to find that Safe House had found a home. He recalls: “I tried to write a satisfying spy yarn, something that I would love to be able to see. Originally, I was just trying to get it written before my first baby was born, because I knew how hard that would be after she came. Then, luckily, we sold it around the first week in February and she was born February 24…right under the wire.”
Guggenheim walks us through the setup: “You’ve heard a safe house mentioned in so many movies, but it’s never been its own starting point. I started with the concept of ‘let’s examine someone who works in a safe house, a housekeeper,’ and that grew into pairing up a green, idealistic housekeeper with a veteran cynic. In some ways, it’s a road movie, because it’s about these two guys trying to get from point A to point B, from one safe house to another. That’s a clear spine along which you can play with these two butting heads. The characters have completely different points of view and are at different points in their careers.”
Stuber found this dynamic a nuanced take on the genre. He recalls: “It read as a big action-thriller, but what I found interesting was the paradigm of these two characters: the veteran spy and the rookie. What we liked about Tobin Frost was that this character was multidimensional: He has many layers and a dark soul. He has given up his ideology, his country, and turned cynical because he believes the world to be cynical. He no longer plays by the rules.
“Then there’s Matt Weston, who has the ideology that the world is a good, fair place,” the producer continues. “Throughout this journey, Matt realizes that’s not the case. As you get older, you see that whatever path you choose, there are politics and things that are not fair. But do you choose to keep your soul? Do you keep your credibility and your honor? The question of the movie is whether or not Matt will be able to go through this journey and still keep his integrity and humanity.”
For Stuber, a character-driven spy thriller needed a director who could adeptly handle both the action and the nuances of the story. The producer had seen the acclaimed Snabba Cash (Easy Money), from Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa, and was excited by the work. Stuber says: “The kinetic nature of that film was so engaging. Daniel made it in Sweden on the budget that he did, and I was completely drawn in. It felt big and cinematic. When you meet Daniel, he’s an infectious, smart individual who is well-traveled and speaks multiple languages. He talked character and mood, and he understands that story is king. He’s a real student of film, and his actors love him.”
Espinosa explains his draw to Safe House: “My background is more European art house. When I did Snabba Cash, it was a trial for me because I wanted to see how my interest for character and inner plot would contrast against a movie with a strong pace. In the process, I realized that it was complementary to my strengths, which I feel are acting and the inner story of a character. After that, I was looking for something that had an archetypical journey for characters and a strong pace. When I read Safe House, it felt, in many ways, like a reverse of Unforgiven: You have the old warrior who knows that the world is corrupt, and you have the young gunslinger who believes that, somehow, his romantic ideal of good will prevail.”
The director explains that he appreciated the linear narrative of Guggenheim’s story: “It begins with a single event, similar to having the most wanted criminal suddenly walk into a police station. The question is not how we got him; the question is what is outside of those walls that forced him to walk in. As these two characters are hunted, they slowly get to know each other and form a bond—not a friendship, but a mentor/protégé, prisoner/cop relationship.”
While embracing the idea of helming the thriller, Espinosa was adamant that the film eschew formula and not confuse pace with story: “People can see this as an action piece or a spy genre, but I believe that those are not real storytelling formulas. In all good storytelling, it’s about the characters’ journey. Even if you have a fast-paced movie, you still have, at its most basic, an archetypical dilemma—Cain and Abel—and an audience can relate to that. If you call this an action-thriller, however, you would be right. But what I liked about this movie was that it also recognized that there is a loss for those who have held the world to a blueprint of their personally held ideals.”
Espinosa further boils his motivation down to something quite simple. He reflects: “This film has given me the opportunity to meet with some of the greatest talents in this business and to get to work side by side with them. For a young guy from Sweden, that is quite extraordinary.”
Not Your Only Enemy: Casting the Action-Thriller
When casting Safe House, Stuber and Espinosa placed importance on avoiding tired tropes. Stuber explains the rationale: “Action without character is boring. The script read well because everything moves at a quick pace. Then, when you sit and get to know these people, there’s a real depth to them. We went after actors who could be in those moments and have the audience feel what these characters are feeling.”
As the producer and the director discussed their dream cast, Denzel Washington was brought up as their ideal Tobin Frost, the CIA’s most notorious traitor. The two invited Washington (then starring on Broadway in the play Fences) to discuss the proposition. Stuber recalls the meal: “At the end of lunch, Denzel stood up and said, ‘All right, we’re going to do this,’ and walked out. I thought, ‘What? Is he going to call his agent? Is it a done deal?’ I wanted to make sure, so I called Denzel’s agent and he said, ‘I just got off the phone with him. He’s doing the movie with you and Daniel.’ It was one of those rare, great moments in this business.”
Washington, who had a window in his schedule coinciding with preproduction, labored with the filmmakers to hone the project and the character of an operative who has spent the past nine years selling out the United States. The actor offers what attracted him to the role of a man wanted for espionage on four continents: “I got the chance to see Daniel’s film Snabba Cash, and it had a unique style and was a very different film. That made me very interested in him as a filmmaker. Scott, Daniel, David and I worked on developing the character. Safe House was an opportunity to revisit ways of working what I used to do. I invested heavily in the character and the story.”
As he prepared for the role, the performer went into full immersion mode. Washington says: “I didn’t want to do a lot of CIA research because Tobin Frost wasn’t CIA anymore. He hated everything about the CIA, and I wanted to discover his dark side. Scott gave me some great books to read, one of which was ‘The Sociopath Next Door,’ which became my bible that I would refer to in developing the character. I felt Tobin was a sociopath. When you think ‘sociopath,’ you think violence, and the majority of sociopaths aren’t violent but they want to win and manipulate. I thought he was a great liar, a great manipulator and perfect for the CIA.”
The filmmakers valued the actor’s work ethic on the project. Offers Espinosa: “Denzel is a master. He works harder than any actor I’ve ever met. When he decided to do the movie, he thoroughly researched and spent about a half a year studying his character before we even shot. When he got on set, no matter what the situation in front of him was, he reacted as the character that he was playing.”
With Washington attached, the team began the search to find Matt Weston, the man responsible for his house guest. For Espinosa, it is the contrast between and the evolution of Frost and Weston that distinguish the story. Notes the director: “Matt is a guy who has a lot of dreams. He believes that he can maintain a relationship with his girlfriend and have a somewhat normal life, while at the same time, coming closer to his goal of becoming a full-blown CIA case officer. He clings to the notion that you can be a strong, ethical, moral person while working in his chosen field. There is no gray area. Frost, however, is well beyond any such notion.”
They found their perfect Weston in performer Ryan Reynolds. Stuber recalls: “We had to be certain that the actor opposite Denzel would be ready. I’ve known Ryan for a long time and was sure that he would step up to that challenge. More importantly, he wanted such a challenge.”
Reynolds explains his interest in joining the team: “First and foremost, I was riveted by the story. It was also an opportunity to work with Daniel, who is an unusual and unpredictable filmmaker. He is unlike anyone I’ve ever worked with, or even met before. He’s this incredibly wise, intuitive, intellectual thug. It’s a weird combination that gives him this incredible street sense. He’s a guy who could easily be in a bar fight, and at the same time, if you name any book, there’s a good chance he’s read it—among the plusses, not the least of which was working with Denzel. You know you will learn a lot working with Denzel: Spending time with him makes you a better actor.”
The actor found the duality of Weston’s life—the housekeeper’s cover is that he is a health worker—compelling. He says, “I was fascinated by the fact that my character lives a complete lie. He’s lying to himself and wraps himself up in the flag. There’s a lot of hubris involved. He feels what he’s doing is righteous, and yet, there’s a dark, seedy underbelly to what he does—not the least of which is the fact that he lies to everyone he loves, and that takes its toll. He’s beaten up from this.”
Reynolds explains his character’s transformation: “Matt’s growth is debatable. In some ways, it’s almost a regression. Throughout the course of the film, he’s resorting to some of the same ways he’s previously despised. The audience’s concern as we’re watching is that Matt might be affected by Frost in the same way that Frost was swayed by whoever it was who caused him to go off book. One of the things that Frost does is reveal to Matt what this agency really is, how some of the black ops that it engages in are in the guise of a higher good. It affects Matt deeply, and he’s seeing how this could easily become him one day. Whether that’s growth or not, he’s definitely changed.”
Washington saw that growth in the man playing Weston and found Reynolds a worthy on-screen adversary. The performer compliments: “Ryan is a very good actor who works very hard, and we had good chemistry. He has an inherent innocence that I think was right for the part.”
With Safe House’s leads locked, the filmmakers turned to finding an ensemble of versatile actors to help bring the gritty journey from page to screen. “Just because this is an action movie doesn’t mean you don’t want to care about the characters,” Stuber states. “We have our agency filled with wonderful actors including Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Cunningham and Robert Patrick. Fares Fares and Joel Kinnaman really stand out as well, and both worked with Daniel previously. We have the multitalented Ruben Blades in this wonderful role, a great counterpoint to Denzel’s Frost. Nora Arnezeder is a fresh talent out of Paris, and she brings a strong emotionality to Matt’s girlfriend, Ana.”
Though her breakout role came in 2006’s The Departed, actress Vera Farmiga has long been a favorite of film and television. And if it meant landing Farmiga in the role, the director was quite happy to switch the gender of Guggenheim’s hard-nosed CIA officer. Espinosa commends: “Vera is maybe the most interesting actress in her generation: She has a soft, natural ability and complexity.”
Farmiga elaborates on her interest in the clandestine character: “There are two films I did in the past year where the roles were originally for men and just the name changed. Source Code was written for a guy, and in Safe House, I play CIA African Division Branch Chief Linklater. We added the first name, Catherine, when I was cast.” Her attraction to the role was fueled by multiple factors. She says: “Life is all about gray matter and not so much about absolutes. It can’t be reduced to the good guys and the bad guys; humanity is a wonderful mix. That complexity is what drew me to the subject matter: that idea of no good guys and no bad guys. We explore that and the espionage in a thrilling way.”
Another CIA officer who has worked his way up the ranks is CO David Barlow, Matt Weston’s direct report. Cast as the savvy and genial Barlow was the chameleon-like Irishman Brendan Gleeson, believable as everything from an antebellum-era Southerner in Cold Mountain to one of the most towering figures of the last century, Sir Winston Churchill, in Into the Storm.
Gleeson walks us through Barlow’s arc: “He is at a particular place in the CIA. He’s been a field operator at a high level, running his own branch, his own operation. As many of the best field people do, he got pushed into a desk job and was asked to control it from the office, which he’s not happy about. Nevertheless, Barlow has a particular way of sorting problems out. I wanted to get into the mindset of this guy who is not just a flag waver. He’s somebody very practical who has been involved in getting things done rather than being too worried about how they were done.”
Barlow’s supervisor is portrayed by Sam Shepard. The performer’s longtime work in theater and in film harkens back to legendary Western actors who made their careers out of playing lone heroes. As CIA Deputy Director of Operations Harlan Whitford, Shepard is a tried-and-true agency man, whose exemplary field performance has segued into internal command. Shepard notes: “I liked Daniel when we sat down and talked; his background impressed me. And since Denzel always chooses apt material, I thought there might be something for me in this.”
The actor came to the film having previously delved into the lives of other CIA operatives. He states: “I’m good friends with Valerie Plame Wilson; I worked with her at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. She turned me on to a couple of books, which I dipped into and began to feel the atmosphere of what these people live with.”
Heading to the other side of the law, we meet ex-revolutionary Carlos Villar. For the part of the operative-turned-counterfeiter, filmmakers chose multihyphenate Ruben Blades. Washington discusses how the actor and musician came onto the project: “When we were talking about who should play the part of Villar, I brought up Ruben and Daniel was excited about that. Ruben brought richness and a culture to the character.” The old friend of Frost’s knows more about the double agent than we ever will. Explains Washington: “When the audience meets Villar, that’s Tobin’s downward spiral. Anything Villar touches and anyone he comes in contact with, they’re not long for the world.”
“Villar’s a forger who’s been in the movement, doing God knows what,” relays Blades. “But he’s got a family, and he provides. So it’s not the loaded stereotype, a cliché Latin guy. He has a spine. Villar is a man who one day got up and discovered that he had more past than future, so he started a family. He decided to try and enjoy however much time he has left and continues to create documents on the side. His family has become very important for him, so in that sense, he’s been reborn.”
The black-market conduit’s house is in Langa Township, a suburb of Cape Town that is a hodgepodge of temporary and permanent structures tucked together. Such townships on the periphery of the city remain a legacy of apartheid, but for Villar, this place serves as a sanctuary. Frost seeks respite at Villar’s home, but that doesn’t mean he will find it there for long.
Frost is not the only one who has people depending upon him. The love of Matt Weston’s life is Ana Moreau, a French medical resident working in Cape Town. Ana is brought off the page by actress Nora Arnezeder. The performer welcomed Espinosa’s set-up of the perimeters of her scenes and encouragement of his cast to improvise. She says: “It’s new for me to act in English, but it’s good because with improvisation, everything is always new. We get to bring ourselves into the characters. I told Daniel this little story about a party I had when I was a little girl and only two people came. And he said, ‘Great, we’re going to use that,’ so I brought it into a key scene.”
Stuber reflects on the role that Ana plays in Matt’s world: “In the beginning, Matt is a rookie working at the safe house and trying to move up within the agency. But he’s also in love with Ana. He’s attempting to balance both of these things, but when you’re living a secondary truth, sometimes you can’t. Both Ryan and Nora brought a lot of dimension to this relationship, and a good deal of depth and emotion.”
The actor selected to portray hardened CIA Senior Intelligence Officer Daniel Kiefer was a longtime action star who has entertained many over the years. Stuber commends: “There’s an interrogation scene with Denzel, and whoever took that part had to be formidable. He had to be able to intimidate and be someone who could play ball with Denzel. Robert Patrick just killed it. He’s such a great, soulful actor.”
Patrick supplies that playing an interrogator who is an expert at waterboarding was most disturbing. Kiefer’s first order? “Kill all the surveillance cams.” The actor notes: “My work on the film was intense. Daniel wanted to show Kiefer’s disappointment with the damage Frost has done to our country. In the scene where my character orders his team to kill all the surveillance cams, we try and obtain information from Frost. Later, when the house is under attack, we go from zero to 600. There’s so much intensity, violence and chaos. It’s pure adrenaline rush and overload. Daniel didn’t want us just running around and playing army, he wanted all the tension, anxiety and grave danger to register on our faces. It was fun for me to bring that.”
Joining the cast in supporting roles are Irish performer Liam Cunningham as Alec Wade, a disillusioned MI6 operative; Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, who may currently be seen in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, as Keller, another safe housekeeper; and Lebanese performer Fares Fares as Vargas, the brutal ex-paramilitary member who will stop at nothing to erase Frost. Both Kinnaman and Fares had worked with Espinosa before, playing key roles in the director’s last film, Snabba Cash.
A Professional Housekeeper: Analyst on the Set
For a film with so much action grounded in the reality of the CIA’s actual operations, believability was paramount. Therefore, Espinosa turned to a special advisor, former CIA officer LUIS FALCON. After serving as a police officer for nearly five years, Falcon was recruited during the early 1980s by CIA director William Joseph Casey. At that time, he gathered with other peace-officer recruits from around the nation…a group then called “Casey’s Cops.”
Just like Weston, Falcon served as a housekeeper before becoming a full-fledged operative (note: CIA employees are not referred to as “agents”). He was stationed first in Latin America and later in Europe, Southeast Asia and two Middle East war zones. He served the CIA for nearly 30 years before joining the D.C. firm of McClarty Associates. Falcon shares: “We did different types of covers. It depends on the target. I’ve been everything from a drug runner to a weapons trafficker to a foreign journalist.”
“Luis was an amazing resource and has been a wonderful ally of the movie,” commends Stuber. “We wanted all of our actors playing parts within the CIA to have a sounding board. Beyond lines and action, Luis worked with the production design team to design the safe house and other key sets.”
Espinosa shares: “Luis has been a safe-housekeeper, so it was immensely interesting to talk with him about it…also deeply disturbing. I’m not a guy who’s been close to a CIA operative before, so to actually get an insight into his psychology and how he sees the world was fascinating. If you want to make a movie that comes from the classic, fast-paced American action tradition and has some kind of a realistic background, you need a person like Luis to give you ground to stand on.”
Falcon offers that safe houses aren’t just used for contingency plans. He states: “There are all different types. They can be one-bedroom studios, all the way to the kind that you’ll see in Safe House. They are selected and procured for a specific operational objective. One of the rules is ‘one time, one asset only,’ and we rarely keep a safe house in operation for more than one year. Because of operational security considerations, we go through these safe houses fairly rapidly.”
The advisor admits that men such as Tobin Frost are rare but do exist: “One of the scariest things for us is that a character like Frost can happen. We have to walk a very fine line as a case officer. We’re trained to lie, cheat and steal secrets from an organization. But our intent is to use that only against our enemies. We can’t use it either for private gain or to manipulate personal relationships.” He reflects: “I could see somebody, for revenge or avarice, violating that trust. Fortunately, I can count on one hand the number of traitors who have surfaced, at least since I’ve been around. It’s rare, but when somebody goes bad…it’s usually for money.”
Covering Tracks: Shooting on Location
Guggenheim’s original script set the action of Safe House in Rio de Janeiro, but when filmmakers discussed shifting the setting to South Africa, the writer was happy to oblige. He explains: “It’s such a great opportunity because Cape Town hasn’t been utilized a lot in American movies. Once we relocated the story, we went through the script and matched it to areas in South Africa. The scenes that called for a township, we got to shoot in Langa, which is unbelievable. The scenes in a soccer stadium, we actually filmed in the stadium built for the World Cup, Green Point Stadium.”
Additional first-unit shooting took place in Paris and Washington, D.C., while a second unit also shot in South Africa.
Photography in Cape Town
It struck cast and crew alike that as one approaches Cape Town from the air, it looks like a tiny model of a perfect city. The spectacular Table Mountain serves as a backdrop for an almost European-looking village at the foot of the structure. As the team deplaned, it found a cosmopolitan melting pot. Provides Espinosa: “Within the city are different social layers. I thought that watching these characters move through these layers on their journey would be a wonderful cinematic opportunity.”
While the promise of filming in Cape Town was attractive because of location possibilities, it was primarily script reasons that dictated the move. On Stuber: “Weston is a safe housekeeper in a remote area. If he was running something in Western Europe where the CIA has a prominent presence, he’d be surrounded by operatives. When we scouted Cape Town, what we liked was that it is an extraordinarily beautiful place with a lot of different looks. It gave us a cityscape, a downtown with freeways and high-rises butted up against Table Mountain. The urban area is beautiful, with an ocean, mountains and vegetation that are unique to Africa. But it’s also hard to access, making for an intriguing setting for a thriller and appropriate for our story.”
Washington agrees with his team’s decisions. He offers: “You get a real texture and feeling when you shoot in the townships, and that’s one of the beautiful things about Cape Town. It’s so diverse, from downtown and the townships to the ocean and the mountains.” This wasn’t his first time to lens in this region. The actor says, “I worked in Africa 25 years ago in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique on Universal’s Cry Freedom. My nephew and the other guys who work for me were blown away by the country and got involved with some of the orphanages and worked with the kids there. My security guy, Sal, went out and bought a bunch of toys and ice cream for hundreds of kids. He was really moved by what he saw.”
Production designer Broch found filming in Cape Town transformational. She relays, “Upon the very first scout, it was a beautiful impression; it’s lovely and incredible. Cape Town is actually quite small, but it’s being portrayed as a good-sized international city with all its beauty. Much of that beauty comes from the people. I met with such open reaction from the people in the townships—beautiful smiles, curious, wanting to know. It was a privilege to be in this community.”
Broch was onboard for a journey that would take her team from location to location within Cape Town. She says: “It always starts with a pattern arising from the script. I start with locations. For example, the whole construction for Matt’s safe house was inspired by a location that we found, and we ended up using the location as an exterior. But the inspiration was there, the history of the place and the textures.”
While scouting, locations discovered this building that housed a retired hospital—a coincidence to Weston’s cover, as nothing on the building indicated such an organization resided within. This led to the design of safe house one, which was completely built on a makeshift soundstage at 3 Arts Theatre, one of the oldest theaters in Cape Town. The construction took crews nearly three months to complete its build.
Designing and Shooting the Safe House
As scripted by Guggenheim, Weston works for a nongovernmental organization (NGO), so the outer area of the house—the public area, or “non-hardened” area, in agency speak—is replete with fixtures and leftovers from a disused hospital that are repurposed for the faux organization. Once into the “hardened” area, however, everything one sees is meant for top-secret clearance and agency use only.
Falcon tells that it is work to stay invisible: “It’s well known that when we’re overseas, the U.S. government never admits to having a CIA presence in the country. We have to have another reason to be there. Most of our people are covered under official cover, through the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Commerce or Department of Defense.”
The advisor worked closely with Broch on every aspect of the safe house, from its supplies and furnishings to paperwork, disguises and medical supplies. He made sure the production designer fully understood the world in which Weston now lives. A quick tutorial for the uninitiated: not only was a blood supply on hand, but CCTVs, computers, monitors and weapons abounded. Falcon and Bloch were so specific with this safe house that in order to keep consistent, all electronics were set at Greenwich mean time…the CIA way.
Once completed, the safe house set played host to more than 30 actors and stunt performers—including Washington, Reynolds, Patrick and Fares, along with a number of officers and Vargas’ mercenaries—for a 10-day shoot. The heavily wired and tricked-out set fell under a strict “no cell phones, walkies or radios” policy, as a wireless signal could inadvertently set off any one of the more than 1,500 squibs installed around the set. And that would equal, well, boom.
Shooting in the somewhat restricted environment presented challenges to filmmakers, obstacles that the director fully welcomed. Espinosa says, “I like corridors for this movie because these characters are slowly walking toward an end that’s predestined. That’s why the whole movie is filled with long corridors that have places of light and darkness; it’s a visual theme. They also lend themselves to a nice shot, so we created action set pieces in corridors throughout.”
Green Point Stadium
Production was fortunate to secure permission to film within the state-of-the-art Green Point Stadium, built to host the 2008 World Cup. Naturally, working in a stadium is very complicated. In this case, it took about four months of negotiation with the City of Cape Town to nail down the four-day window in which filming could occur. Lighting alone required two turbines called Condors, four generators, not to mention all of the internal lights that one would normally require for an event like this. Not enough? The team hired all of the various vendors one would expect at a venue of this size, plus thousands of extras.
Costumer Matheson outfitted her football supporters in local team—Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates—colors. She also included headgear particular to the fan and says: “My first game, I saw someone wearing this magical, almost Viking headdress. It was like a miner’s hat adorned with hand-cut, hand-painted figures. I asked the man, ‘Where did you get this from?’ He told me he’d made it, and they’re called makarapa. I found out that the name comes from the fact that they’re mining hats, and the word means ‘scrapers,’ for people who scraped a living out of the earth, or in construction. It’s a very special part of being a South Africa fan and part of their vernacular.” Matheson tracked down an expert on the headgear, MICHAEL SOUTER, who assembled a team of local men from the township and ensured that hundreds of makarapa were built for the sequence.
Reynolds sums the cast’s feelings about lensing here: “Filming at this pristine stadium creates an interesting juxtaposition for the film. There are moments where you see South Africa as a world nation. In other moments, you see Third World conditions, and you know people are doing their best to survive, day by day. This strange contrast creates a visual richness that we wouldn’t have had if we shot somewhere else.”
Langa Township and Cape Town Outskirts
One of the oldest areas in Cape Town is within the township of Langa, where Tobin Frost meets up with Carlos Villar to secure false documents that will aid in the spy’s escape. Stunt coordinator GREG POWELL sets up the scene: “The sequence begins in Villar’s house. Frost arrives, they exchange conversation and Villar provides him with new documents. Then the house is invaded by a crew of Vargas’ mercenaries. Frost escapes by jumping onto this township roof. We had a lot of the roofs reinforced to support the chase. It’s a big sequence with gunfire, and a good run all the way.”
For the Langa shoot, a two-story cinder block house was built from the ground up in just six weeks. This would serve as the home of Villar and the setting of further pursuit of Frost. With the support and cooperation of the Langa Township elders, Villar’s villa (along with additional structures) were erected abutting actual Langa residences. This allowed for visual continuity and to ensure the structures could withstand the weight of cameras, equipment and stunt men running across the roofs. The sequence took seven days of mostly night filming, along with several days of second-unit work. A great deal of the scene was captured using cameras suspended on a network of cables.
Production benefited not only from the granted permission to film, but also community participation. Locals were hired as background players and played a variety of production roles: as assistants, ADs, security and location consultants, to name a few. In Langa Township, the crew was wholly dependent upon the neighborhood to be able to pull off filming. Safe House’s advance team began outreach to the township a full four months before production arrived, and the elders and many locals were included in each step of the process, from prep to filming, wrap and strike.
Another pivotal sequence for the thriller is set in the second safe house, the place where Weston brings Frost after they escape Cape Town. To emphasize the remote nature of this locale, the design team searched for the exact opposite of an urban setting. Location struck out to find a region that felt as far removed from the city as possible. Production discovered a farmhouse located in Moorreesburg, approximately 90 minutes outside of Cape Town. Ensuring that it was even more removed was the nine-mile drive down an off-the-beaten-path dirt road. When Broch saw the farmhouse, she knew they had found their place.
The production designer concludes: “We found this farmhouse in the middle of these almost-white fields with an overall color that was faded yellow. With the mountain range in the background, it was ideal. Compared to others we had seen, this was in very good shape. They mostly date from the beginning of the 20th century, so a lot of the farmers who preferred something modern had either moved out or let them fall down.” Production added its own touches, including paint and wallpaper, and constructed one hardened area—a surveillance room within a room. Now, the games could begin.
Approach with Caution: Design of the Film
Espinosa was as intent upon his search for terrific behind-the-scenes talent as he was with cast, and he pursued some of the biggest names of the action genre. A longtime Paul Greengrass collaborator, British cinematographer Oliver Wood has given rise to a new style of cinematography. Indeed, he started his career by shooting more than 50 episodes of the groundbreaking series Miami Vice for its creator, Michael Mann.
When Espinosa met with Wood, the two found camaraderie. Espinosa states: “I like Oliver’s hyperrealistic style, and I’m a huge fan of Paul Greengrass and Doug Liman. I thought it was great that he could see how I differed from them. Oliver sees the path that I’m going down, and he wants to go, too. He keeps going, not stopping at the next block, but getting a couple of miles ahead. Working with the crew, we found a synchronicity that is our own.”
Stuber was impressed by his director’s use of color for the shoot. “Daniel is an excellent photographer, and because of that he understands the power of image. He wants his images to be just as good as the actors within the scene, so he creates a full palette. When you’re a crew member and you’re given that direction, you feel the freedom to be creative. We’ve got the best, from our DP, Oliver Wood, and our editor, Richard Pearson, to Brigitte Broch, the production designer, and Susan Matheson, the costume designer. They all brought their A-game.”
Espinosa confesses that he had ulterior motives: “I’m a film nerd, and the people who I worked with are people that I’ve long admired and have been seriously copying. When I did the fight sequences for Snabba Cash, we sat down and studied the Bourne movies that Oliver photographed. We made a complete analysis to understand how we could achieve that cinematography.” He laughs, “It can also be a bit embarrassing. When I showed my film to Brigitte Broch, she could see how, color-wise, I was inspired by her work on 21 Grams.
The Oscar®-winning production designer lives in Mexico, which led to her ongoing collaboration with filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. For Broch, “integration” was an oft used word to describe the process of working on Safe House. She explains: “We discussed the history of whatever set we were creating, and that always led to related discussions on everything from the structure—‘What did it need to support? What action would be taking place?—to blending in with the surroundings. But the history of the places was what really needed to show.”
To establish the expressiveness of the individuals who call Cape Town home, costume designer Matheson (who has collaborated with DP Wood and producer Stuber on several projects) did not shy away from bright colors that can pull focus. The Cape Town native (and current American resident) shares: “I did the exact opposite of what I would normally do—especially in the crowd scenes. When we wanted to create an African feel, I added in more color. Where I would normally desaturate colors, I emphasized the color. Our crowd scenes, especially at the stadium, are very bright and colorful. During the protest and when we were in Langa, I made sure to add in color so that the audience knows we were in Africa.”
Matheson was contacted by Espinosa, who had seen her work on The Town and wanted the same reality for Safe House. She comments: “I wanted to work with Daniel because he has this very poetic, gritty way of showing scenes that you think you have seen a million times before.” The designer views the city through the lens of both native and ex-pat, paying particular attention to what makes the setting unique from any other part of the world. She offers: “People mix patterns and colors that they wouldn’t normally wear together; they also wear quite bright colors. There are very specific patterns to South Africa, as well as specific fabrics. One of them is called shwe shwe, and it’s something that is commonly worn by women in the townships.”
Espinosa’s attention to detail extended well beyond militaristic maneuvers, weaponry, safe house design and agency protocol—all the way down to the smallest turn of phrase and costume accessory. Critical to such mercenary fighters is the ability to blend in, and Matheson balanced that with the desire to create character. She explains: “It’s a combination of not only wanting to create an interesting character, but also what an actor is capable of owning and pulling off as real. With the mercenaries, there’s a certain element that I found very different in South Africa than it would be if you were working in America. Here, people wear a lot of knit caps and sweaters with interesting patterns. I worked to capture some of the reality of the place by including those things.”
Watch Your Back: Stunts, Tactical and Technical Support
For Washington and Reynolds, the early call to set—nearly a month prior to commencement of principal photography—was a gift. In addition to the heavy prep a movie of this scale entails, it provided the performers and their colleagues with the opportunity to discover the eccentricities of their characters.
Beyond motivation, however, many in the cast were called upon to take part in world-class action and breathless stunts. Stuber explains: “There are gun fights, car chases, hand-to-hand fights, knife fights. That takes an army of people spending day after day working hard to make it all happen believably and safely. That’s a real credit to these actors and stunt performers. They worked on their weekends with their knee pads and chest plates to perfect the intense and complicated moves.”
The director praises the one he believes is largely responsible for bringing the complex action sequences to life: stunt coordinator Powell. “Greg is a genius,” says Espinosa. “He comes from a generation of stunt coordinators who have it in their blood, and their imagination is endless. It was fun to watch them create a sense of gravity. We had a car, for example, with a professional stunt driver on top [LEE MILLAM], with the actor inside the car pretending to drive. When I was in the car, it felt like you could hit the wall at any second, but it was quite safe.”
Once Weston and Frost flee the destroyed safe house in a late-model BMW, Weston tries to outmaneuver Vargas and his men through the roads of Cape Town. Before taking to the streets—including a roundabout located in the center of town on Adderley Street—production trained at Killarney Motor Racing Complex. Powell explains: “Matt’s driving with Frost in the trunk, trying to lose Vargas. So we came here for some slipping about, to check out the surface and the speed and to see what we could do on the freeway. We wanted to make it as spectacular and as safe as possible.”
To pull it off, production employed more than 40 drivers from the U.K., Russia, Greece and South Africa. They power the vehicles that surround Weston’s car at 40 – 50 mph, while the scene was shot. Powell was fond of boasting that Reynolds, at times, hit speeds of 65 – 70 mph. As with most of shooting, production found a Wednesday to Saturday/Sunday workweek advantageous. Public areas were less congested on weekends, which went a long way toward making things safer.
Hand-to-Hand Combat and Weapons Work
When Weston’s safe house comes under attack, all hell breaks loose for the young housekeeper. But he knows if he can get Frost to the next location, he can “write his own ticket,” according to his supervisors. Espinosa’s objective in shooting the sequence was to capture the “thinking of a war movie, more than an action movie.” He gives: “At the moment when you get attacked by an extreme firepower, you go from being soldiers to being humans. That’s what I wanted to accomplish in these scenes.”
Fight coordinator OLIVIER SCHNEIDER fit seamlessly into the crew. Schneider’s forte is to design conflict based on character. Typically, he would choreograph the combat, then shoot example sequences for Espinosa. The director observes: “Olivier doesn’t do anything for his own sake, to show you how good he is or how big his imagination is. He creates a fight scene that comes from the story and moves the narrative along. His video sequences are edited and look amazing. I found myself asking, ‘Hell, how am I going to do this any better than he has?’”
Washington was just as impressed as his director. He discusses the training: “I loved working with Olivier and his guys. We trained a lot for weeks and weeks in advance on all of this inside dirty fighting. I had a chance to learn some of that, working on The Book of Eli. So we took it to another level, and I enjoyed that. Olivier and his guys are very good and very dangerous.”
Reynolds reflects upon the type of raw, primal work generated by Schneider: “A scene with great action in it has to be done in a way that’s inventive. I like how Olivier approached the fight scenes; there’s nothing polished about them. There’s no kung fu. Matt is not a trained fighter. These are intense scenes with veins popping out of people’s necks. It’s ugly, and it’s nasty; it’s kill or be killed. It’s much more interesting to watch a guy who’s forced to fight when he doesn’t want to than to see someone who’s very well versed in this kind of activity.”
The film’s tactical advisor, British ex-military and professional stuntman DAN HIRST, worked closely with stunt coordinator Powell to ensure that the tactics and weaponry used were vetted and tactically correct. Hirst attended the highly acclaimed Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where officers are trained from around the world. To stay fresh with updated tactics, he continues to receive training through private military courses and attachments to global training cadres.
Not every character in Safe House is supposed to be an academy-trained professional. Hirst explains: “More formalized CIA operatives such as Weston appear as though they’ve gone through the government-style training—like SWAT, Quantico or an academy—whereas the mercenaries have been recruited from militaries around the world, private security companies or police. A lot of the mercenaries in this story are African, so they’ve come from bush-war Africa and are rough diamonds, less cohesive. Some are South American, so they’ve been fighting in places like Colombia. Vargas is from Europe, so he could have seen action in Serbia, Albania or Kosovo. Now, he’s on the private market and been recruited to do a dirty and ruthless job: kill whomever he’s asked to kill for money and gather intelligence. All these men would have differences in how they handle conflicts and combat.”
Hirst’s goal during boot camp was to provide the performers with the skills specific to their characters. For example, did they need to lay down cover fire during the attack on the safe house? Would they be opening fire within the metropolis or from a rooftop within Langa Township? How would they handle different weapons platforms and efficiencies of use? Familiarity with the geography and topography was stressed, so the cast could assess and determine use of corners for temporary protection or whether structures were solid enough to provide cover from enemy fire during an assault.
The tactical advisor relied upon Falcon to confirm correct procedure when it came to the scenes between the CIA and mercenaries attempting to eliminate Weston and Frost. “It’s a lot of common sense,” he says. “If you’ve been in the military, then it’s using fire maneuver, using cover, avoiding glaring mistakes that I’ve seen on some projects. I asked Luis a lot of questions on the tactics, and we agreed on everything you see. There is, of course, artistic license to tell the story.”
Fares Fares prepared for his role with two months of training at a dojo, fight training eight times a week “just to get used to the pain.” He notes: “Daniel’s directions were ‘Don’t play it; keep it real.’ He wants all the characters to be human. I like that idea, because, as I told Daniel, I don’t want to do Vargas as the villain. He doesn’t kill unless he has to. It’s ‘evil’ in somebody else’s eyes, but not in my character’s eyes.”
Performers found their on-camera actions falling under the watchful eyes of multiple experts. Robert Patrick discusses shooting the fall of the safe house: “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to do this tactically right. The tech advisor’s watching me, along with the stunt coordinator.’ I’m trying to satisfy all of them and pull off what we worked on. Then, Daniel hit me with, ‘I want the audience to feel for you.’ That’s a credit to his thoroughness, the thought that he gives to each character. That kind of detail makes the film that much more enjoyable.”
ABOUT THE CAST:
Two-time Academy Award®-winning actor DENZEL WASHINGTON (Tobin Frost/Executive Producer) is a man constantly on the move. Never comfortable repeating himself or his successes, Washington is always in search of new challenges and his numerous and varied film and stage portrayals bear this out. From Trip, an embittered runaway slave in Glory, to South African freedom fighter Steve Biko in Cry Freedom; from Shakespeare’s tragic historical figure Richard III to the rogue detective, Alonzo Harris, in Training Day, Washington has amazed and entertained us with a rich array of characters distinctly his own.
In 2010, moviegoers were treated to two very different sides of Washington when he starred in Tony Scott’s fast-paced thriller Unstoppable, and in the Hughes brothers’ dystopian vision, The Book of Eli, which Washington also produced. The Book of Eli grossed more than $38 million in its opening weekend.
In 2009, Washington was directed by Tony Scott in the respected remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, also starring John Travolta.
In late December 2007, Washington directed and co-starred with Academy Award®-winning actor Forest Whitaker in The Great Debaters, a drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson—a professor at Wiley College in Texas who in 1935, inspired students from the school’s debate team to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
In November 2007, Washington starred alongside Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. The film grossed $43.6 million in its first weekend and earned Washington his largest opening weekend to date.
In March 2006, Washington starred in Spike Lee’s Inside Man. The film, co-starring Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, took in $29 million in its opening weekend, and marked Washington’s second-biggest opening to date.
As 2006 came to an end, Washington reteamed with director Tony Scott and thrilled audiences in Touchstone Pictures’ Déjà Vu. In this flashback romantic thriller, Washington plays an ATF agent who travels back in time to save a woman from being murdered and falls in love with her during the process.
In 2004, Washington collaborated with director Tony Scott on Man on Fire, in which Washington plays an ex-marine who has been hired to protect a young girl, played by Dakota Fanning, from kidnappers. That same year, Washington was also seen in The Manchurian Candidate, a modern-day remake of the 1962 classic film for Paramount Pictures, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber. In the film, Washington stars in the part that Frank Sinatra made famous.
Washington was honored with the Academy Award® for his acclaimed performance in Training Day, directed by Antoine Fuqua. The film was only one of two in 2001 that spent two weeks at the No. 1 spot at the box office.
In 2003, Washington was seen in Out of Time, directed by Carl Franklin and co-starring Eva Mendes and Sanaa Lathan, in the murder-mystery thriller for MGM.
December 2002 marked Washington’s feature-film directorial debut with Antwone Fisher. The film, based on a true-life story and inspired by the best-selling autobiography “Finding Fish,” follows Fisher, a troubled young sailor played by newcomer Derek Luke, as he comes to terms with his past. The film won critical praise, was awarded the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America, and won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for Washington. Also in 2002, Washington was seen in John Q, a story about a down-on-his-luck father whose son is in need of a heart transplant. The film established an opening-day record for Presidents’ Day weekend, grossing $24.1 million. The film garnered Washington an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.
In September 2000, he starred in Jerry Bruckheimer’s box-office sensation Remember the Titans, which took in $115 million at the domestic box office. Earlier that year, he starred in Universal Pictures’ The Hurricane, reteaming with director Norman Jewison. Washington received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Drama and his fourth Academy Award® nomination for his performance.
In November 1999, he starred in Universal’s The Bone Collector, the adaptation of Jeffery Deaver’s novel about the search for a serial killer, co-starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Phillip Noyce.
In 1998, he starred in Warner Bros.’ crime thriller Fallen, for director Gregory Hoblit, and in Touchstone’s He Got Game, directed by Spike Lee. He also reteamed with director Edward Zwick on the 20th Century Fox terrorist thriller The Siege, co-starring Annette Bening and Bruce Willis.
In summer 1996, Washington starred in the critically acclaimed military drama Courage Under Fire, for his Glory director Edward Zwick. Later that year, Washington starred opposite Whitney Houston in Penny Marshall’s romantic comedy The Preacher’s Wife.
In 1995, Washington starred opposite Gene Hackman as Navy Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter in Tony Scott’s underwater action adventure Crimson Tide; as an ex-cop released from prison to track down a computer-generated criminal in the futuristic thriller Virtuosity; and as World War II veteran “Easy” Rawlins in the 1940s romantic thriller Devil in a Blue Dress (which Washington’s Mundy Lane Entertainment produced with Jonathan Demme’s Clinica Estetico). Another critically acclaimed performance was his portrayal of Malcolm X in director Spike Lee’s biographical epic, Malcolm X. For his portrayal, Washington received a number of accolades, including an Academy Award® nomination for Best Actor.
In addition to his accomplishments on screen, Washington took on a very different type of role in 2000. He produced the HBO documentary Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks, which was nominated for two Emmys. He also served as executive producer on Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, a biographical documentary for TBS, which was nominated for an Emmy Award. Additionally, Washington’s narration of the legend of John Henry was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children, and he was awarded a 1996 NAACP Image Award for his performance in the animated children’s special Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child.
A native of Mt. Vernon, New York, Washington had his career sights set on medicine when he attended Fordham University. During a stint as a summer camp counselor he appeared in one of their theater productions. Washington was bitten by the acting bug and returned to Fordham that year seeking the tutelage of Robinson Stone, one of the school’s leading professors. Upon graduation from Fordham, Washington was accepted into San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theater. Following an intensive year of study in its theater program, he returned to New York after a brief stop in Los Angeles.
Washington’s professional New York theater career began with Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park and was quickly followed by numerous off-Broadway productions, including Ceremonies in Dark Old Men; When the Chickens Came Home to Roost, in which he portrayed Malcolm X; One Tiger to a Hill; Man and Superman; Othello; and A Soldier’s Play, for which he won an Obie Award.
In 2010, Washington starred as Troy Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences, at the Cort Theatre. The record-breaking run received the most Tony Award nominations ever for a revival of a play, and Washington won his first Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. Washington’s other recent stage appearances include the Broadway production of Checkmates and Richard III, which was produced as part of the 1990 free Shakespeare in the Park series hosted by Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York City.
Washington was discovered by Hollywood when he was cast in 1979 in the television film Flesh & Blood. But it was Washington’s award-winning performance on stage in A Soldier’s Play that captured the attention of the producers of the NBC television series St. Elsewhere, and he was soon cast in that long-running hit series as Dr. Philip Chandler. His other television credits include The George McKenna Story, License to Kill and Wilma.
In 1982, Washington recreated his role from A Soldier’s Play for Norman Jewison’s film version. Retitled A Soldier’s Story, Washington’s portrayal of Private Peterson was critically well received. Washington went on to star in Sidney Lumet’s Power, Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom, for which he received his first Oscar® nomination; For Queen & Country; The Mighty Quinn; Heart Condition; Glory, for which he won the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor; and Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues. Washington also starred in the action-adventure film Ricochet and in Mira Nair’s bittersweet comedy Mississippi Masala.
His additional film credits include Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing; Jonathan Demme’s controversial Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks; and The Pelican Brief, based on the John Grisham novel.
Up next for Washington is the dramatic thriller Flight, for director Robert Zemeckis.
RYAN REYNOLDS (Matt Weston) has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men, with two very distinctive recent hit projects that surpassed the $300 million mark at the global box office: the romantic comedy The Proposal, opposite Sandra Bullock (in which he played a guy forced to marry his boss to curtail her deportation), and the fantasy-adventure X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in the role of Deadpool.
In 2011, Reynolds was seen starring in the Universal Pictures comedy The Change-Up and in the title role of DC Comics’ Green Lantern. He also recently starred in the mystery thriller Buried, a 2010 Sundance favorite in which his character, Paul Conroy, a contractor working in Iraq, wakes up in a coffin, buried alive after an attack by a group of dissidents. In the cinematically challenging film, Reynolds is the only actor to appear on camera for the duration of the 95-minute run time.
Reynolds recently wrapped production on Universal Pictures’ R.I.P.D., which he is starring in and producing.
Reynolds starred in two other Sundance entries: Greg Mottola’s Adventureland, the amusement park-set comedy with Kristen Stewart, which premiered at the 2009 festival and was also nominated for Best Ensemble Cast at the 2009 Gotham Awards, and The Nines, in the triple role of a troubled actor, a television showrunner and an acclaimed video-game designer whose lives are intertwined in unsettling ways.
His other recent films include the comedy Paper Man, in which he starred as an imaginary superhero friend of a struggling novelist; Definitely, Maybe, in which he played a political consultant and parent to Abigail Breslin, with a questionable past; the complex drama Chaos Theory, in which he played a man experiencing a crisis after he finds out he is sterile and his child is not his own; Joe Carnahan’s crime thriller Smokin’ Aces, in which he starred as a morally centered FBI agent out to prevent a gangland hit; and a remake of the classic cult horror film The Amityville Horror.
Reynolds hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, where he harbored an affection for acting at a young age. After establishing himself on television in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, and in a variety of guest spots and telefilms such as In Cold Blood, he caught moviegoers’ attention with his lead role in Walt Becker’s irreverent 2002 comedy National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, which led to larger roles in such films as Blade: Trinity and the romantic comedy Just Friends.
Reynolds recently entered the production side of things, partnering with Allan Loeb in the production company DarkFire. They have two pilot deals in place: a comedy series titled Guidance and an animated series titled And Then There Was Gordon, both slated for FOX.
In addition to landing numerous leading roles, Reynolds also serves on the board of directors for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. In November 2007, Reynolds ran the New York City Marathon in honor of his father, who has long suffered from the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Reynolds’ marathon run raised more than $100,000 for Fox’s foundation.
An Oscar®-nominated and award-winning actress, VERA FARMIGA (CIA Branch Chief Catherine Linklater) continues to captivate audiences with her ability to embody each of her diverse and engaging roles.
Farmiga was most recently seen in three films: Sony Pictures Classics’ Higher Ground, a feature film which she also directed and which was in competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival; Duncan Jones’ Source Code, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan; and Malcolm Venville’s Henry’s Crime, opposite Keanu Reeves and James Caan. Farmiga also garnered a nomination at the 2011 Gotham Awards for Breakthrough Director. She recently wrapped production on Christopher Neil’s Goats, co-starring David Duchovny.
Farmiga received critical praise and nominations, including Academy Award®, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe award nominations, for her role in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, opposite George Clooney.
Her recent film credits include the dark thriller Orphan, opposite Peter Sarsgaard; Niki Caro’s The Vintner’s Luck; Carlos Brooks’ Quid Pro Quo; Miramax’s Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; and Rod Lurie’s political drama Nothing But the Truth, for which she earned a nomination for a Broadcast Film Critics Association award for Best Supporting Actress. For her performance in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, she was awarded the Best Actress Award from the British Independent Film Awards.
Farmiga won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Actress for her performance in the independent film Down to the Bone, a revelatory drama about a weary working-class mother trapped by drug addiction. She also won Best Actress awards from the Sundance Film Festival and the Marrakech International Film Festival, and earned a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for the role.
Her additional film credits include Martin Scorsese’s Oscar®-winning police drama, The Departed, opposite Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson; Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering, opposite Jude Law; Jonathan Demme’s The Manchurian Candidate, opposite Denzel Washington; Joshua, opposite Sam Rockwell; and Never Forever, opposite Jung-woo Ha and David Lee McInnis.
BRENDAN GLEESON (David Barlow) is currently receiving raves and accolades, including a British Independent Film Award nomination, for John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, in which he stars opposite Don Cheadle. He also received Golden Globe, BAFTA and British Independent Film Award nominations for his performance in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, in which he starred opposite Colin Farrell. Gleeson won an Emmy and received a Golden Globe award nomination for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the 2009 HBO movie Into the Storm.
Gleeson’s upcoming projects include Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep, with Shia LaBeouf and Julie Christie; The Raven, a film about the fictionalized account of the final days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life; and Aardman Animations’ The Pirates! Band of Misfits. He can currently be seen in the period drama Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close.
Gleeson is perhaps most recognized now as the brilliant and eccentric Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, the role he first played in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and reprised in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and in the penultimate movie of the blockbuster series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Gleeson made his feature film debut in Jim Sheridan’s The Field, followed by small roles in such films as Mike Newell’s Into the West and Ron Howard’s Far and Away.
He first gained attention for his performance in Mel Gibson’s Oscar®-winning film Braveheart, and he went on to appear in Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins and The Butcher Boy, and starred in the independent film Angela Mooney, executive produced by John Boorman.
In 1998, Boorman directed Gleeson in the role of real-life Irish folk hero Martin Cahill in the biopic The General. For his performance, Gleeson won several acting honors, including the London Film Critics’ Circle Award for British Actor of the Year. He has since collaborated with John Boorman on the films The Tailor of Panama, In My Country and The Tiger’s Tail.
Gleeson’s additional film credits include John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II; Harrison’s Flowers; Wild About Harry; Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence; Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…; Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York; Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain; Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy; M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village; Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven; Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto; Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf; Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone; and Perrier’s Bounty.
Born in Ireland, Gleeson started out as a teacher but left the profession to pursue an acting career, and joined the Irish theater company Passion Machine. His stage credits include productions of King of the Castle, The Plough and the Stars, Prayers of Sherkin, The Cherry Orchard, Juno and the Paycock and On Such As We.
SAM SHEPARD (Harlan Whitford) is an actor, screenwriter, director and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of the 1979 three-act play Buried Child. Shepard’s numerous other plays include Angel City, Curse of the Starving Class, Killer’s Head: A Monologue by Sam Shepard, Mad Dog Blues, Cowboy Mouth, The Rock Garden, True West, The God of Hell and Fool for Love.
In 1970, Shepard co-wrote Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point and later won critical acclaim for his original screenplay for Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas.
As an actor, Shepard made his film debut in Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara and went on to impress critics that same year in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, starring alongside Richard Gere. A number of strong appearances followed, including Resurrection; Raggedy Man; Frances, opposite Jessica Lange; and most notably, Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff, for which he received an Academy Award® nomination. Shepard then reteamed with Lange in Country and Crimes of the Heart, and played the lead in his play Fool for Love, adapted by Robert Altman.
Shepard’s other notable film credits include Baby Boom, Steel Magnolias, Defenseless, Thunderheart, Bright Angel, Voyager, The Pelican Brief, Snow Falling on Cedars, Hamlet, All the Pretty Horses, The Pledge, Swordfish, Black Hawk Down, The Notebook, Stealth, Bandidas, Don’t Come Knocking, The Return and Walker Payne.
His notable television film and miniseries credits include Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Lily Dale, Purgatory, Dash and Lilly (for which he received Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations for his performance as writer Dashiell Hammett), One Kill, Wild Geese and Ruffian.
Shepard also wrote and directed the features Far North and Silent Tongue.
Recently, he was seen in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, opposite Brad Pitt; The Accidental Husband, directed by Griffin Dunne; Felon, opposite Val Kilmer; Inhale, with Dermot Mulroney and Diane Kruger; Jim Sheridan’s Brothers, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman; Doug Liman’s Fair Game, opposite Naomi Watts and Sean Penn; and Blackthorn, written and directed by Mateo Gil and starring Eduardo Noriega and Stephen Rea. Shepard’s upcoming projects include the crime thriller Cogan’s Trade; the Lawrence Kasdan-directed Darling Companion; the period drama Savannah; and Mud, written and directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.
Panamanian-born performer RUBÉN BLADES (Carlos Villar) has had a thriving career in music, movies, television and even politics, having received numerous Grammy Awards for his music and Emmy nominations for his work as an actor.
Safe House marks his return to the entertainment business after working for the Panamanian government. Blades also stars, opposite Andy Garcia and Catalina Sandino Moreno, in the upcoming historical drama Cristiada.
Blades began his movie career in the early 1980s with The Last Fight, for which he wrote the title song. He also wrote the score for the film When the Mountains Tremble. His first major success was the independent film Crossover Dreams, which he also co-wrote, and he was the subject of the documentary The Return of Rubén Blades.
The other movies Blades filmed in the ’80s include Critical Condition, Fatal Beauty, The Lemon Sisters and The Milagro Beanfield War. In the ’90s, he appeared in Mo’ Better Blues, The Two Jakes, The Devil’s Own, Color of Night, Chinese Box, The Super, Predator 2 and Cradle Will Rock.
Blades’ other film credits include Once Upon a Time in Mexico; Salma Hayek’s directorial debut, The Maldonado Miracle, for which Blades received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in a Children/Youth/Family Special; Imagining Argentina; Secuestro express; Spin; All the Pretty Horses; Empire; and Assassination Tango.
His television credits include starring in HBO’s Dead Man Out, One Man’s War and The Josephine Baker Story, for which he earned an Emmy nomination. Blades received a second Emmy nod for Crazy From the Heart. His other television credits include the telefilm Miracle on Interstate 880, and the series Gideon’s Crossing in a lead role, opposite Andre Braugher.
Blades recently returned from a sold-out European tour playing to capacity crowds in Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. He also played additional dates in Peru, Panama, Columbia and Puerto Rico, and performed at the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival (where Stevie Wonder and Sting also played), the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The multifaceted performer is also editing his first book of poetry.
Blades won a CableACE award as Best Actor for his portrayal of a death row inmate, opposite Danny Glover, in HBO’s Dead Man Out and starred on Broadway in Paul Simon’s controversial musical The Capeman.
Born in Paris, NORA ARNEZEDER (Ana) was only two years old when her parents settled in Aix-en-Provence. Twelve years later, they left to spend a year in Bali. Even as a very young child, she attended comedy classes and rehearsed with her sister. When her father introduced her to jazz, Arnezeder discovered that she loved to sing. Her musical references range from Stacey Kent and Quincy Jones to Katie Melua, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.
Once she moved back to Paris, Arnezeder studied at L’Académie Internationale de Danse, de Chant et de Theatre, and followed that with several training sessions with Jacques Walzer at the Studio Pygmalion, Cours Florent.
Arnezeder appeared with Benoît Poelvoorde in Daniel Cohen’s feature film Les deux mondes, and then auditioned for Paris 36 at the Elysée Montmartre theater. Arnezeder was asked to sing and perform a comedic scene for the audition, and won the part of Douce, a character that is the voice of the musical portrait of a euphoric period (1930s Paris). The film was directed by Christophe Barratier and received an Oscar® nomination for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Loin de Paname”). For her work on the film, Arnezeder won the 2009 Lumiere Award for Most Promising Young Actress (Meilleur espoir féminin) and the 2009 Étoile d’Or Award for Best Female Newcomer (La révélation féminine).
Arnezeder was recently seen on the big screen in France in Pascale Pouzadoux’s La croisière. Her television credits include a series regular role as Varvara Valadine on Xanadu and a guest-starring role on Commissaire Valence. She is also the face of Guerlain’s fragrance Idylle and Dior’s New Lock handbags.
Her upcoming film, The Words, is slated to be the closing night film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
A steely-eyed veteran to his craft, ROBERT PATRICK (Kiefer) commands the screen with his powerful, confident presence.
Patrick will be seen in Billy Bob Thornton’s upcoming film Jayne Mansfield’s Car, opposite Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon, and he recently wrapped production on Warner Bros.’ Gangster Squad, opposite Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling. Patrick will soon begin production on Lovelace, in which he plays Amanda Seyfried’s father and Sharon Stone’s husband.
Patrick’s past film credits include Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood’s Golden Globe-nominated WWII epic tale of the battle for Iwo Jima. He was also seen alongside an all-star cast, including Matthew McConaughey, in Warner Bros.’ We Are Marshall. Patrick also starred in the 20th Century Fox film The Marine; with Harrison Ford in Warner Bros.’ Firewall; and opposite Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash’s father in 20th Century Fox’s Golden Globe-winning film Walk the Line, for director James Mangold. He recently starred in The Men Who Stare at Goats, with George Clooney; The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, which he executive produced; Caged Animal; Five Minarets in New York; Good Day for It; and the upcoming Mr. Sophistication.
His recent television work includes roles in HBO’s acclaimed Big Love; USA’s Burn Notice and Psych; NBC’s Chuck; CBS’ NCIS; and the CBS action-drama The Unit, produced by David Mamet, starring as Colonel Tom Ryan.
Audiences will remember Patrick as John Doggett on the last two seasons of FOX Television’s cult classic The X-Files. He is best known for his performance as the T-1000 in the box-office smash hit Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Patrick received critical acclaim for his high-profile performances in the second season of HBO’s The Sopranos. Other movies he has appeared in include Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; Spy Kids, opposite Antonio Banderas; Billy Bob Thornton’s All the Pretty Horses, with Matt Damon; The Faculty; From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money; Cop Land, alongside Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro; D-Tox, also with Stallone; A Texas Funeral; and the independent film The Only Thrill, opposite Diane Keaton, Diane Lane and Sam Shepard. He also turned in chilling appearances in Rosewood (done as a personal favor to director John Singleton); Striptease, with Demi Moore; Fire in the Sky; Double Dragon; Decoy; Last Gasp; and Hong Kong 97. Patrick was featured in episodes of Showtime’s The Outer Limits, the TNT original movie Bad Apple, and the CBS miniseries Elvis, in which he plays Elvis’ father. Patrick was notably seen starring as a heroic firefighter, alongside John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix, in Touchstone Pictures’ Ladder 49.
Patrick spends countless hours giving back to his community. He has been the honorary grand marshal for the Love Ride for the past 15 years, helping to raise millions of dollars in the fight against autism; has built homes for disabled veterans with Habitat for Humanity; has participated in the Read Across America program by reading to children; and has ridden across the country to participate in Rolling Thunder, which makes sure that the U.S. administration does not forget the POWs and MIAs from past wars. Patrick also took two trips to the Middle East with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, to support the troops. He is also a member of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club, which supports numerous charitable events.
Born in Marietta, Georgia, Patrick grew up as an avid athlete but was taken with acting after sitting in on some drama classes in high school. He moved to Hollywood in 1984 and was cast in the beatnik play Go. He got his break during this performance when he was discovered by director Roger Corman. Ever involved in all aspects of his trade, he enjoys producing films when he is not performing. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Barbara, and their two children.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Born in Sweden in 1977, DANIEL ESPINOSA (Directed by) graduated from the director’s program at the National Film School of Denmark in 2003, with his acclaimed and award-winning student final film, the dramatic short The Fighter. His debut feature film was 2004’s Babylonsjukan (The Babylon Disease), which follows the story of a woman who must move in with a friend and his large group of slacker friends.
Espinosa’s second feature was the Danish film Outside Love (2007), which was critically acclaimed and won numerous international awards. The film is a drama that tells the story of Shmuli, a single father who dreams of moving to the U.S., and his troubled love affair with a young Pakistani woman.
In 2010, Espinosa directed his third feature film, Snabba Cash (Easy Money). It was the biggest film in Sweden that year and was also the first film in the world to knock Avatar out of the top spot at the Swedish box office. The film was acquired by The Weinstein Co. for U.S. distribution.
DAVID GUGGENHEIM (Written by) is a New York City-based screenwriter. He was working as an editor for Us Weekly magazine when Universal Pictures won a bidding war for his spec screenplay Safe House. The film was fast tracked into production. Needless to say, he was able to quit his job at Us Weekly and has become one of the most in-demand working screenwriters in Hollywood.
Guggenheim next sold his pitch Puzzle Palace to Summit Entertainment. The film will be produced by Temple Hill Entertainment (The Twilight Saga) and directed by McG. Guggenheim also recently wrote Santiago for 20th Century Fox, based on his pitch that the studio bought last year, with Simon Kinberg attached to produce the film. He wrote Millennium Films’ Stolen, which is in postproduction and scheduled to be released in 2012. The film is directed by Simon West and stars Nicolas Cage. Universal Pictures acquired Guggenheim’s script 364, which will be produced by Imagine Entertainment and directed by Ron Howard. Most recently, Guggenheim sold his spec screenplay Narco Sub to 20th Century Fox, which will be directed by Tony Scott and produced by Simon Kinberg’s Genre Films and Scott Free Productions.
Guggenheim is represented by agent David Boxerbaum and managed by Madhouse Entertainment’s Adam Kolbrenner.
SCOTT STUBER (Produced by) is the founder and CEO of Stuber Pictures, which has been based at Universal Pictures since 2006.
Recent Stuber Pictures releases include Love and Other Drugs, directed by Edward Zwick and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, and Couples Retreat, featuring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman.
Stuber is currently in postproduction on the live-action feature Battleship—based on Hasbro’s naval-combat board game—directed by Peter Berg and headlined by Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker; the comedy Ted, written and directed by Seth MacFarlane and starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and the voice of MacFarlane; and the 3D fantasy-adventure 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves.
This fall marked Stuber Pictures’ first foray into television with the series debut of the comedy Whitney, created by and starring comedian Whitney Cummings, which airs on Thursday nights on NBC.
Stuber’s first production under the Stuber/Parent banner was summer 2006’s romantic comedy The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. That summer also saw the release of the hit You, Me and Dupree, starring Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson. Those films were followed by Peter Berg’s critically acclaimed film The Kingdom; the Martin Lawrence comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins; and the David Wain hit Role Models, starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott.
During Stuber’s eight years at Universal—five of which he spent running Worldwide Production with Mary Parent—he was responsible for many of the studio’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including King Kong, Jarhead, A Beautiful Mind, Seabiscuit, Cinderella Man, Munich, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, About a Boy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 8 Mile, Spy Game, The Family Man, The Nutty Professor, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, The Mummy franchise, the American Pie franchise, The Fast and the Furious franchise, Friday Night Lights, Bring It On and many others. More than 20 of the films Stuber supervised have grossed more than $100 million domestically.
SCOTT AVERSANO (Executive Producer) is an independent producer who recently produced Paramount Pictures’ The Last Airbender, for M. Night Shyamalan, and Killers, starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, for Lionsgate. He also served as executive producer on Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, for Paramount Pictures International and Nickelodeon Movies.
Formerly president of MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies, Aversano was responsible for overseeing the label’s annual slate of films, the acquisition of literary properties, and the development and production of motion pictures. Before that, he spent seven years working with independent producer Scott Rudin, most recently as president of production. While with Rudin, Aversano produced a variety of films including Failure to Launch (producer), Team America: World Police (executive producer), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (co-producer), The Manchurian Candidate (executive producer), The School of Rock (executive producer), Changing Lanes (co-producer) and Orange County (producer).
Prior to joining Scott Rudin Productions, Aversano was director of development at Paramount Pictures from 1997 to 1999, where he served as an executive on 12 films, including Wonder Boys; South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; Bringing Out the Dead; and Runaway Bride.
In 1996, Aversano started his career in the entertainment industry at Sid Ganis’ Out of the Blue Entertainment. He graduated from Brown University and has an MA in English literature from the University of Michigan.
ADAM MERIMS (Executive Producer) recently executive produced The Lucky Ones, starring Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Peña; The Hunting Party (Richard Shepard’s follow-up to The Matador), starring Richard Gere, Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg; and Breach, starring Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney.
Merims also executive produced Casanova, directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Oliver Platt and Jeremy Irons. Prior to that, he executive produced writer/director Richard Shepard’s The Matador, starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis, and House of D, writer/director/actor David Duchovny’s first feature, starring Robin Williams, Téa Leoni, Erykah Badu and Anton Yelchin.
Merims produced writer/director Billy Ray’s critically acclaimed first feature, Shattered Glass, starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson and Hank Azaria. As producer, his other credits include Ed Solomon’s Levity, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst, which opened the 2003 Sundance Film Festival; Love Stinks, written and directed by Jeff Franklin and starring French Stewart, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Tyra Banks and Bill Bellamy; and Cold Around the Heart, written and directed by John Ridley and executive produced by Oliver Stone. He was co-producer of Universal Soldier: The Return and the HBO premiere project Freeway.
From August 1993 to November 1994, Merims was producer and head of west-coast operations for Nickelodeon Movies. At Nickelodeon, he was responsible for managing the start-up of a Nickelodeon features office in Los Angeles, and for identifying and developing projects suitable for motion picture production in the family- entertainment arena in conjunction with 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures.
Before Nickelodeon, Merims worked as vice president of production at Lobell/Bergman Productions from April 1990 through July 1993. While there, he was responsible for all development at the company. During his tenure at Lobell/Bergman, he served as associate producer on Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon in Vegas, Undercover Blues and Andrew Scheinman’s Little Big League.
From 1984 to 1989, Merims worked as a freelance producer, production manager and assistant director. In these capacities, he was involved with a number of projects, most notably, the original miniseries of Lonesome Dove. He has been a member of the Directors Guild of America since 1986.
Merims graduated from Williams College with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and in economics. He was also a graduate of the Collegiate School in New York City.
ALEXA FAIGEN (Executive Producer) recently served as an associate producer on Stuber Pictures’ Love Happens, starring Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart, and the comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, starring Martin Lawrence. Currently a senior vice president at Stuber Pictures, Faigen also worked on the company’s films Couples Retreat, Love and Other Drugs and Role Models.
Previously an executive at Graham King’s Initial Entertainment Group (The Departed and The Aviator), Faigen oversaw development for IEG and its term deals with Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and Johnny Depp’s production company, Infinitum Nihil.
Faigen began her career in New York City as executive assistant to director Martin Scorsese and then as an assistant to producer Scott Rudin.
A graduate of Amherst College, Faigen currently lives in Los Angeles.
TREVOR MACY (Executive Producer) is co-CEO of Intrepid Pictures, which he founded with Marc D. Evans in 2004. In 2004, Intrepid was one of the first independent multipicture companies to raise and deploy Wall Street capital. To date, Intrepid has produced and co-financed 10 pictures distributed worldwide by major and mid-major studios such as Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Relativity Media and numerous international distributors. Intrepid’s mandate is to produce and finance three to four commercial features per year in the action, thriller, horror and comedy genres. Intrepid co-produced the $82-million worldwide box-office hit The Strangers and produced and co-financed the upcoming 2012 Summit Entertainment action film The Cold Light of Day, starring Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver and Henry Cavill, and the thriller The Raven, starring John Cusack and Luke Evans, which is slated to be released by Relativity Media in 2012. Intrepid also recently completed principal photography on the high-school thriller Crush, directed by Malik Bader and starring Lucas Till, Crystal Reed and Sarah Bolger.
Prior to Intrepid, Macy was an independent producer from September 2001 to February 2004. In that capacity, he developed, packaged and produced Paul Schrader’s Auto Focus, starring Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe, for Sony Pictures Classics. He subsequently secured a first-look producing deal with Catch 23 Entertainment, in addition to consulting for several independent motion-picture production and co-financing companies.
From 1999 to August 2001, Macy was chief operating officer at Propaganda Films and was responsible for overseeing all of Propaganda’s creative development, packaging, deal making and production of feature films, as well as the recruitment and retention of its roster of directing talent. Some of the films for which Macy was responsible include Bark!, starring Lisa Kudrow, Hank Azaria and Vincent D’Onofrio, which was selected for competition at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and The Badge, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Patricia Arquette. Reporting directly to Propaganda’s board of directors, Macy was also responsible for the acquisition of Propaganda Films from Universal Pictures and for the talent recruitment and retention of more than 70 directors, including Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). In addition, Macy was responsible for the creative and financial oversight of Propaganda’s commercial and music-video production endeavors—in excess of $400 million in physical production for more than 300 clients, including Coca-Cola, XM Satellite Radio, Macy Gray and *NSYNC.
Prior to Propaganda Films, Macy served as vice president of the Sundance Group, the parent entity for all Robert Redford-controlled commercial enterprises. In addition to being steeped in the Sundance Film Festival and the world of independent film, Macy was responsible for the strategic planning of and raising capital for launching and overseeing businesses, including the Sundance Channel, Sundance Cinemas and Sundance Catalog.
Previously, as director of deal analysis and development finance at Turner Pictures, Macy was responsible for the negotiation of talent contracts, co-financing arrangements for films, output deals, off-balance-sheet film financing and acquisitions, as well as planning and analysis for development, production and distribution of both theatrical and television films. Prior to joining Turner Pictures Group, Macy was senior business planner for The Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, where he was responsible for evaluating and managing production, distribution, development, acquisition and co-financing deals for film projects; strategic planning for filmed entertainment; growing The Walt Disney Studios distribution platform; and management of on-lot talent deals.
Macy received a BA with honors in political science and in quantitative economics from Stanford University, with course work completed at the University of Cambridge in England. He resides in Santa Monica, California, with his wife, Paige, and daughter, Lucia.
MARC D. EVANS (Executive Producer) is co-CEO of Intrepid Pictures, which he founded with Trevor Macy in 2004. In 2004, Intrepid was one of the first independent multipicture companies to raise and deploy Wall Street capital. To date, Intrepid has produced and co-financed 10 pictures distributed worldwide by major and mid-major studios such as Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Relativity Media and numerous international distributors. Intrepid’s mandate is to produce and finance three to four commercial features per year in the action, thriller, horror and comedy genres. Intrepid co-produced the $82-million worldwide box-office hit The Strangers and produced and co-financed the upcoming 2012 Summit Entertainment action film The Cold Light of Day, starring Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver and Henry Cavill, and the thriller The Raven, starring John Cusack and Luke Evans, which is slated to be released by Relativity Media in 2012. Intrepid also recently completed principal photography on the high-school thriller Crush, directed by Malik Bader and starring Lucas Till, Crystal Reed and Sarah Bolger.
Prior to Intrepid, Evans served as chief financial officer for Revolution Studios from 2000 to 2004. As one of Revolution Studios’ first employees, Evans was instrumental in the launch and growth of the company. As CFO, Evans was responsible for general corporate finance and strategic planning, production, distribution, treasury, business development, video game/interactive rights, merchandising and operations.
During his tenure at Revolution Studios, Evans created the financial and production infrastructure to effectively handle the company’s growth from five pictures and $100 million in revenues in 2000, to 10 pictures and more than $650 million in revenues in 2003. He also successfully secured $250 million of equity financing and completed four separate financing transactions over a three-year period, including a $200-million receivables-backed facility and a $450-million revolver with JPMorgan Chase Bank. Evans also coordinated Revolution’s worldwide distribution relationships, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Starz/Encore, FOX Television, BVI, UIP, Svensk, Lusomundo and others. He also directed the green-lighting process for each film, talent profit-participation negotiations, film acquisitions and co-financing arrangements.
In his production-related responsibilities at Revolution, Evans supervised the budgeting, financing, production and delivery of more than 30 movies. He was also responsible for setting up several foreign productions (Morocco, Czech Republic, U.K. and Australia) to take advantage of tax and sale/leaseback structures, national and provincial production tax credits and F/X hedging benefits.
Prior to joining Revolution Studios, Evans spent four years at Turner Pictures and the Turner Network Television Originals Group, where he served as vice president of finance and strategic planning. In that role, he was responsible for managing the company’s finances and operations. Additionally, he supervised the deal making, budgeting, financing, production and distribution of eight to12 made-for-television films per year. He was also instrumental in developing and managing the one-hour drama-series strategy for the network.
Prior to Turner, Evans served two years as senior business planner with The Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, where he specialized in evaluating and managing production, distribution, development, acquisition and co-financing deals for film projects, in addition to strategic planning for both The Walt Disney Studios and Miramax.
Before entering Hollywood, Evans spent two years as an environmental consultant in Washington, D.C., before working as a video-game developer for Bethesda Softworks.
Evans holds a BA in political science from Stanford University. He currently resides in Santa Monica, California, with his wife, Jessica, and their two children, Allison and Fletcher.
OLIVER WOOD (Director of Photography) recently filmed Adam McKay’s cop comedy The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Prior to that, he served as director of photography on director Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates. Wood’s other collaborations with McKay include Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Born in England, Wood began his motion picture career as a camera assistant on British television series, commercials, documentaries and feature films. After moving up to cinematographer on a small 1967 English satire, Popdown, he relocated to the U.S. and entered the American film industry with the 1970 cult classic The Honeymoon Killers, and made a variety of small features such as Alphabet City, Don’t Go in the House and The White Slave.
In addition to his early feature film credits, Wood’s camera work as director of photography, for three seasons, on Michael Mann’s innovative NBC television series Miami Vice helped define the groundbreaking show’s acclaimed visual style.
Over the past two decades, Wood has compiled more than 30 motion picture credits, most recently earning a BAFTA nomination for his camera work on The Bourne Ultimatum. Wood also directed the photography on The Bourne Identity, for director Doug Liman, and The Bourne Supremacy, his first collaboration with filmmaker Paul Greengrass.
Wood worked with director Renny Harlin on two projects (Die Hard 2: Die Harder and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) and also counts among his big-screen credits such films as Rudy, 2 Days in the Valley, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Mr. Holland’s Opus, U-571, Face/Off, Switchback, Mighty Joe Young, I Spy, National Security, Fantastic Four and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
BRIGITTE BROCH (Production Designer) recently worked with director Antonio Serrano as a production designer on Hidalgo—La historia jamás contada; with director Alejandro González Iñárritu on Biutiful, which received two Oscar® nominations and for which Broch received a Goya Award nomination for Best Production Design; and with Diego Luna on Abel, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Broch’s prior work as a production designer includes Iñárritu’s Babel and 21 Grams, as well as The Reader, Vantage Point, She Hate Me, La hija del Puma and Real Women Have Curves.
Broch has been nominated for multiple prestigious awards including an Art Directors Guild Award for her work on Babel. She was honored with an Academy Award® for Best Art Direction—Set Decoration as the set decorator of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! and received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Art Direction—Set Decoration as the set decorator of Romeo + Juliet.
Broch has received nominations for the Silver Ariel Award for Best Art Direction for the films El jardín del Edén, La otra conquista, Amores Perros and Sexo, Pudor y Lágrimas. She also acted as the production designer on the film Entre Pancho Villa y una mujer desnuda and numerous television commercials.
Broch is originally from Germany but now resides in Mexico City.
RICHARD PEARSON, ACE (Edited by) recently edited the hit sequel Iron Man 2 and Marc Forster’s James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, starring Daniel Craig.
Prior to that, he served as editor on the Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory and shared editing duties with Clare Douglas and Christopher Rouse on writer/director Paul Greengrass’ acclaimed historic drama United 93. His work on the latter film garnered him an Academy Award® nomination for Best Achievement in Film Editing and an American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddie Award nomination for Best Edited Feature Film—Dramatic, and won a BAFTA for Best Editing.
Pearson previously edited the motion picture adaptation of the groundbreaking Broadway musical Rent; the dark ensemble comedy A Little Trip to Heaven; and with Christopher Rouse, the international hit The Bourne Supremacy. Pearson also edited the jungle-set action-adventure The Rundown, starring Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott, and with Steven Weisberg, the hit sequel Men in Black II. His other motion picture credits include The Score, Drowning Mona, Bowfinger and Muppets From Space.
Pearson earned both an Emmy Award nomination and an ACE Eddie Award nomination for his work on the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. He also created the title design for the acclaimed series.
SUSAN MATHESON (Costume Designer) recently designed the costumes for the remake of the horror comedy Fright Night and the acclaimed crime drama The Town. Among her other film credits are the Will Ferrell comedies Step Brothers, Semi-Pro and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; Peter Berg’s The Kingdom and Friday Night Lights; and the surfing-themed hit Blue Crush.
In addition, she has served as the costume designer on such films as Honey, Highway, Max Keeble’s Big Move, Crazy/Beautiful, Meeting Daddy, Panic, Best Laid Plans and Dancer, Texas Pop. 81.
She is currently in production on Christopher McQuarrie’s One Shot, based on Lee Child’s crime novels, produced by and starring Tom Cruise.
RAMIN DJAWADI (Music by) may be best known for his Grammy-nominated, guitar-driven score for Iron Man, but his repertoire covers a wide variety of film genres. After graduating summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music in 1998, the German-born film composer caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who recruited him to Remote Control Productions.
After moving to Los Angeles, Djawadi wrote additional music on The Time Machine, Basic, The Recruit and the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He then worked with Zimmer, co-composing and producing the score for Thunderbirds and collaborating on Something’s Gotta Give and Batman Begins. Djawadi then went out on his own with Blade: Trinity, collaborating with RZA for director David Goyer. This was the beginning of his relationship with Goyer for both film and television. Djawadi wrote the score for Goyer’s horror thriller The Unborn, which was produced by Michael Bay. With Warner Bros.’ Clash of the Titans, Djawadi scored one of 2010’s biggest blockbusters.
Another collaboration with Goyer is the hit television show FlashForward, which showcased Djawadi’s signature sound and earned him his second Emmy nomination. The composer has also had success in television with his Emmy-nominated main title theme music for Prison Break, which aired for four seasons. Djawadi’s most recent TV work is HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones.
Demonstrating his diversity, Djawadi also created an ethereal score for the film Mr. Brooks, starring Kevin Costner and William Hurt. The score earned him a World Soundtrack Award nomination for Discovery of the Year. His other sonically diverse scores include Deception, starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor, and Academy Award® winner Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust.
Animation has been another facet of Djawadi’s career: He scored the first Sony Animation project, Open Season, followed by its sequel, Open Season 2. Additional animation scores include The Chubbchubbs Save Xmas and Sammy’s Adventures: The Secret Passage. Djawadi’s work in these films attracted the filmmakers of the Belgium-based nWave Pictures, who created one of the first animated movies in 3D, Fly Me to the Moon.
In 2010, Djawadi branched out into the modern video-game media, scoring EA’s most recent Medal of Honor, one of the most popular video-game franchises.