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Actor, director recall harrowing shoot on 'Buried'
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Film Critic

Actor Ryan Reynolds, left, and director Rodrigo Cortes discuss the making of "Buried" while on a stop in Chicago.


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Published: 9/24/2010 10:11 AM

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Don't feel bummed if you want to see Ryan Reynolds' new thriller "Buried" but it only opens this weekend in Chicago and Evanston.

"Buried" will expand throughout the suburbs Oct. 8.

Then you can see Reynolds' heart-racing performance as an American truck driver buried inside a coffin some place in Iraq.

The camera never leaves the coffin in this brilliantly executed drama directed with imagination and panache by Rodrigo Cortes.

I spoke recently to Cortes and Reynolds at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel.

Q. What was the toughest day on the set for you?

Ryan Reynolds. I would say days one through 17 were the hardest for me.

Q. Wasn't this a 17-day shoot?

Reynolds. Yes, sir, it was. Actually, the last shooting day was the worst. If you see the movie, you'll know why. There was no way to get in and out of the coffin because it was filled with so much sand and my character, Paul Conroy, his nose is pressed against the ceiling of the coffin. It was such an intense sensation of claustrophobia and panic, I had an actress (off camera) talking me off the ledge.

She kept telling me about wide-open spaces, birds, trees, all those esoteric things that calmed me down. Another thing, I had a microphone on my chest, and it was pressed so tight against the coffin that she could hear my heart beat. That's when I would spiral into one of these panic attacks.

She had to bring me out. I was really thankful she was there. I just couldn't get in and out of the coffin without causing huge delays.

Q. So what did you think when Mr. Reynolds declined to rehearse and wanted to jump right in with the filming?

Rodrigo Cortes. I thought he was lazy.

Reynolds. I should never have brought this up!

Cortes. But he had good reasons. He wanted to figure things out for the first time as Paul Conroy did. He didn't want to rehearse that because he wanted to do that the way Paul Conroy would have done it.

I saw his eyes and I knew he was serious. He wasn't lazy. He had a plan. I decided to trust him because I needed him to trust me.

Q. Of the seven coffins designed for the movie, which was your least favorite?

Reynolds. The Joker was my least favorite because I spent most of my time in the Joker. The Joker looked very different by the time we finished the movie. It was covered in lighter burns and blood and everything. It was also the least funny. Ironically.

Q. What were the names of the other coffins?

Cortes. We had the Tunnel. The Well. The 360. We spent most of our time naming them.

Reynolds. Instead of working.

Q. What was the best part of working with Mr. Cortes?

Reynolds. The learning experience. I've never worked with anybody who's been this well-prepared for technical challenges. His ability to capture nuance and emotion amid all these things. When I met Rodrigo, it was as if he'd been working on this for a decade.

Q. What's the best thing about working with Mr. Reynolds?

Cortes. What isn't? He can do comedy and deep emotions with the smallest of things. He has a perfect sense of timing. It was amazing.

Q. You know that there's no way a major Hollywood studio would have done this movie, ever.

Cortes. I know and I thank God for it. That way I could do it.

Q. What attracted you to filmmaking?

Cortes. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Then I wanted to be a painter. Then I wanted to be a musician. Then, at the end of day, I could be a filmmaker and be all of them at the same time.

Q. What attracts you to a project?

Cortes. I just react to what moves me. Something that makes my body react. It has to be risky somehow. I feel better if it fills some void, I play better if it's impossible.

Q. So you're an adrenaline junkie in the director's chair.

Reynolds. I would agree with that.

Cortes. I didn't say that.

Reynolds. I did.