Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds co-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. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, ’Safe House’ co-stars Nora Arnezeder, Vera Farmiga, Ruben Blades, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Cunningham, Tim McGraw, Robert Patrick, and Sam Shepard. The film is due to hit cinemas February 10th in the US, and Febuary 24th in the UK. Look out for another interview with Denzel Washington for the films UK release date.

At the beginning, Ryan Reynolds’ character is very much an ideologue. However some of that slowly peals away as the movie moves along. Your character, Tobin Frost, his outlook is completely different…..

Denzel Washington: Yeah. I really enjoy how as the movie moves along, we peel away the layers of who these people are, the mind-games that are going on. I liken it to ‘Silence of the Lambs’ where this guy, this young kid, he’s trying to get in my head, and I’m all getting in his head – to the point where he doesn’t know what he’s thinking about.

Tobin Frost, he’s on his own, he’s a murderer, he’s a liar, he’s a sociopath, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. All he’s interested in is winning. I think that he’s been so isolated for so long, he doesn’t know how to feel, he doesn’t have feelings, he just knows how to use. He has no family, no relationships, he just uses people…..and drinks good wine (laughs). Making the money is not an important thing for him, I think winning is the important thing. The chance to manipulate this kid is winning, the chance to shove it up the CIA’s behind is winning for him. And he has no remorse about it.

I read that rather than study CIA operatives to prepare for the film, you studied sociopaths. What did you learn from your research that helped you portray this character?

Denzel Washington: There’s a book called ‘The Sociopath Next Door,’ that sort of became my bible for the character. I thought most sociopaths were violent when in fact they aren’t. They say 1 in 25 people are sociopaths, and only 2 or 3 in 25 are violent. But almost all sociopaths want to win no matter what. Some sociopaths use pity, “Oh, woe is me. I just can’t do it like you.” And then you go, “Oh, no no. You’re all right,” and I already got you. Now I got you in a weak position and feeling sorry for me. I read about one sociopath who was actually a psychologist and she was so sick, there’s this other psychologist that she hated and she had a nicer car than the other woman, so she would purposely park her car next to the other woman’s car just to make her feel bad every day. She was working with this other psychiatrist’s patient and all the work that this woman had done, she destroyed. She brought the person in the room and just destroyed them. They just want to win. There was one sociopath who would steal things in the post office and then get there the next day because he just loved the chaos that it created. He wanted to see how everybody was trying to figure out what it was. I guess it’s a feeling of power. In my journal as I was writing, going through the script, as we were shooting, I had to find a way to win every situation no matter what. There’s a scene we were talking about earlier at the football game, the soccer stadium, he’s willing to even act like a scared little girl to get away. A sociopath will do anything to win. Anything.

The physical scenes in the film are brutal, there’s something very primal about them. How was that for you preparing? With your character as well, he has a sort of inner calm to him when so much chaos is going on around him.

Denzel Washington: We had tremendous fighters, Oliver Schneider and his whole crew of guys, they’re really brilliant, dangerous guys. The way they trained us, it was dirty fighting, in close, use whatever you needed….I don’t even call it fighting, I call it winning – they know how to win. I remember we went out to some big club, and there was these big American Football looking dudes, they were roughing around and getting drunk. I was with the guys and I just watched how they moved around the room. They separated themselves and just spread out, they took over the four corners of the area (laughs). I just thought, “These big guys have no idea of what they might get into.” But I think they could sense, because there’s a peace about them because they know what they’re capable of. I think that was a lesson for me, to see calmness in them, how to lower your blood pressure and wait.

These guys, they were the most unassuming guys and we really had the luxury of time, a good 2 or 3 months while we were over there. In fact, there’s a fight I have where I crash through the roof or something and start fighting this guy, and even the fights Ryan and I do at the end, we had 2 or 3 or 4 months before we even got to do those fights.

Do you have more fun playing a quote-unquote “bad guy“?

Denzel Washington: The next picture I made, it’ll come out the end of the year or the beginning of next year, it’s called ‘Flight,’ and I play an alcoholic, drug addicted pilot who crashes a plane – but saves a lot of lives. It was the most intense film I’ve done probably in 20 years. I guess it’s cliché to say that the bad guy has more fun because you can say anything, you can get away with anything. Sometimes when you’re the good guy, you’re sort of trapped or he can’t say that. And even when you’re playing a real person, like Steven Biko or someone, you’re sort of stuck within those confines. So, yeah, bad guys do have more fun (Laughs)!