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The Directors: Rodrigo Cortés builds suspense in 'Buried'

Star Ryan Reynolds' character the entire 94 minutes trapped in a casket.

September 12, 2010|By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times

"I spent the days in such a heightened state of anxiety and panic that I don't remember a lot of it, and it's hard to watch it now," Reynolds said. "I've seen it twice, and it's hard to see. It feels a lot like a fever dream. There were points where I'm in there screaming that I'm running out of air, that I'm running out of time, and the crew kept ripping the lid off the coffin. They thought I was really in distress. It happened like three different times. It reached such a fever pitch of panic, they thought it was real. I told them, 'If I need help, I'll yell, 'Cut!' It was harrowing for everyone. I didn't sleep well, and it really stuck with me. You'll never complain on any movie set ever again after something like that."

Cortés said his compass point for the film was pure Hitchcock — the real-time suspense of "Rope," the confined quarters of "Lifeboat" and the paralyzed point of view in "Rear Window." And while the director acknowledged that the movie has "topics of the moment" with the Iraq setting, terrorism backdrop and the commentary on both corporate cruelty and government bureaucracy, he said the greater goal of "Buried" was always to dig deep into Hitchcock's old turf, a place of tension and intense craft challenges.

"I always saw the film as something very big, something Hitchcockian," Cortés said with a chuckle. "When they asked me if it would be strained" by the setting limitations, "I said, 'No, it will be Indiana Jones in a box.'"

Reynolds wasn't sure about the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" allusion, but he agreed that "Buried" had unearthed something special.

"There's a freedom in the restriction — it becomes a big movie because of those restrictions," Reynolds said. "You see the size of the story because of that limited space. The limited space magnifies everything. … People say, 'Weren't you worried to do a film this risky?' And I say, 'No, why would I be worried?' If it didn't work, we all get a big pat on the back for trying something different. The main thing was surviving the shoot."

geoff.boucher@latimes.com

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