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'Safe House' Director Daniel Espinosa Talks The 'Snabba Cash' Trilogy, Zac Efron Leading The Remake & His Comic Book Faves

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by Jen Vineyard
February 6, 2012 9:57 AM
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Hollywood came calling after Swedish director Daniel Espinosa made waves with his Swedish crime drama "Snabba Cash" ("Easy Money") -- and now he makes his English-language debut with this week's "Safe House," starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. But what of the films he almost made along the way instead?

Espinosa took meetings for "X-Men: First Class," but isn't bitter that Matthew Vaughn ultimately won the gig. "They had a short amount of time to do it, and they got a brilliant director," he told The Playlist. Nor does he rule out the possibility that he'll be behind another superhero genre film in the near future. "I think I am the third biggest comic book buyer in Sweden," he laughed. "I buy everything that Marvel and some other companies put out every month." Among his favorite writers are Robert Kirkman ("The Walking Dead," "Invincible"), Frank Miller ("Sin City," "300"), Brian Michael Bendis ("Daredevil," "Alias"), and Ed Brubaker ("Criminal," "Incognito"). "People like Kirkman, Miller, Bendis, Brubaker, they're geniuses," he said. "To do anything that Brubaker is involved with, I would die for it."

Espinosa was also for a time attached to direct the still-in-development Black List script for "Prisoners" (which now has Denis Villeneuve attached) but thought it wasn't quite right for him. "It's a brilliant script, a strong thriller, with an almost 'Mystic River' quality to it, and it just needs to be cracked, you know? And I think they will at some point," he said. "But it's a character study, and it's one that demands a really strong director, with a strong perspective. You try to combine your talent and rhythm with the material, and I wanted to do something with a stronger pace, to see how far I could go, how fast I could push the tempo. My decision at that point was about the cadence, and I wanted to continue turning up the tempo."

Now that he's gotten to do a faster-tempo story with "Safe House," Espinosa said he would be ready for a change of pace, "something that goes deeply into character." He's still considering "Making Jack Falcone," about an undercover Cuban FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family, which he said is "one of the most multi-layered character pieces you could find." "It's a work in progress," he said, "and something that you hope at some point the stars will align and you'll have the opportunity to work with these talented people."

If not "Making Jack Falcone," Espinosa has some other options that he's considering, but no frontrunners just yet. "I haven't anything in mind," he said. "I'm reading some things. I have a lot of options. It's almost like you're courting different lovers, and somebody stands up and says, 'I'm willing to go all the way with you.' A script tells you, 'I'm willing to make a movie with you.'"

Should he find the right material for them, Espinosa would love to the chance to work with actors Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, and Tom Hardy: "The monologue in 'Hunger' that Fassbender did was one of the most beautiful things that has been done. I think [Nicolas Winding] Refn's work with Gosling was astounding. I think Tom Hardy's latest work in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' was heartbreaking."

In the meantime, Espinosa's overseeing the "Snabba Cash" trilogy as a producer, while waiting for the first film of the series to have its release stateside, courtesy of the Weinsteins. "The reason it hasn't been released yet is that they were waiting for an Oscar nomination or something like that," he said. "There's so much politics, you know? It needs to be the right time."

Espinosa considered helming all three films, but once he got the offer to take the director's chair for "Safe House," he decided to stay involved, but not direct the two sequels, based on the books "Aldira Fucka Upp" ("Never Fuck Up") and "Livet Deluxe" ("Life Deluxe"). "We'll have three auteur directors, myself, Babak Najafi, and a third [Jens Assur]

," he said. "And it'll be the most interesting arthouse directors in Scandinavia right now. And it'll be interesting to see their takes on something I started, you know? I think they'll release it as a package, as a film series."

"Snabba Cash" is getting an English language remake as well via Warner Bros. and producer Charles Roven, but Espinosa is not involved. "It must have been fascinating for Bono to have Johnny Cash do a cover of his song, and hear how he translates the words that he has used," the director said. "And it would be fascinating to see a great director do his take on my work. But other than that, it's their business." What does he think of the casting of Zac Efron to play Joel Kinnaman's cocaine runner character? "God bless them," he said with a hint of a smile.

"Safe House" opens this weekend on Friday, February 10. More from this interview soon.

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