In the process of making a movie, it’s basically a guarantee that not everything is going to go smoothly and perfectly. But, if you’re an actor, you probably at least hope that you won’t somehow injure your co-star—especially your Oscar-winning co-star, who is 20 years older than you and considered one of the best actors alive. Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly the scenario Ryan Reynolds found himself in with Denzel Washington when they filmed 2012’s Safe House.
On a new episode of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, Reynolds explained how he ended up giving Washington not one, but two black eyes shooting a scene. In the moment, he thought his career was about to be over. Read on to find out how he managed to beat up Washington so badly.
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Safe House is about a CIA agent (Reynolds) stationed in Cape Town, South Africa, who goes on the run with a CIA operative (Washington) who went rogue. The movie includes a scene in which the two actors are in a speeding car, and Washington has to try to choke Reynolds. As Reynolds explained, he and Washington were doing the stunt themselves.
“There’s a scene in the movie where he crawls through the trunk in the back and he grabs me and chokes me,” Reynolds told David Letterman. “We were really driving a car at top speed.”
During the scene, which was shot on the second day of shooting, Reynolds accidentally hit Washington in the face with his head.
“He and I are in this out-of-control car and my corner of my head, I felt it hit his eye so hard I was sure that it split wide open,” Reynolds explained. “And we stopped the car and there he is with this giant egg. And I’m thinking, I’m going to be sent home via crematorium. Like, it’s over. This is it. Not only my career but my actual pulse will cease.”
While Reynolds thought it was all over for him, Washington reacted calmly and reassured his co-star that everything was okay.
“He was fine, he was like, ‘Hey, accidents happen. Let’s do it again and we’ll shoot it from the other side so we can keep shooting so you don’t see this.'”
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Reynolds and Washington shot the scene again, and, of course, Reynolds hit the other side of Washington’s face.
“We did it again, and I got the other eye, Dave,” Reynolds told the host. “For a minute, he looked like a Christmas ornament … Yeah, I wanted to die.”
Back in 2012, when they were promoting the movie, Washington and Reynolds joked about the incident.
“I’ve never had a black eye in my life!” Washington told reporters, according to People. “There’s a scene where I reach over to try to choke him while I have handcuffs on. We were flying around in the car. It just happened that as I was reaching forward he was flying back … and POW.”
At the time, Reynolds said, “That was my early retirement. I’ve given Denzel Washington a black eye and I should probably go home.” He added, “I’m glad I was your first. If it had to be anyone, it was an apologetic Canadian.”
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