September 28, 2010 / 7:34 PM / in 7 years

"Buried" director puts Indiana Jones in a coffin

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes' latest film has a sole actor stuck in a wooden coffin for 90 minutes, with just a mobile phone and a cigarette-lighter to try and escape. That's it.

But the last thing Cortes wants audiences to think about his movie "Buried," is that it is some sort of moody, art film.

"When they asked me if this was going to be a dark, experimental, introspective film, my answer was always, "No, no, no. It's going to be Indiana Jones in a box," Cortes told Reuters, referring to the swashbuckling star character in Steven Spielberg's action adventure movies.

"Buried" opened in major U.S. cities this past Friday with Ryan Reynolds playing a civilian truck driver in Iraq who wakes up trapped in a wooden coffin after his convoy is attacked by insurgents.

Cortes, who only has one other film to his credit, said he managed to pitch it to Reynolds during a 40-minute meeting in a Los Angeles restaurant.

"We both knew it was going to be a dance (between) the two of us, and we found out we were a perfect match," 37-year-old Cortes said in Madrid.

After a frantic, 40-day film shoot, Reynolds found himself with burned fingers, a bleeding back and ruined skin, but was "absolutely enthusiastic" about the chance of working with the director again. Cortes called him "an extraordinary actor."

The film -- which had a budget of around $2 million, according to the director -- was ready just in time for January's Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered good reviews in "Variety" and "The Hollywood Reporter."

After the Sundance screening, "the snowball started rolling," toward a distribution deal via the Lionsgate studio, Cortes said.

Lionsgate opened the movie in a small number of U.S. theaters this past weekend, and it rolls out across the United States in wide release on October 8. "Buried" also will play in countries around the world in weeks and months ahead.

Cortes said a key influence was legendary mystery director Alfred Hitchcock and his movies such as "Lifeboat" and "The Rope." He likened the plight of Paul Conroy (Reynolds) to that of characters in novels by renowned Czech writer Franz Kafka.

"For me, Paul Conroy's real enemy in this high-octane thriller is neither the dark nor the sand, nor uninvited guests, but bureaucracy," he said.

At the center of his movie is the singular performance of Reynolds trapped in the coffin, unable to move.

"He shows more emotions in 94 minutes than many people do in a lifetime; extreme emotions, like the most basic: fear, hope, joy, frustration, acceptance," said Cortes.

After frenzied months of making and promoting his movie, Cortes admits to feeling very tired but also "calm and happy."

"You live all of this as if it were happening to somebody else. It's like a strange dream where you're reading about somebody, but there's no way to link it to your own experience," he said.

Editing by Martin Roberts and Bob Tourtellotte

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