When Denzel Washington Was Waterboarded

Denzel Washington. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/?Patrick McMullan

In the new movie Safe House, Robert Patrick waterboards Denzel Washington, and Washington actually did the torturous stunt himself. "That was actually quite terrifying!" director Daniel Espinosa told us last night at the premiere. "I went up to Denzel and told him, 'Time to go, now is the moment where the stunt guy kicks in,' and he looked at me and he said, 'Let's go.' 'Are you sure?' 'I'm sure.' And I was terrified, but I let him go and I had to watch him do it." Added Washington's co-star Ryan Reynolds, "He went all out for this movie. I would definitely not like to be waterboarded. It was intense. Disturbing. I had sympathetic pain. I always get sympathetic pain. I wish I didn't. I felt like I was drowning."

So why did the A-lister do it? Said Washington, simply, "I wanted to see what it would be like." The result was not pleasant. "It's strange. You can't breathe in, because the water comes in, and it's filling up your mouth. And that was just one time for a short time. Imagine having that done for 20, 30 seconds? You will give up the answers! You may not necessarily tell the truth, but you will tell [your captors] whatever they want to hear."

"That's the whole reason I did the movie," Patrick told us. "It's a brutal, brutal scene, and I wanted to work with Denzel, and it's a world I know a lot about. And then to find out what we had to do to him, and that he was willing to go through with it? It shocked me, because the more I checked it out, the convulsions, body parts breaking — arms, legs, as you convulse, trying to get out from the restraints — and the psychological damage that was done, I just said, 'To hell with it, I would never do that.'" Patrick said Washington consented to the waterboarding in take after take, although he tapped out early each time. "Now, some of the guys we got, the Taliban guys, they only hung in there for eighteen seconds," said Patrick. "Denzel lasted five; that's pretty damn good."