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Daniel Espinosa: Scores with ‘Safe House’

10 Directors to Watch

“I feel like a stereotypical outsider,” says Swedish-born Daniel Espinosa, whose third pic, Stockholm-set crime thriller “Easy Money” (Snabba Cash), was acquired by the Weinstein Co., with remake rights going to Warner Bros.

Espinosa’s parents fled their native Chile to escape the Pinochet regime one month before their son was born. Though both political refugees were university graduates, the family settled in a working-class Stockholm neighborhood much like the one depicted in “Money.”

The helmer-to-be spent part of his childhood in Africa, where his mother worked for the U.N., and went to film school in Denmark, during the height of the Dogma 95 craze. He speaks six languages, including English, Portuguese, Guinean Creole and Danish.

Espinosa was seen as a Chilean in Sweden, as a European kid in Africa and as a Swedish filmmaker in the U.S., where he’s set to start shooting Denzel Washington starrer “Safe House,” a thriller about undercover C.I.A. operatives, for Universal. No wonder his films cast a sympathetic eye toward outsiders.

Though his first two features, Stockholm-youth tale “The Babylon Disease” and Danish multicultural romance “Outside Love,” relied more on character than plot, Espinosa’s biggest B.O. and critical hit, “Easy Money,” boasts a tightly constructed story and impressively well-rounded characters.

“It is my job as a director to ‘fight the plot,’?” explains Espinosa, “to slow the tempo and build in more character moments while the story pushes forward, to build on classic archetypes within a world that feels real.”

From his films, it is also clear the director feels closer to outcasts than the upper strata of society. “Life’s questions are truly existential for the lower classes. Not only their souls but also their bodies bear the marks of their struggles. It makes for good cinema.”

AGE: 33
HOMEBASE: Stockholm, Sweden
INSPIRED BY: Godard’s anarchic “Pierrot le fou,” for showing that you don’t need rules to make good films and Audiard’s “The Prophet,” for its approach to genre.
REPS: Agents: David Flynn, Jeremy Zimmer (United Talent); Manager: Shelley Browning

10 Directors to Watch
Looking for the next big thing
Richard Ayoade | Daniel Espinosa | Ed Gass-Donnelly | Elgin James | Patrick Lussier | Baran Bo Odar | Andre Ovredal | Denis Villeneuve | Juanita Wilson | Jason Winer

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