Life of Ryan

Green Lan­tern Ryan Reynolds tells Don­ald Clarke about be­ing the of­fi­cial face of a sum­mer block­buster

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

RYAN REYNOLDS is Cana­dian. For too long, artistes from above the 49th par­al­lel have been ex­pected to re­press their na­tional traits and con­form to a Cal­i­for­nian norm. But Reynolds is qui­etly (that’s the op­er­a­tive word here) de­ter­mined that no­body for­get his ori­gins. Fast be­com­ing one of Hol­ly­wood’s most vi­tal lead­ing men, Reynolds is in Lon­don to dis­cuss his role in a bizarre su­per­hero film en­ti­tled Green Lan­tern. All day young peo­ple have been telling him how good look­ing he is. For hour af­ter hour he has had to po­litely avoid talk­ing about his re­cently dis­solved mar­riage to Scar­lett Jo­hans­son. I sup­pose these things come nat­u­rally to folk raised in the shadow of the Hol­ly­wood sign.

“Yeah,” he says with a jit­tery smile. “That’s a bit more dif­fi­cult if you’re Cana­dian. It doesn’t come nat­u­rally. I wouldn’t want to make com­par­isons with our friends south of the bor­der. But we are maybe a lit­tle less prone to talk about our­selves.” So he still sees him­self as a Cana­dian? “Sure. I still have a home in Van­cou­ver. It’s only a two-hour flight from LA, re­mem­ber. That’s a one-in­dus­try town. So, it’s good to get home.” And there’s Ir­ish blood in there, I as­sume, “Yes. I’ve been to Dublin and Gal­way. My brother and I just toured around there for a while. We have rel­a­tives there, whom we com­pletely avoided,” he says, laugh­ing.

Reynolds had bet­ter get used to chat­ting about him­self. Now 34, blessed with the sort of old-school looks that never go out of fash­ion, he has bat­tered his way through poor sit- coms and ques­tion­able ro­man­tic come­dies to be­come one of this era’s hottest ac­tors. Laid back, but still ca­pa­ble of sim­mer­ing in­ten­sity, Reynolds won over scep­tics with last year’s high-con­cept thriller Buried. He was creepy in Ad­ven­ture­land. He did good work op­po­site San­dra Bul­lock in the pop­u­lar com­edy The Pro­posal. Now, he’s the of­fi­cial face of a sum­mer block­buster.

“I’ll say this,” he says, “when I was start­ing in LA, I never wanted to be the lead­ing man. I wanted to be the char­ac­ter ac­tor. That is part of why I hit rel­a­tively late. I am 6ft 2in. I will never get to play the weird next-door neigh­bour. I fought that for a long time. Then I saw the gift you get by play­ing a lead­ing man. Around 26 or 27 I be­gan to fall in love with film, which was late con­sid­er­ing I had al­ready been work­ing for half a decade.”

Three years ago, when he was still mar­ried to Jo­hans­son, Peo­ple mag­a­zine named him the sex­i­est man alive. He re­tained his ti­tle in 2009 and 2010. No­body would ob­ject to re­ceiv­ing such an hon­our. But the prize could ham­per his am­bi­tions to be­come a char­ac­ter ac­tor. Af­ter all, you never see Paul Gia­matti or Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man crop­ping up on those polls.

“I was a lit­tle em­bar­rassed by that,” he says. “But I re­alise that’s a valid part of the pro­mo­tional ma­chine. It’s not some­thing you cam­paign for. But what else can you do other than say thanks?”

There’s that Cana­dian un­der­state­ment again. Ryan Rod­ney Reynolds was born and raised in the se­date sub­urbs of Van­cou­ver. His fa­ther was a po­lice of­fi­cer and his mother worked in sales. He was not one of those kids who al­ways dreamt of mak­ing it into the movies. As he tells it, the busi­ness found him. In his pre-teen years, he dab­bled in com­edy im­pro­vi­sa­tion. But acting came up as a ca­reer op­tion only when Nick­elodeon ar­rived in town to cast a new teen soap named Hill­side.

“I thought that sounded like a good way to get out of the house,” he says. “They slowly whit­tled us down and sud­denly they shipped me off to Florida. It was one of the first times I’d been in the States. It was ac­tu­ally ideal. We’d film for three months there and then I’d come back to go to school. I man­aged a very nor­mal life.”

Hill­side ran for three years. When the show ended, Reynolds made his way to Los An­ge­les and be­come a co­me­dian. He had his sights set on the Groundlings troupe, the LAbased com­pany that spawned such tal­ents as Kathy Grif­fin, Conan O’Brien, Jon Lovitz and Kris­ten Wiig.

“Yeah, I tried col­lege for 45 min­utes. I turned around and went to LA the day af­ter that. I mean I was there lit­er­ally for 45 min­utes. Some­thing didn’t feel right for me. Mind you, if I had a son who did that I’d kick his ass into obliv­ion.”

I won­der how his hard-work­ing, Ir­ishAmer­i­can cop fa­ther warmed to the no­tion of Reynolds run­ning away to join the cir­cus. “He wasn’t okay about it at all,” he says, laugh­ing. “It wasn’t even when I had suc­cess that they were okay about it. I had to have im­mense suc­cess. My mother was quite sup­port­ive, but my fa­ther re­ally wasn’t con­vinced for quite a while.”

The first few years were dif­fi­cult. He quickly re­alised you couldn’t just walk into the Groundlings and be­gin do­ing funny voices. There was a lengthy au­di­tion and train­ing process. This was par­tic­u­larly tricky: be­ing Cana­dian, Reynolds didn’t have a visa for ca­sual work. If he suc­ceeded at an au­di­tion, the pro­duc­tion com­pany would ar­range the pa­per­work, but the usual fail-safe for ac­tors of wait­ing ta­bles or serv­ing drinks wasn’t an op­tion.

“Sorry, I’d love to tell you a story about moon­light­ing as a Chip­pen­dale, but, not be­ing a cit­i­zen, I had to live off money I’d saved. It ended up be­ing like re­verse en­gi­neer­ing. If I can get a job on a sit­com or some­thing then I can do the Groundlings thing. Then I got this job on a sit­com and thought: ‘Hey, they’re pay­ing me money. There’s a live au­di­ence. This is bet­ter than just hang­ing out.’ ”

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