Go­ing be­yond su­per­hero

Ryan Reynolds gets out of a cof­fin in ‘Buried’ and rein­vents him­self in ‘Green Lantern.’

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - geoff.boucher@latimes.com

Ryan Reynolds, the next Green Lantern, looks for chal­lenges in roles.

BY GEOFF BOUCHER >>> When most movie stars ar­rive at a res­tau­rant for a lunch in­ter­view, they usu­ally toss their Mercedes keys to a valet and ask if they can get a ta­ble that is se­cluded but also clearly vis­i­ble from ev­ery corner of the din­ing room. On a re­cent gray af­ter­noon, though, Ryan Reynolds ar­rived at a scruffy Hollywood diner with a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met un­der his tat­tooed arm and sat down at the brown leather booth clos­est to the door.

When he or­dered a Cobb salad, the wait­ress didn’t look up from her pad. “You want it with bal­samic, like the last time?” “Yeah,” he said, “easy on the cheese. And, un­like my wife, I want the ba­con.”

Reynolds, who plays a truck driver in the new film “Buried,” clearly en­joys the aura of the av­er­age Joe, even if his ba­con-es­chew­ing wife hap­pens to be Scar­lett Jo­hans­son and he him­self is ramp­ing up to a new level of star­dom as the ti­tle char­ac­ter in “Green Lantern,” the highly an­tic­i­pated Warner Bros. su­per­hero movie due out next sum­mer. How an­tic­i­pated? The project al­ready has landed the Cana­dian ac­tor on the cover of En­ter­tain­ment Weekly in his new masked-man mode.

That’s just the start. Reynolds is also set to star in “R.I.P.D.,” which is a buddy-cop story set in the af­ter­life, and “Dead­pool,” a scabby and sub­ver­sive tale about a lab-cre­ated mer­ce­nary. He’s also do­ing a broad com­edy called “The Change-Up,” in which Reynolds plays a slacker dude who switches bod­ies with a re­li­able fam­ily man (Ja­son Bate­man), and then “Safe House,” a thriller with Den­zel Washington. [See Reynolds, D4]

The choices show a ca­reer in­ter­est in broad-au­di­ence, spe­cial-ef­fects films — Reynolds has ap­peared in or signed up for a half-dozen comic book adap­ta­tions — but the 33-year-old says he is most in­trigued by skewed and dam­aged ver­sions of he­roes, such as Dead­pool, and in sto­ry­telling chal­lenges such as those pre­sented by “Buried,” the un­set­tling thriller that ar­rives in the­aters Fri­day af­ter a lively run on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit and enough buzz at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val to stir a bid­ding war that was won by Lion­s­gate for $4 mil­lion.

The film by Span­ish di­rec­tor Ro­drigo Cortés is an un­nerv­ing 94 min­utes spent in­side a cof­fin. Reynolds, the only face seen in the film, is a civil­ian truck driver in Iraq who is kid­napped and, af­ter wak­ing from a head in­jury, re­al­izes he has been buried alive in a rough-hewn cas­ket and left with a cell­phone so he can ar­range a ran­som that will earn his free­dom be­fore the air runs out.

“It’s one of those rare movies that you ex­pe­ri­ence more than you watch it,” Reynolds said. “The sell­ing point to me was that the script had both a nar­ra­tive chal­lenge and a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. It’s rare to find a script that has both. Peo­ple like Hitch­cock, that’s all he looked for. Films like ‘Rope’ and ‘Lifeboat’ and ‘ Rear Win­dow,’ that was what they were all about. I had a lot of con­fi­dence in Ro­drigo, though. He sent me a com­pre­hen­sive, 15-page trea­tise on why he wanted to make the film. That hooked me. It’s not the most glam­orous role. You get in the box, and as an ac­tor you have to do these things that are em­bar­rass­ing, fright­en­ing and raw. It was an ad­ven­ture.”

There was an in­tri­cate sys­tem of slid­ing pan­els that al­lowed Cortés and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Ed­uard Grau a star­tling ar­ray of van­tage points and un­ex­pected vi­su­als. Con­roy’s cell­phone con­nects him to the world above and to the un­fold­ing mys­tery of his predica­ment while his Zippo lighter’s flick­er­ing flame il­lu­mi­nates his face and his fear. The movie also has po­lit­i­cal over­tones with com­men­tary on cor­po­rate Amer­ica, ter­ror­ism, war and work­ing-man hard­ships.

“There’s a lot,” Cortés said, “that goes in the box with him.”

Whim­per­ing and claw­ing at a cof­fin lid took Reynolds to a very dif­fer­ent place than “The Pro­posal” did. The 2009 ro­man­tic com­edy pulled in $317 mil­lion world­wide and stands as his biggest Hollywood suc­cess. That role put him op­po­site

‘I saw an ac­tor with … in­cred­i­ble skill to get very deep and im­me­di­ate emo­tions with very small things and great nu­ance.’

Ro­drigo Cortés,

Ex­plain­ing why he cast Ryan Reynolds in ‘Buried’

San­dra Bul­lock, a good friend, and the film added to his chick-flick ré­sumé, which al­ready in­cluded “Def­i­nitely Maybe” and “Just Friends.” Reynolds now seems to be mov­ing into a big­ger em­pha­sis on fan­boy fare.

He played Dead­pool, the Mar­vel Comics char­ac­ter, in the 2009 film “X-Men Ori­gins: Wolverine” and is es­pe­cially ea­ger to take that char­ac­ter into a solo film. He said he would be thrilled if Robert Ro­driguez (“Sin City”) can di­rect, as Fox hopes.

Reynolds grew up in Van­cou­ver as the youngest of four chil­dren — his fa­ther was a re­tired cop and food whole­saler, his mom a sales­woman — and be­gan act­ing on a Cana­dian youth drama called “Hill­side” that was reti­tled “Fif­teen” for the U.S. mar­ket­place. In 1995, at age 18, the rest­less Reynolds moved to Los An­ge­les but found the city less than wel­com­ing. He checked into a cheap mo­tel and the next morn­ing found that his jeep had rolled down­hill and had been stripped. For months, he drove with­out doors.

Reynolds was the ti­tle star of “Na­tional Lam­poon’s Van Wilder” in 2002, which gave him a ca­reer foothold, but coarse hu­mor and frothy roles left him feel­ing a bit numb. When asked what he con­sid­ers a sign­post moment in his act­ing life he pointed to “The Nines,” a lit­tle-seen 2007 film.

“That was such a wakeup call for me. The movie was made on less than a mil­lion dol­lars. I loved the process. I loved the char­ac­ter I was given to play. I learned a lot about film-mak­ing from John Au­gust, who was di­rect­ing. That was the birth of my own am­bi­tion. There were par­tic­u­lar films af­ter that that I went af­ter. I had a new view.”

“The Nines” was also a rev­e­la­tion for Cortés, the Span­ish filmmaker, who was struck by Reynolds’ three-char­ac­ter per­for­mance — he plays an ac­tor, a video-game de­signer and a writer whose lives (and deaths) are linked in un­set­tling ways. “I saw an ac­tor with an alien sense of tim­ing and in­cred­i­ble skill to get very deep and im­me­di­ate emo­tions with very small things and great nu­ance. He is a great tal­ent, and he makes brave choices.”

Some ob­servers might ques­tion whether su­per­hero roles rep­re­sent artis­tic fear­less­ness, but Reynolds said that with Dead­pool there’s far more than car­toon hero­ics. “It’s a nasty piece of work. It’s just based in so much emo­tional filth, com­pletely. It’s like ‘Barfly’ if it were a su­per­hero movie. It sort of treads into the world of an emo­tion­ally dam­aged per­son. I al­ways say that Dead­pool is a guy in a highly mil­i­ta­rized shame spi­ral. … It’s so dif­fer­ent than the su­per­hero movies to date, it de­parts so far from that.”

Green Lantern, mean­while, is a su­per­hero that dates to the 1940s. The film is be­ing di­rected by Martin Camp­bell (“Casino Royale”) and chron­i­cles the ad­ven­tures of Hal Jor­dan, a cocky but coura­geous test pi­lot who be­comes the first earth­ling mem­ber of the Green Lantern Corps, a sort of in­ter­stel­lar peace­keep­ing force in which all the mem­bers wear green, glow­ing rings that have nearly un­lim­ited power.

Camp­bell has said that the film will reach back to the ro­bust cos­mic ad­ven­ture of vin­tage “Flash Gor­don,” and the di­rec­tor said that Reynolds has both the phys­i­cal pres­ence and the wink­ing charisma to pull off the role. “He is some­one that you be­lieve to be brave but can also re­main ac­ces­si­ble to the au­di­ence.”

Reynolds says one com­pass point for his take on Jor­dan is Han Solo, ac­tor Har­ri­son Ford’s sig­na­ture scoundrel from the “Star Wars” films. “He knows how to throw a punch, tell a joke and kiss a girl,” Reynolds said. “I like that. Who doesn’t like that?”

And on the sub­ject of ro­mance, Reynolds mar­ried Jo­hans­son in 2008 (he pre­vi­ously had been en­gaged to singer Ala­nis Moris­sette), and now the cou­ple are be­com­ing some­thing close to fan­boy roy­alty since she por­trays Black Widow in Mar­vel films, in­clud­ing Joss Whe­don’s up­com­ing en­sem­ble block­buster “The Avengers.” Reynolds said that “there are more comic books around our house than you’d find in the home of most mar­ried cou­ples,” and he said that while the pair has dis­cussed ap­pear­ing on screen to­gether, it’s not some­thing they are chas­ing.

Reynolds is fairly pri­vate and seemed far more at ease be­ing in a cof­fin than on the gos­sip pages. When asked how he avoids a lot of tabloid at­ten­tion, the av­er­age Joe shrugged and smiled, and looked around the diner. “We don’t shop on Robert­son.”

Mel Mel­con

SO SUAVE: Post-“Pro­posal,” Ryan Reynolds is on a roll with a wide range of roles. His work in 2007’s “The Nines” was his epiphany.

IN­TENSE: Ryan Reynolds, left, con­fers with di­rec­tor Ro­drigo Cortés dur­ing film­ing of “Buried.” Reynolds is the only ac­tor seen in the film’s 94 min­utes.

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