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Ryan Reynolds (Adventureland)

Ryan Reynolds (Adventureland)
"I've been shooting for 15 months straight, and maybe I should have known they’d all be stacked up like this, but it’s a pretty interesting position to be in."

Ryan Reynolds on his huge slate of movies in 2009

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is set to enjoy his biggest year to date with star turns in ensemble comedy Adventureland, comic-book blockbuster Wolverine and romantic comedy The Proposal. He has already shone in the likes of Just Friends; Definitely, Maybe; and the remake of the horror movie The Amityville Horror. He also led crime actioner Smokin' Aces. He is married to actress Scarlett Johansson and, in person, is both smart and funny. In Adventureland he plays Mike Connell, a technician at a theme park, who's having an affair with a much younger girl (Kristen Stewart's Em Lewin)…

SHAKEFIRE: Was it difficult to make such a roguish character so charming?
RYAN REYNOLDS: Why thank you very much. It wasn’t my goal to make him that likeable, so I failed you! Again. {laughs} Yeah, it was fun. I liked that there is no real villains or heroes in this movie. I feel like it’s a lot like life, you know, people have complexities and they have their heroic moments and their villainous moments. I will say that with this cast I've never felt so old {laughs}. It was a routine of humility. Obviously this guy is having a pretty inappropriate relationship with this very, very young girl, but the spirit on the set, it really felt like where I was eight or nine years ago. It was like a pretty cool place to be each day.
SF: Have you ever had what seemed like a dead-end job?
RR: Yeah, I worked at a restaurant in Vancouver. I shouldn’t even name it! It was a restaurant in Kitsilano and I was a busboy there, but no one ever really ate there. I think I was actually working for Peruvian drug lords. This was my thought. {laughs} I had like this abusive boss who had a fuse that was absolutely minimal at best, and I worked there all day. And then at night, I would work at a grocery store the graveyard shift, you know, throwing fresh fruit at my co-workers.
SF: And this was when you were a struggling actor?
RR: Yeah. I mean I was a struggling actor, as much as I could be in Vancouver. I mean you can only play so many ex-Falcon Crest stars’ sons in so many ‘movies of the week’ before you just you burn out {laughs}! So yeah, I was kind of doing that to supplement my happiness, believe it or not.
SF: What did you make of Twilight star Kristen Stewart, your co-star on Adventureland?
RR: Kristen is great. She’s really great. Obviously life has changed for her in a pretty drastic way since then. So it was kind of cool to see her talking about this thing called Twilight she might do!
SF: Adventureland is a very personal film for Greg Mottola and he’s based a lot of the characters on people that he knew. Did he say that you were based on a particular person?
RR: I don’t think so. You know, that probably would have been a smart thing for me to ask him! But I don’t know. He and I had about four different meetings before I jumped in there, because I didn’t have a lot of trust — I didn’t really know Greg that well other than seeing SuperBad, and I just thought, ‘Is this guy going to just be your stereotypical douche or is he going to be a guy that’s actually got some depth to him or another side to him?

And then, when you hang out with Greg a little bit longer, you realize that all these specifics are in the script for a reason, because this is a guy that actually lived this life and that’s what I love about Adventureland. He’s really created a world you know, where there are such specific instances happening and specific characters that you think ‘Wow, there is no way that someone just made this up; this has actually happened’. It was a great experience. Greg has poured his heart and soul into it in every way.
SF: Do you remember any kinds of dramas playing during the unglamorous jobs that you had?
RR: Oh yeah. I mean you know, you’d be hard pressed to find more drama in Days of Our Lives than you do in an average job each day! I mean co-workers can create a jocular sort of lifestyle that’s going on. Everybody is kind of trying to get ahead or kind of create this job and mould it to their own needs at the same time. So yeah, for sure. My job in the restaurant sucked, but at the same time, the thing that kept me going to work each day and really kind of got me through it were my co-workers. The same people that you have fights with and disagreements with are the same people that you rely on and you count on to stay sane in these crazy jobs.
SF: You mentioned the specifics in the script, what specifics about your character helped you the most?
RR: For me it was just his unabashed fantasy life that my character was leading, this idea that he’s so much more than he actually is. He has this inability to accept where he is in his life, and that’s something that I feel really heartbreaking. I found it touching in a strange way, that this guy is so disappointed with how things turned out for himself that he’s chosen to really try to be the biggest fish in the smallest pond he could possibly find. And that’s what that represented for him. To me, that was reason enough to jump in there and do it.

SF: Is it fun being on an amusement park to make a film, or was it annoying?
RR: It’s annoying because there is all these sound issues. There are a lot of background artists, too. They're at an amusement park, but they're being told to be quiet and stay in one section. So I think that naturally it got a little antsy and some takes get ruined because people are yelling and screaming and talking and all sorts of stuff.
SF: What are the different considerations that go into shooting an ensemble-supporting role, like in Adventureland versus when you're going to do in the film Paper Man?
RR: I don’t know. I don’t usually think of it like that. I've always loved character work. When I was younger, I considered myself a character actor, but I didn’t get those parts a lot of the time. When they come along in a movie like Adventureland, I try to jump at them usually, if it’s a good film. That’s just it though, I mean if it’s a good movie, I don’t really care if I’m a big role or a small role.

SF: You were just a kid in the ’80s when this movie is set. Did you have any favorite movies or music from the ’80s?
RR: For me, I loved Say Anything. That was a huge movie for me when I was a kid. I think for a lot of guys my age, it was. You always have that moment where you picture yourself with a ghetto blaster over your head and blasting it out for the one you love. In reality, you’d be arrested for doing that. But I love that movie. I was a huge fan of Being There, but I don’t know if that was an ’80s movie or not. It’s such an indelible decade — the ’90s was this vaguely forgettable decade, style wise. It’s more of a hodgepodge of the previous three decades. So the ’80s really had this je ne sais quois unto itself that is always fun to explore.
SF: Are you still auditioning or are people hiring you based on the fact that they want Ryan Reynolds in their film?
RR: Truthfully, I haven't auditioned in a long, long time, but it’s never outside the realm of possibility. I mean if you want a film and they don’t want you, sometimes you have to go fight for it. Sometimes that ends up just being a meeting really, just sitting down with them and just saying here is my vision for it and here is why I really love it. But for the most part, I think filmmakers gravitate towards people that are excited – as excited as they are about the film and as passionate about it. So sometimes going after it isn't so much a function of auditioning as it is just sitting down with the filmmaker.
SF: You had a pretty big summer movie come out in Wolverine. Did you go after that part or did they come after you?
RR: That character is something that I've been sort of mentioned about for a long, long time and the character in the comic book, Deadpool, even mentioned me {laughs} playing him. So I think it was in some weird way a little bit destined. But I love that character. I love that franchise. I love that whole vibe. So I was happy to jump in there and do it.
SF: Were you forced to read comic books?
RR: No, I've read them before. I read the Deadpool series way back in the ’90s. But I’m not like a huge comic book reader per se. I mean, you know, I’ll check out Archie when I’m in the grocery line, but that’s about it!
SF: How were the fight scenes with Hugh Jackman?
RR: They were intense. I mean, on movies are like this you have a lot of big personalities in one room, and you think that’s going to be combustible. But it was just the opposite. I look at it like an ensemble really. I mean there was a whole track of people in there with heavy, heavy storylines that they're trying to pack into this one movie. But it was a shockingly chummy set. Everybody was really into what they were doing and because of that, it’s like this bonding experience, I think, to a certain degree. But their action sequences are amazing. I’d never done anything on that scope before. I've done a couple of action movies, but not like this. It was pretty wild.

SF: Were there any that you found especially difficult?

RR: I have a sword sequence in the movie that is probably less than a minute long in the film, but that takes months and months and months to prepare for. When you think about it like that, it’s vaguely depressing. But when you actually do it, it’s worth it, when you see on the screen that that’s me and it’s not a stunt person, and I’m doing the whole thing. But that does take a long time — we had action sequences that took weeks to shoot.
SF: There has been some talk about taking Deadpool off into his own series. Is there any new information on that?

RR: No, I mean these things work pretty slowly as they go. I've had a couple of people approach me about meetings from a Deadpool movie, but I just think it’s absurd to even think that way until this movie comes out. I don’t even look at it like I play Deadpool; I really think I’m more or less playing Wade Wilson obviously, and then I’m playing the creature that will eventually become Deadpool. But in this movie, it’s sort of his newly formed version, so to speak.
SF: How did it feel to be replaced as People magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year by Hugh? Did that in any way add tension on the set?
RR: {laughs} Yes, it was brought up often. {laughs} I think Hugh much like every other one of these sexiest people of the year, which just seems like the most absurd crown on earth, he just takes it with a grain of salt. It’s pretty silly stuff come to think of it. But yes, he made my life absolutely miserable. Hugh has always been the sexiest man alive. {laughs} Let’s be honest.
SF: You have another summer movie with The Proposal. This is turning into a big year for you?
RR: Yeah, it is. It’s definitely a big year for me – Wolverine and then this movie, The Proposal. That’s a movie I loved. I got to work with Sandra Bullock, who has been a friend of mine for almost a decade, and that was kind of interesting to spend that time with her. But I have no control over release dates. I've been shooting for 15 months straight, and maybe I should have known they’d all be stacked up like this, but it’s a pretty interesting position to be in. I mean if you have three comedies that are being released in the three months – first off, the studios would be insane to do that, but they’ve done it before with other actors. And secondly, people burn out on that kind of brand. So I’m lucky, I have three completely different movies coming out. Each one is an entirely different genre unto itself. I get a little cooked doing the same thing over and over. I feel really fortunate that I’m able to go from genre to genre.
SF: So you don’t make your choices based on wanting to avoid being be typecast?
RR: Not usually, no. I've never had a movie that I was the star of that made a billion dollars at the box office. Maybe things change for people when that happens. Maybe suddenly you're sort of pushed in that direction a lot more, but in a way, I've been lucky because of that. I can do a bunch of different stuff.
SF: Having worked with Sandra now after knowing for so long, did you learn anything new about her working on this particular movie?
RR: She has an ability to compress an enormous amount of emotion and information in a single look. I think that’s the magic of her. I used to think it was because she was the girl next door or she’s America’s sweetheart or any of that crap – but no, it’s the fact that she’s got some sort of weird, bizarre supernatural gift that I’m deeply envious of and would love to have some day. We've been friends for a long time, but we haven't been up in each other’s grill for 15 hours a day for three months. So thankfully, that all worked out well and she didn’t stick her three-legged dogs on me. {laughs}

ADVENTURELAND is available on Blu-ray & DVD August 25th!

Peter Oberth
Interview by Peter Oberth
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