In industry circles, Ryan Reynolds is largely known for two things. One, for being married to Scarlett Johansson (though the pair have now filed for divorce) and two, for being quite ‘normal’ — nothing less than a character assassination if handed out to the man in the street, but an enormous feat of self-awareness and humility in the reality-parched existence that is Hollywood.
So it’s gratifying to see that the 34-year-old has hit his stride. Gone are the wince-worthy rom-coms and fratboy ensemble pieces. In their place are nuanced performances (see: Buried, Adventureland) which have rocketed the Canadian into leading-man territory. And he’s wasted little time in capitalising on his new status. Green Lantern is his next project, battling an evil alien with the help of a ring, and, er, a lantern. But what are his action credentials? Can this personable, self-deprecating man really cut it as a derring-do alpha male? With such a question pending, there’s only really one thing we can ask…
So, Ryan, what does it feel like to jump out of a plane and for your parachute to fail?
Oh man, you heard about that? Ah… It was terrible. The most alarming bit was actually when I hit the ground and realised that I was still alive. That was the point when my whole world collapsed, and the panic attack kicked in. I turned my entire jump suit into a toilet. Before that moment it was calm, you know — weirdly so. I’ve jumped out of the plane, I’m falling to the ground, thinking that this is great, that this is the best feeling ever, but then I’ve pulled my cord, and… nothing. Not a thing. No chute. Just me, still pulling at a cord, still nothing happening, still falling to the ground. But I’m calm. At this point I’m still calm.
What happened next? You clearly didn’t die…
So I wait a few minutes, a few seconds rather, still falling, and my head just kind of goes off on all these thoughts of what to do. Then I remember that I have to try to release the reserve chute, and this may sound odd, but when you’re falling like that you just can’t bring yourself to do it. At least I couldn’t. I’m up there thinking, “When I pull this reserve, and nothing happens, that’s it — I’m still alive, but at the same time already dead.” Physically I can’t release that reserve, because I don’t want to find out if it’s going to work or not.
That’s kind of silly…
This is what happened. Eventually it all becomes about surviving, and my body just instinctively does it for me. This reserve chute comes out, and I manage to land a few miles or so off target. My instructor said that I had to go back up as soon as possible, to get over what happened, and I would have gone the following week, if he hadn’t then died jumping out of a helicopter.
He died? Seriously?
Yeah, seriously. So that was it. The end of my sky-diving tenure, thank you.
Wow… So, you’re starring in Green Lantern. Are you nervous about being in such a big-budget summer blockbuster?
I’m a little bit nervous. There’s a lot of expectation to deal with on a movie this big. Even my own expectations are quite hard to deal with. But for the most part the hard work is done, so what can I do? The weird thing about this one is that I completed the whole film and then 75 per cent of the film-making process started to happen once I’d gone home. To me it was just four green walls, yet to everyone else I’m on a 3D alien planet.
Did you have any accidents or injuries on set?
Yeah, I had quite a few -— they’re par for the course on a movie like this. I’m still hobbling around with them a little bit. We were shooting this one scene when I separated my shoulder. I don’t even know how it happened — I was hanging from a wire, and then suddenly my shoulder was hanging in a whole different way from the rest of me. That hurt.
You obviously had to get in shape for the film — what was the hardest thing to give up?
Beer. In fact, I couldn’t drink any alcohol at all for a year, and I have to say, I do normally like a glass of wine or a beer at the end of a day’s work. I wasn’t allowed at all, so that sucked. And when I had that first drink after… Man, I was definitely a cheap date that night.
You recently ran the New York City Marathon. Was that easier for being in Green Lantern-shape?
That thing was just incredibly tough. I would never do that again. No way. I don’t know how people do marathons. What’s wrong with them? I would rather run that entire thing on my face, it hurts your feet that much.
Green Lantern is a fanboy favourite — have you had anyone threaten you for messing with their comic?
Well, I, er, well… I, er, you know… No. But I can understand some of their concerns. That was always the big thing with this movie: you can’t mess with the expectations of the existing fan base, but at the same time you can’t ignore the larger movie-going audience. Around 90 per cent of people who will come to see this movie will not have been past fans of Green Lantern, so we can’t just fill it with what the comic-book guys want. Yet at the same time, you have to look out for the fanboys because it’s their thing that you’re messing with. They kind of own it.
Are you secretly a bit of a geek?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that I’m a cool guy, but I’m no geek either. I’m a pretty normal fella, I would say. I don’t know how to play video games, which I guess in a backwards kind of way makes me the geek these days. Ninety-nine per cent of the population now play video games, so suddenly I’m the outsider in this scenario. I guess with geek being the new chic, if you’re not geeky, you’ve actually become the geek somehow. I’m also pretty geeky in my obsession with gadgets. I recently got my first iPad, and started picking the thing apart, testing it out, trying things out — and then I looked up and realised it was, like, four days later. I had a beard, I’d lost 3lb, I had nails like Howard Hughes…
Have you ever worn green before? Is it your colour?
I do enjoy green. I’m from British Columbia, the greenest place on Earth.
So, can you have a laugh working on such a big-budget movie, or is it all very serious on set?
I’m rarely deadly serious on a set. Unless I’m near-fatally injured, I try to mess around for the most part. Nobody there’s carrying cancer, so I think you need to remember to have fun while you’re shooting. It’s good to have that camaraderie with the crew, because you’ve got to spend six months in each other’s pockets. I mean, we’re not pulling major pranks or anything, because you can’t mess with the boss’s money too much. It’s more about giving each other a hard time. The main thing I get popped with is my Canadian accent. People seem to like to rip that.
In the UK we find it really hard to tell an American and Canadian accent apart…
Well, it’s the same here. It’s kind of funny because Americans hear a Canadian accent, whereas Canadians largely do not hear an American one. It’s because in Canada we’re so bombarded with American media and entertainment that we’ve just become so conditioned that we don’t hear it. The reverse is obviously not true.
Your dad was a Mountie — is it considered the coolest job over in Canada?
Ah, I don’t know. My father was a Mountie, and my brother is as well. Was I tempted to be one too? Nope. It never really appealed to me in the slightest, to be honest. Definitely not, in fact.
Your marriage suffered quite a lot at the hands of the paparazzi. Has that attention lessened now that you’re separated?
For me, it’s not a major problem. I don’t suffer too much because I think I bore the paparazzi a little. I don’t do a ton of stuff to attract them, so they don’t find me that interesting. I have friends who do have that problem, and I definitely don’t envy that. It’s a tough racket.
Speaking of gossip magazines, what is the strangest thing you’ve ever read about yourself?
That I was adopting a baby from Ghana. Jeez… I try not to read anything, but when you hear about things like that, you have to kind of read it, so you can address it. It’s tough, because you can drive yourself mad. In the end you have to just surrender yourself to it, let these people write their crazy stuff, and just float above it.
You’ve been included in the ‘sexiest man in the world’ leagues for years. Every year do you worry that you won’t be included?
Of course not. I don’t understand any of these things, but what I do know is there’s nothing good that can come of them. They just provide an incredible amount of ammunition for my brothers to poke fun at me.
What do they make of you having action figures made of you for Green Lantern, then?
Oh, those are incredible. I don’t have my own yet, but I was allowed to have a play with some the other day while I wait for my shipment to arrive. I couldn’t believe them — the likeness is remarkably uncanny. It’s so cool. I’m going to try to get as many as possible. My nieces and nephews are getting them for Christmas whether they want them or not.
Did you take anything from the set knowing that you could sell it for a fortune in years to come?
Well, that’s the problem with such a CGI-heavy movie: all that I was surrounded by were four massive green walls. There was nothing actually there. It’s all added in post-production. The only thing that was real, and that I could steal, was the actual ring of the lantern. So I stole that. That was pretty cool. They’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hand if they think that they are going to get that back.
Have you ever worn it out, to the shops or something?
Well, no. I don’t go out wearing alien jewellery. That would be ridiculous.
Green Lantern is at cinemas from June 17th