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Ryan Reynolds: Heroically Offensive

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As Ryan Reynolds prepares to unleash Deadpool, he tells ShortList’s Andrew Lowry about why this is not going to be another Green Lantern

"I am no stranger to graphic nudity. I’ve been doing it my whole life."

ShortList is talking to Ryan Reynolds on the day the age rating for Deadpool is released, and he’s stressing his film’s adult bona fides. As well as flashing a bit of skin (no word yet on whether it’s his or someone else’s), according to the Motion Picture Association Of America it contains “strong language, violence throughout and sexual content”. This isn’t so much Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man as it is Robert Downey Jr in the Nineties.

Reynolds has had a funny old career. On one hand, he’s ridiculously famous – a regular on massive billboards, aftershave campaigns and Hollywood buzz lists – but it’s also hard to think of an acting role that defines him. Since his breakout role in Van Wilder in 2002, he’s done pretty much every kind of film there is, from visceral vampire flick Blade: Trinity to courting Sandra Bullock in romcom The Proposal via paranormal thriller The Amityville Horror. He’s even tried his hand at Spandex-clad superhero before, although the less said about 2010’s Green Lantern, the better.

Reynolds is fond of using ship metaphors – he drops these analogies four times in our conversation – and, as producer on Deadpool, seems to have, well, run a tight ship. 

“The budget we had, because of some of the content, is almost absurd for a film like this,” he says. “I mean incredibly reasonable. So many movies have fat on the budget for things that don’t end up as production value, so I was there on the ground making sure every cent we spent was up there on the screen. If it meant fewer creature comforts, whatever. I think the end product is more important than the size of my trailer."

Bear in mind, for most Hollywood actors, enduring a smaller trailer is akin to going on hunger strike. But for a guy who’s appeared on more sexiest men lists than Oscar shortlists, he’s definitely been branching out in the past few years. For every RIPD or Safe House, he’s appeared in three smaller films from interesting directors. 

Different boxes

Like a lot of jobbing actors, Reynolds was, for a long time, just happy to be on camera and not waiting tables. “I’m having a bit of a period where I get to do things that I want to do a little bit more,” he says. “I’m letting myself do that, and as a result I’m enjoying my job a lot more. I’ve been doing this for a living for 26 years, but I’m still aware that 99 per cent of my peers are out of work – you get to a place where you’re just grateful to be working, and maybe you say yes to things that afterwards you might think twice about. Now, though, I can take some thought and responsibility for the movies I do and the people I choose to work with.”

You might think of Reynolds as just a quip-happy blockbuster actor, but he’s spent the past five years choosing some interesting characters – including a man who wakes up 6ft under in experimental thriller Buried (“17 days in a box, man – that was tough”). He played a man who thinks his pets are talking to him in Iranian director Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices. He played a gambler in Mississippi Grind, appeared in Canadian arthouse tsar Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, and recently worked for visionary/nutter Tarsem Singh in Self/Less.

I just want to do it right this time – when I did him before, I kind of had my hands tied. 

The films have been hit and miss, but none of these choices are lazy, and definitely not what you do if you just want to fill your bank account by appearing in a romcom every other year.

Reynolds reinforces this; tellingly, he says he wants to work with Edgar Wright and Stanley Kubrick-anointed indie auteur Todd Field. You do start to wonder if people typecast him because he’s a harmless pretty-boy who knows his way around a one-liner.

“I think people put you in a different box all the time,” he admits. “Different people will put me in different boxes. Some people underrate me, but at the same time some people overrate me. I look at it like that. I try to do interesting stuff when I can."

Tracing Reynolds’ career, most of the aforementioned “interesting stuff” follows on from the poor reaction to Green Lantern. The rumour goes that the planned sequel and franchise-building attempts were promptly scrapped, and, in keeping with its breaking-the-fourth-wall nature, Deadpool’s promo trailer even sees the antihero being quite vocal about the failure of Reynolds’ film.

“God, I hope it doesn’t come across as a lack of gratitude or a lack of understanding,” he says, when we bring it up. “I know how hard I worked, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we were all popping crisp high-fives once the movie was out and done. I think the jokes about it in the Deadpool trailers were pretty good-natured."

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Franchise flag

Still, he’s pretty philosophical about his stint as the Green Lantern – could it be said that he now, at least, knows what not to do in a superhero flick?

“Sure – I was there on the ground with them, I know how hard it is to be working on something that isn’t fully formed and has a looming release date. When you don’t have a fully written third act, it’s a tough position for a lot of people to be in – not just myself, but for the props guy, for the grips, for the caterers to be in, for everyone. You just couldn’t do anything slick, let alone plan properly.”

Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have Reynolds donning a new (ish) superhero costume, playing Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool. But this is actually the second time he’s played the wisecracking ex-army guy – Reynolds made an appearance in 2009’s critically savaged X-Men Origins: Wolverine alongside Will.i.am in a film that was blasted for sandpapering down some of the most iconic characters. No character suffered quite as much as Deadpool, who was prevented from spewing any of his crude language and trademark quips when his mouth was literally sewn shut.

“I just want to do it right this time – when I did him before, I kind of had my hands tied,” Reynolds admits. “If this is me planting my franchise flag, great, here is where my flag is – and if it doesn’t become a franchise, this one will stand for itself. I don’t think anybody who is versed in the world of Deadpool will see it and think it doesn’t meet or exceed their expectations. We definitely haven’t half-assed it.”

Milk squirting

This energy extends to the action: even though you can’t see his face for much of the film, that’s Reynolds under the suit. “Deadpool has a way of fighting that is as specific as the way he talks – it’s character work, even though you’re in that suit. It’s not me for all of it – we had a double who was in Cirque du Soleil and can defy gravity – but I did a bit more than my wife would have liked.”

But here’s a thing: despite his franchise-planting plans and frat-boy looks, Reynolds is actually 40 in October. Getting older is bad enough without having to star in action movies. So, what’s it like on the old joints? “You get your f*cking ass kicked,” he says. “I’ve broken a dozen bones over the years, and you start to get a little creaky after a while. The thing is, falling on your ass isn’t hilarious any more. I’ll pop up at the same speed I used to, but my inner monologue isn’t the same as it used to be. Now I think, “Please, please don’t make me jump off this building or get yanked on a wire again.” I do find myself having a lot more whiney thoughts now. This sh*t hurts. It’s a new world for me. You just have to strap in – I’ll do 11 more of these films if they let me."

Reynolds is keen to stress he has a lot more of the character’s signature one-liners to come, too. “A lot of people seemed to like that ‘cock-juggling thunderc*nt’ line from Blade – people yell that at me all the time,” he admits. “If I have one talent, it’s coming up with preposterous expletives. It’s my version of squirting milk from my tear ducts.”

So yes, Ryan Reynolds might be getting older. But wiser? That’s probably a bit of a stretch.

Deadpool is at cinemas nationwide from 10 February

[Images: Fox, Kobal]

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