As a film journalist, it's not cool to say in print that Ryan Reynolds is friggin' awesome. It's even more uncool to say his movies are friggin' awesome. For the most part, however, both of these statements are true. Consider a screening of Waiting... I attended shortly after my big move to Los Angeles three years ago. The audience laughed their collective asses off. In the hallway outside afterward, I heard several critics quoting the movie, citing scenes that had them rolling. The following week, I read a few of said critics' reviews, interested to see how they articulated their enthusiasm, and discovered that they, in fact, hated the movie. Apparently, they got home and remembered they're not allowed to like Ryan Reynolds or his movies.
Maybe this attitude will finally change with Adventureland -- the latest from writer-director Greg Mottola, who last summer gave us Superbad. Reynolds plays a supporting role, which is only one of the ways it's a change of pace for him. The other: He doesn't smile in it. Check out the trailer if you don't believe me; you'd never know the guy has teeth. I sat down with him recently to discuss the movie, as well as his part in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which opens May 5).
Cole Haddon: This is a much more dramatic role than we're used to from you. Mike Connell is kind of a d-bag, huh?
Ryan Reynolds: One of the reasons I did [Adventureland] is that. I like that this guy is very fractured, that he's lived up to none of the potential he had -- and consequently he lives this fantasy life. I've known people like that; the version of who they are in their mind is vastly different than who they really are.
CH: It's a great character, which is probably as much a compliment to your work as Greg Mottola for making his movie's villain -- if there is a villain -- sympathetic in a lot of ways.
RR: I've never had the role where I was 100% villain. Usually when you're doing the 100% villain thing, it's not interesting because it's a parody. It's a guy twisting his mustache or something. I like that he felt like a real guy. He's not a hero, but he's not a villain for sure. All the characters in the film felt like that. Everyone walks that line between nefarious and benevolent, and I think that's what makes it an interesting film.
CH: Mike Connell makes his first appearance in slow-mo, with shades on and guitar case in hand. You can't ask for a better intro than that, right?
RR: If it had been me in the '80s, it would've been short plaid shorts with knobby knees, chocolate topsiders, and a pink shirt with the collar turned up. My character had a little more mojo than that.
CH: Obligatory question. This is a movie inspired by the worst summer job Mottola ever had. What was yours?
RR: I worked at a restaurant that I'm pretty sure doubled as a Peruvian cocaine shack in the '90s in Vancouver. I was a busboy, but there were no customers ever, and everyone seemed to do the business in the backroom. My boss was unnecessarily jittery and hostile, too. That lasted two years, but my last job was at the ... uh, a yacht club. I almost said the full name there, which would've meant they'd be sending over their posh lawyer. All the kids that went there were these obscenely wealthy children of privilege, and they used to call me "boy." I remember thinking, "You little sons of bitches. You're actually the villains from '80s movies. Aren't you supposed to be in Karate Kid beating up Ralph Macchio or something? Are you really going to mess with me, the guy who's bringing you your food?"
CH: Let's talk about your character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which drops very soon now.
RR: I play a guy named Wade Wilson who becomes a character named Deadpool. I don't really consider the character of Deadpool in this film to be the Deadpool that everybody knows and loves [from the comics]. I consider him to be the [guy] that eventually will become Deadpool -- sort of a prelude to Deadpool.
CH: What was the experience like making Wolverine?
RR: It was incredible. You think about going into a film like that, with a group of a lot of very strong personalities, and what's that going to be like -- especially in a film that sort of leans towards an ensemble, but is really focused on Hugh Jackman. I was so shocked to see how chummy it was on set. You know, everybody was united by this common goal of lifting more weight than the guy next to you on your days off. [He grins at his joke.]
CH: Are you a comic book fan?
RR: I was a fan of the Deadpool comic books only because somebody turned me onto them when they handed me one where someone asks the character of Deadpool what he looks like under the mask and he says, "I look like a cross between a Shar-Pei and Ryan Reynolds." I was like, "What the ... ? Who is this guy?" So I started reading them all, and I loved it. Just the pop culture references. I love that he's a character that knows he's in a comic book. It's completely bizarre. I hope we can make it its own movie, because it would be pretty interesting. It would be very difficult to do, but it would be a lot of fun.
CH: So then, as a fan, did you pursue the role of Deadpool, or is this something that the filmmakers approached you about?
RR: I had been approached to do Deadpool's own stand-alone movie before this, and it never really got off the ground. It was a time when comic book movies were a little more dysfunctional. Some worked and some didn't. Now it seems like you're nobody unless you've played a comic book character. Really, it's its own genre. Fox just came to me and asked if I would do it and I said, "Absolutely!" It was more of a cameo than anything else. I was already signed on to do this film called Paperman, that was more important [to me] than life itself. I signed on to do that, so I couldn't be there for a lot of the principal photography [on Wolverine], so we ended up shooting my stuff -- well, people thought that there were re-shoots, but actually I was just finishing the film. People were saying that they were adding all of this Deadpool stuff that hadn't previously been there, but that wasn't the case. I just hadn't shot my part yet.