In many ways, Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds might be one of the most unconventional Hollywood stars on the circuit. At first glance all seems well, but delve under the surface and the Vancouver-born actor presents a mass of contradictions. Firstly, he is a movie icon with youthful energy and looks, yet he had to wait until well into his thirties to catch a break. Add to that, a constant drive towards humor and comedy, yet he is someone who embodies some of the mean, moodiest and most serious characters in dark horror and thriller-strewn plots, as seen in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Criminal and Woman in Gold.
Mostly though, Reynolds — who is married to actress Blake Lively and has three children: Inez, four, and James, another girl, who is six, with little Betty, one, joining the clan — insists on bucking the trends wherever possible. “It’s good for the soul,” he offers… following it with a snigger, “and it prevents me becoming typecast”.
Certainly, becoming overly linked with one character or genre isn’t something that’s going to befall the 44-year-old anytime soon. While the movie industry has sat in a state of frustrating dormancy for so long, big releases have been stacking up like diapers in the Reynolds’ nursery.
It means, as lm fans, the release from lockdown is going to provoke a shuddering array of movies that we’ll scarcely have time to watch, given that we may also be expected to spend time commuting to work again. It means — as things stand — Reynolds will present us with no fewer than three new movies in 2021 (Free Guy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Red Notice), with a further four projects in pre-production, including the time travel epic The Adam Project, and the much-anticipated return of Deadpool set for next year.
Is the Canadian simply trying to throw as much at the wall in an attempt to see what sticks? “It does appear to be something like that,” he laughs. “The truth is all these projects were supposed to be spread out across a reasonable timeframe but because of what’s happened with Covid they have all become concertinaed together, and it’s going to be a little bit of overkill.
“And that’s not just me — there are loads of us stuck on tape in tins waiting to be launched onto an unsuspecting public. When this big explosion happens I think a lot of people are going to wish they were back in lockdown!”
Reynolds’ talent for self-deprecation is, of course, one of his redeeming qualities. That makes sense, given that he has seen the rougher side of the business — in essence, he knows it doesn’t pay to take it too seriously. After all, while films such as R.I.P.D, The Captive and Self/less moved the Vancouver-born actor firmly into the realm of all-action thrillers, they weren’t universally well received at the box office; and while his screen characters have courage and charisma unbounded, Reynolds admits he used to heart rather too much any lukewarm responses to his work.
“Of course, anything negative does affect you,” he begins. “We are human beings, all of us, and to believe that people in any eld, any industry, any profession, are immune to criticism, is crazy.
“We exist these days in a society where we seem to be continually searching for approval or acceptance, and that means we’re putting huge amounts of pressure on ourselves, where in the past we were probably happy just to get on with things.” Whether it be social media, press junkets or column inches, Reynolds’ willingness to constantly put himself back in the ring line is, as he says, “just part of the job”. He is, thankfully, in a much better place these days to deal with the heavy artillery, when — and if — it comes.
“There are certain boxes I will tick, and I know if I do that, I’ll probably be okay. Firstly, being healthy, eating well, exercising, talking about stuff and looking at wellbeing from a wide perspective is vital for me. That’s what gives me the platform to confront problems or tackle what’s in front of me.
“Sleep is also a really big part of that,” he continues. “Like most people, I have a lifestyle that means my sleep patterns change quite frequently, but getting back to a point of ensuring I was rested and recovering was one of the best things I ever did.
“And if my movie still stinks after all that… I can take it!” he laughs.
Reynolds’ appetite for work doesn’t seem to have detracted from his ability to be a loyal and devoted dad. In fact, the actor once suggested that James and Inez were “allergic to sleep”. But having now nailed the night-time schedule, the actor finds his mental strength is fully recharged. And sure enough, to return to the subject of lm roles, his choices are, it seems, better thought out.
“I never look back on the films I have done with regret, but I think there were phases where I was making wrong choices,” he says. “Certainly the work now feels right, whereas for a long time I was just searching around desperately for something to fulfill me.
“Perhaps it’s better that I did it that way. I might have got stuck playing superheroes forevermore if Green Lantern had turned over hundreds of millions. As it turned out, we ended up making a movie with a release date, an actor, a budget, but no script,” he says, referencing the movie labelled as his biggest flop of them all.
“Whichever way you look at it, I feel much more con- dent and satisfied with the work I’m doing now and you’ve just got to have faith that you’ll make more of the right decisions than the wrong ones.”
The quelling of anxiety that, for Reynolds, was at times almost parasitic, has represented a major turning point in his life.
“It has always been there,” he says, “in one form or another. I had a tough upbringing and saw my father struggling long and hard. He would take that anxiety out on me and my three older brothers, and I think living and growing up in that environment ultimately turns you into that person.”
While Reynolds now appears to sympathize with his father’s demons, he vehemently wants to steer himself away from becoming that person. “The truth is my anxiety led me into needing to control things around me — people included — for a long time.That’s not a nice way to be, and it doesn’t win you many friends, and thankfully after meeting my wonderful wife and seeing how someone can be so at it and confident and resilient in themselves, it has made me so much stronger. I’m no longer that twitchy kid!”
That’s not to say Reynolds hasn’t had wobbles. After postproduction for Deadpool and a particularly grueling press tour that culminated at Comic-Con, the actor admits the weight of expectation became too much for him to bear. “I had already dealt with a superhero project that failed to even get out of the blocks, and seeing so many people falling over themselves for Deadpool should have been a big thing, but instead it felt like so much pressure. I was doing press interviews in character to help alleviate my fears
“It’s strange – you have a level of expectation it eats away at you, even though your part in it is finished and you can do no more. And when you get up on stage it all ebbs away anyway, but the lead-up to it is dark.”
Reynolds had a minor breakdown and was physically ill, and consulted multiple doctors fearing a diagnosis of something neurological, given a bout of uncontrollable shaking. “Every doctor said it was anxiety, nothing more nothing less,” he says. “It didn’t help me to know this thing was still there, perhaps from my childhood; but when you know it isn’t something more serious you can begin to piece things back together again. It’s like everything else — get to your low point, find a platform, then build.”
Reynolds’ mental strength is now at a place where he can freely talk about the things in the past that held him back. To say he is complete in his mental and physical rehabilitation — that he has attained the golden elixir of wellbeing — would be naïve; but having been a passenger on his own mind’s journey back to a comfortable place, he knows he is equipped to deal with whatever the future holds… and in the madness of movie industry, that could be anything!
“I do still believe that true mental strength comes from a place of being happy. And being happy isn’t really about the big things… very small things can give you contentment, and the first building block is right there.”