It is too much of a cliché to say that Ryan Reynolds has typically Canadian virtues? He’s polite, modest, and endlessly self-deprecating. He also remains a deeply loyal Canadian who often returns to visit his native city of Vancouver where he has shot two of his massively popular Deadpool films.
Playing the sarcastic, somewhat twisted superhero turned Reynolds’ Hollywood career around and it was the actor himself who developed and produced the billion-dollar film franchise. The massive popularity of those movies – each film grossed nearly $800 million at the worldwide box office – has given Reynolds new found bankability that spilled over into the success of recent films such as 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard and this year’s smash Netflix hit, Underground 6.
Meanwhile, during the coronavirus epidemic, Reynolds, together with his wife Blake Lively, has joined the relief effort in his native Canada by donating $1 million to be split between the organizations Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.
“Covid-19 has brutally impacted older adults and low-income families…If you can give, these orgs need our help,” Reynolds wrote on Instagram. “Take care of your bodies and hearts. Leave room for joy. Call someone who’s isolated and might need connection.”
In addition, Reynolds has stepped up to help another Canadian city – Ottawa – with a surprise $2000 donation to the Ottawa Food Bank via its GoFundMe page. It turns out that Reynolds spent a year living and working in the nation’s capital around the age of 13 while he was shooting the second season of the 1991 TV series “Hillside” (AKA Fifteen) in Ottawa at the CJOH studios.
“Blake and I are so happy to give back to a country that’s given us so much,” said Reynolds in a message posted in early May on the Ottawa Food Bank’s Instagram page. “I used
to live in Ottawa (in Vanier). It holds a special place in my heart. So happy to donate to your amazing food bank.”
In the meantime, Reynolds appeared on The Interview Dudes podcast which is hosted by three 11-year-old boys who live in Ottawa. While answering questions on the show, Reynolds reiterated his appreciation for Ottawa as being “kinda my city too…I love Ottawa as well. I feel like Ottawa and Vancouver are my two homes.”
On top of that, the Canadian heartthrob gave a shout-out to Ottawa’s Mayor: “Mayor Jim Watson… he’s a fantastic guy,” he said. “He’s a really interesting guy, he’s one of the most interesting mayors I’ve ever heard of. I’ve read a lot about him; I think he’s doing a good job.”
Thanks to some alert Ottawa fans, Reynolds even helped pinpoint via Twitter exchanges where Ryan lived during his time shooting the TV series.
“I lived in a high rise. There were three in a row. I thought they were called, ‘The Vanier Towers.’ I looked it up and they now seem to be business towers. My memory‘s a little foggy. I was around 13 yrs old at the time but I wasn’t particularly bright for my age.”
After a fan Tweeted a photo of the high rise complex, Reynolds replied: “That’s it!”
Apart from his Canadian charity donations, Reynolds has also declared that 30% of the sales revenues from online sales of his Aviation Gin company will be donated to the United States Bartenders Guild to support American barkeeps who have been left jobless during the pandemic.
In the meantime, Reynolds is preparing to suit up as Deadpool again in the third instalment of the franchise. But like so many other Hollywood projects, preparations for the film have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic as has the release of Free Guy, which is now expected to unspool in September. This action adventure comedy stars Reynolds as yet another bumbling would-be hero who is charmingly incompetent at saving the world.
That kind of tendency to poke fun at himself is characteristic of Reynold’s own personality. He’s one of the few Hollywood stars who refuses to take himself seriously. Whether it’s calling Hugh Jackman a “fraud” who only “pretends to be Australian,” releasing a TV ad for his Aviation American Gin company that features the Peloton Wife actress, or carrying on a social media feud with his own wife, Reynolds delights in sending up a celebrity world that he finds manifestly absurd.
“It’s been a blast getting away from the traditional concept of the leading man…which is not something I’ve ever been really that great at, to be totally blunt,” Reynolds says. “When I started in this business, my highest goal was to be the wacky neighbour on a sitcom. [My career] took a much different path…and I’ve managed to find projects that give me a chance to a play characters that are much truer to who I am and my own sensibility.”
Reynolds personally lobbied 20th Century Fox for over a decade to make the original 2016 Deadpool film. The slick, self-mocking action comedy was a perfect outlet for the Canadian’s relentlessly self-mocking sensibility. The two Deadpool films rank as the highest grossing R-rated films of all time.
In real life, the 43-year-old Ryan Reynolds, born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, is happily married to actress Blake Lively. They live in Bedford, New York, together with their three children, James (a girl), 4, Ines, 2, and a new baby (name and sex still undisclosed) born in August.
In person, the 6’2” Reynolds is effortlessly polite, witty, and deeply unimpressed with his celebrity.
Your latest film 6 Underground has earned terrific reviews and attracted a huge audience on Netflix. What was it like working on a Michael Bay movie?
It’s chaos. Like it’s just chaotic. You never know when you are supposed to be shooting or what you are supposed to be doing or where you are supposed to be going or what you are supposed to be saying. But somehow, some way [Michael Bay] and his editors make it all kind of come together on the screen and you get this unbelievable spectacle of a movie that’s muscular and a huge event. There is a rhyme to his madness.
Does Michael Bay like to be very active on the set while he’s conducting all the chaos?
He’s really hands-on. I mean, he’s filming a lot of the stuff. I’d say that half the movie it was just by his hand – he’s handling the camera and throwing it in these weird places and doing all kinds of stuff. I mean, it’s wild. There’s a reason that his camera is called “The Bayhem.” That’s what it is. It is mayhem.
Your screen image these days is pretty much that of someone who doesn’t take himself or life that seriously. Was it your idea to infuse your Deadpool character with some of your own natural sense of irony and cynicism?
There was a lot about his sense of humour and way of looking at things [from the comic book] that I related to. He doesn’t take himself seriously and I’ve never been someone to take myself seriously, either. That’s been a side of me that I think has come through in many of the characters I’ve played and I knew exactly how I could take Deadpool in a very different kind of direction than you’ve ever seen any superhero take.
How does it feel to look back on the days when you were starting out as an actor? Did you ever imagine doing anything else with your life?
No, not really. My father was a cop and so were
two of my brothers and I was thinking of becoming a fireman. I had actually started studying for the entrance exam but then a friend told me that I didn’t have a chance because the fire department had a mandate to hire women and visible minorities.
Since I didn’t qualify in either category, I decided that I would move to L.A. and try to make my dream of becoming an actor come true. I think I was also rebelling against my family profession. It was either that or drive forklifts or work at Safeway. When I drove to California, I didn’t even tell my boss at Safeway that I was leaving. I didn’t tell my parents either, so they were shocked when they found out what I was doing and that I wasn’t planning on coming back home.
How did you first get involved in acting? You grew up as the son of a policeman?
Things were sometimes pretty intense at my home and my father was pretty tough on me and my three older brothers. That built up a desire in me to find a way out of the house and be on my own.
I took drama classes in high school and I got to do a lot of improv which I discovered I loved to get involved in and be very adventurous and wild. One day casting directors from Nickelodeon showed up in town and asked every high school drama teacher to send their four best drama students to audition.
I didn’t get picked at first, but I kept on auditioning for the show until I eventually got hired and I was on a plane to Florida. (The series, Fifteen, lasted four seasons).
Later you went to college but then you decided to quit and move to L.A. to pursue acting full-time?
I was getting bored in college and one day I just thought I should drive down in my Jeep to L.A. and see what would happen. I spent a lot of time auditioning and expecting that everyone would be ready to hire me.
I found out pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be like that and that I was competing against a lot of very talented people who had exactly the same ambitions as I had.
What made you stay the course?
You’ve got to be willing to tough it out, but I thought acting was a lot more interesting than driving a forklift or any of the other odd jobs I had done up to that point.
Was it a struggle at the beginning or was it a source of great satisfaction to be a teenager who got to cut school and hang out on film and TV sets?
It was generally a lot of fun although there were some moments where you’re not exactly doing the most creative work and you want to be somewhere else. But looking back I think it was a pretty cool experience and I was probably very lucky that it was a slow process before I had some real success and knew that I could make my living at it.
I think I benefitted from the fact that I was able to adapt to the kind of life you lead as an actor and dealing with the attention and your own expectations about what you want to accomplish. It was disorienting at times and it took me time before I was able to figure things out on a lot of different levels. But overall I’m very grateful for the way things evolved.
Does being Canadian give you a different perspective on the industry as opposed to how Americans experience life in Hollywood?
I found that I was less driven and not as worried by success or failure. Growing up in Vancouver and having a very Vancouver or Canadian mentality helped me look at the business in a more playful way. I think Canadians are generally more polite and self-effacing and that kind of attitude made it easier for me to adjust to things.
I saw [acting] as an adventure and I wanted to enjoy the ride. I didn’t want to be one of those actors who lives or dies with every role – and I’m lucky I didn’t take that attitude, of course! [Laughs] So not taking myself too seriously has always been a quality that I’ve tried to maintain and not let go of.
That attitude is very much in evidence in the way your Aviation Gin company took advantage of the negative public reaction to the Peloton ads and featured the same actress, Monica Ruiz, who was mocked in social media for her appearance in the TV commercial?
I thought the viral negativity was unfair and she was in a situation that I’ve been in many times before. You put it out there, and it doesn’t quite work, and you feel a little alienated and stuff. So, I had tremendous empathy for her in that moment.
Doing the Aviation Gin ad sort of gave her some authorship over some of this conversation, which I loved. And she’s, she’s the best. She’s really funny, really smart.
You later tweeted “exercise bike not included.”?
That was the kind of line you couldn’t resist! [Laughs]
How do and your wife Blake Lively juggle your respective careers?
It’s not that difficult. We don’t allow our film schedules to overlap and we are very conscious of being very present as parents. I come from a big family and so does Blake and we both want to create a very warm and happy environment for our children.
Do you ever get used to not sleeping a lot while raising young children?
Blake and I are convinced that your children are allergic to sleep!