Interview: Ryan Reynolds is a Man of Action
LOS ANGELES - Despite the headline-grabbing separation from wife Scarlett Johansson, Ryan Reynolds is in full grin mode as he relaxes in a Beverly Hills hotel suite.
"I love my job, and there's nothing wrong with that," he says.
Professionally, the 34-year-old Vancouver native has lots to smile about this summer. He's one of the featured attractions with Jason Bateman in the R-rated comedy The Change-Up, which opens Aug. 5.
More immediately, he's the superhero headliner in the much-anticipated Martin Campbell-directed movie version of DC Comics' Green Lantern.
In the origins film set to hit theatres June 17, Reynolds plays cocky U.S. test pilot Hal Jordan, who has been chosen to join the Green Lantern intergalactic police brotherhood by the universe's protectors of peace and justice.
With his superpower ring in place, the newest Green Lantern (Reynolds) - and the first humanoid - prepares to battle the Parallax entity, a powerful force threatening the delicate balance between good and evil throughout the universe.
Gossip Girl's Blake Lively plays childhood sweetheart and Hal Jordan alley, Carol Ferris, an ace pilot and vice-president of Ferris Aircraft.
Peter Sarsgaard is the brilliant but sinister Dr. Hector Hammond, an outcast and former friend of Hal and Carol's, but destined to confront them. Tim Robbins is Hammond's father and manipulative political boss.
Mark Strong shows up as Hal Jordan's skeptical Green Lantern mentor, Thaal Sinestro, while Angela Bassett plays a scientist and government agent, Dr. Amanda Waller.
There are fantastical computer-generated battles galore, of course. And while the special-effects flick was filmed in and around New Orleans, many of the sequences were shot with green-screen backgrounds on mostly empty sets.
It was a challenge for most of the cast, including Reynolds, although this wasn't his first foray into "real make believe" in a special-effects picture.
In 2009, he played Deadpool to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. (To put a fine point on his versatility that same year, he also starred with Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy, The Proposal.)
In all three films, but especially in Green Lantern, Reynolds reveals his ripped frame.
In fact, his hunky Green Lantern form made it difficult for Lively to get noticed during their scenes together, but she jokingly admitted to trying to subvert his presence.
"I needed a way to sabotage Ryan," she says. "So I brought cupcakes and smiles to the set to get him."
"For most actors, it's coke and guns," joked Reynolds. "My weakness is baked goods."
Still, the actor didn't have any trouble burning off the extra cupcake calories, with the exhausting motion-capture movements and high-wire work he was required to do as the human space cop.
"The stunts on the ground, I can do, but I've never been good with heights," he says.
The effects movie, however, didn't deter his improvised wit. "I think you have to do that; you have to own the material."
Not all of his suggestions made it into the movie, though. One, especially, was a no-go right from the start. "I wanted: 'With his (Green Lantern's) ring, he manifests French porn.'"
Joke as he will, Reynolds says he was seriously coping with the initial anxiety of playing a beloved superhero, while balancing the light and dark aspects of the film's tone.
"I'm always terrified at the beginning," admits Reynolds. "Then I start working, and get past my fear, which is the real win for me. Just like Hal (Jordan), I'm used to stepping forward in the face of whatever fears I've created for myself."
For instance, there was his fear of failure. Based in Vancouver, Reynolds struggled for five years of booking small and large parts in low-profile TV shows and movies, before moving to L.A. in 1997.
His wisecracking joker persona was refined for the series, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, which ran from 1998 to 2001, and he made his movie transition with a variation on that theme in the 2002 cult classic, Van Wilder.
Graduating from his frat-boy parts, he co-starred in the 2004 horror action flick, Blade: Trinity, and the 2005 terror trip, The Amityville Horror. He matured even more with romantic comedy turns in 2005's Just Friends, alongside Amy Smart and Anna Faris, and 2008's Definitely, Maybe, featuring Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz.
The next year, his double-duty versatility in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Proposal put him in play as one of the top go-to actors in the movie industry.
As he sorts out his many offers, he's finishing up his promotional responsibilities for Green Lantern, looking forward to reuniting with good buddy Bateman for The Change-Up interviews in August, while he continues assessing the development of his R-rated X-Men spinoff, Deadpool.
Meanwhile, Reynolds says he has managed to monitor the Stanley Cup playoffs as a fan of his hometown hockey team, the Canucks.
"I've seen every game," he says of the Cup final against the Boston Bruins. "When the Canucks get in there, I'm as bandwagon as they come."
Green Lantern opens wide June 17.