Spotlight By: Benjamin Lee
From the knockabout sitcom actor to the buffed up action star, Ryan Reynolds has had one of the more impressive Hollywood transformations of late.
Reynolds started acting at the age of just 14 but it wasn’t until the ABC sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place at the age of 22 when he started to attract attention. When the show ended in 2001, Reynolds continued with the same comic vein in the hit 2002 comedy Van Wilder, carving out a niche for him as a promising new comedian.
But in 2004 everything changed with the critically derided yet hugely different Blade: Trinity. In preparation for the role Reynolds hit the gym and transformed himself into an action star. Another serious, yet mostly shirtless, role followed in the horror remake The Amityville Horror, which garnered Reynolds some favorable notices. He returned to comedy with Just Friends but now he’s going all out in the frenetic action thriller Smokin’ Aces.
The film sees Reynolds star as an FBI agent assigned to protect Buddy Israel, played by Jeremy Piven, a card-sharp who’s about to testify against the mob. It comes from Joe Carnahan, of the acclaimed cop drama Narc, but this time all subtlety is thrown well out of the window. An all star cast involved in a series of shootings, double crosses, deaths, violence, swearing etc. According to Reynolds, general insanity was something which existed both on and off screen.
‘It was a pretty raucous set’ Reynolds laughs, ‘The first day was crazy. I didn’t know what I’d got myself into. I think it really translated onto the screen.’ The frenzy was something which Reynolds took a while to get used to. Especially for someone who’s still best known as Van Wilder, party liason.
‘It’s weird when you’re walking past people who are wearing outfits built entirely of blood’ he admits,
‘You get used to it and your eyes get accustomed to it. Your nervous system is kind of shot after doing a movie like this for a couple of weeks. It’s incredibly stressful being around gunfire and violence like that.’ The new side of Ryan Reynolds is still something audience members are getting used to as well. Playing the straight guy is still a novelty even for Ryan himself.
‘I didn’t see myself in this kind of role’ Reynolds confesses, ‘It was an unusual role for me but it was great to step up and take it on. With that amount of characters and all those heavyweights involved you just wanna make sure you do it justice.’ He admits that going from light comedy to dark thrills involves a certain change in perspective.
‘It was definitely me tapping into a darker side’ he believes, ‘I think it’s all about believing in the material and believing in this guy who’d caught in this strange bureaucratic crossfire and how upsetting it would be for him.’ The film contains one of the year’s most star-studded casts. As well as Reynolds and Piven the film also boasts performances from Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Common, Jason Bateman, Matthew Fox and Ray Liotta.
‘They were great guys’ Reynolds gushes, ‘Ray (Liotta) still goes down in the annals of one of the favorite people I’ve ever worked with. He’s the meanest man you’ll ever love. He’s just one of those surly individuals that you just can’t get enough of!’ And coming from a guy who’s worked with Wesley Snipes that has to mean something.
The serious work for Reynolds continues with this next film, the character-driven drama The Nines, co-starring Hope Davis. ‘I’ve got The Nines which is showing at Sundance next month’ he tells, ‘I’m going as well so I’m looking forward to it. It should be good times.’
The reason for Reynolds’ move into darker fare isn’t 100% apparent although the fact that his girlfriend is angsty rocker Alanis Morrisette could be a contributing factor. It’s not all doom and gloom though with romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe and indie comedy Chaos Theory still on the way. What’s clear is that Ryan Reynolds definitely maybe won’t be involved with any more Van Wilder movies. Kal Penn, it’s all on you now buddy.