Interview By: Andrea Tuccillo
Ryan Reynolds is not an actor that is easy to peg. He’s probably best known for his work in comedies like Van Wilder and Just Friends, but he has also starred in drama, action, and horror films alike. His diverse movie roles don’t give much insight into his personal life, but the real Ryan will gladly give you a peek. He admits he doesn’t watch reality television or play video games, says his favorite movie is Being There, and proudly prefers a more “hermetic” lifestyle free of the trappings of Hollywood.
This forthcoming and affable star takes on his most challenging role yet in The Nines, a twisting and turning film that bends the limits of reality while presenting more questions than answers. The film is divided into three intertwining parts and Reynolds plays a different character in each. In the first segment he’s Gary, a troubled actor under house arrest. In the second he’s Gavin, a frustrated television writer. And in the final section he’s Gabriel, a video-game designer and family man. In each role he plays a creator of some kind, but could he really be the creator of something much bigger? Taking on triple roles in this independent film was new territory for Reynolds, but the decision to do it was a no-brainer.
“I approached this the same way I would a big budget comedy,” he says. “It’s just a question of finding something that you love. I suppose stories like this are a little more inherent to independent film only because they’re not as widely accessible as National Treasure or something like that.”
The story of The Nines is a complicated one, partially based on writer/director John August‘s own personal experiences being a television writer in Hollywood. Reynolds admits that doing justice to his director’s own life was probably the hardest part of shooting. “I had trouble connecting to Gavin the most,” he says. “It was the last one we shot and I think I was just intimidated to play–I mean I’m playing John August, the director. It’s his experience. Essentially I’m doing an impression of him during the film so that’s always a bit daunting.”
Another challenge was keeping each of the three characters connected in some way, while still making each one distinctly individual. “I didn’t want to make them too diverse in the sense that they would feel indulgent like this character’s Scottish or this character’s Swahili,” Reynolds says. “I wanted the viewer to feel like they could see both the puppet and the puppeteer in this, that they are all in fact connected on many levels and that the differences are smaller than they are greater. So from the inception and the get-go of this thing it was a real challenge to make them more the same yet different.”
The Nines is a movie that relishes in its ambiguity, leaving the viewer to ponder bold themes of spirituality and existentialism. It’s an intellectual puzzle that could have many interpretations, but one thing’s for sure: Reynolds is keeping his own opinions to himself. “I don’t want to give my take as to what was going on because I think the thrill of this film is that it is a question and it requires an answer of the audience and I think that’s what makes it really special,” he says. “That’s exactly why you do a movie like thisâ€”it’s incredibly rare. It’s rare to find something that’s just so off the deep end that it’s not relatable to anybody but at the same time it offered so many things: little peeks at Hollywood, the notion of a creator’s responsibility to his creation, and then it just felt like a really charming mystery as well.”
He does admit, however, that repeat viewings are probably necessary to allow the movie’s complexities to really sink in. “It’s kind of like a Russian doll,” he says. “It’s references within references within references. I’ve seen it three times and every time I see it I see something completely different.”
Making a film like The Nines can be a tricky process but Reynolds had complete faith in his director. “John and I became fast friends really quickly so I can’t say enough good things about him,” he says. “I get close to all my directors though. I feel like the film is a real directors’ medium and the times that I didn’t feel that way I realized I was clearly fooling myself. They are the gods of this medium and it helps to establish a friendship and a trust early on. It just makes it easier for me, for him, for everyone around us.”
Even after the film wrapped Reynolds and August traveled to Africa together to participate in a charity organization and do some good for needy children. “We went there to check out this orphanage called Fomo which is a woman who single handedly saved 3,000 kids,” Reynolds says. “We used whatever shred of fame we have to see if we could help her out. And we did. We spent a week painting a nursery and building bore holes. They don’t need us to do that. The point is to have us come there and be invested emotionally.”
Besides being rumored to play The Flash in the big-screen comic book adaptation (Reynolds claims it is still just a rumor for now), next up for Reynolds is a film called The Proposal co-starring Sandra Bullock. As his tastes shift as he gets older, so will Reynolds movie choices, but one thing’s for certain: he won’t have any regrets.
“What are you crazy?” he says. “I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything is an accumulative process to who we are now. If I removed all the strife or all the difficulty I’d probably be a very milk and water person.”
Even a small glimpse into the life of Ryan Reynolds shows us just how well those past experiences have served him.