For someone who got his big break in comedy-the TV series Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place-the Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds has lately been having a pretty intense time at the multiplex. In last summer’s The Nines he played three roles, including a troubled actor; in 2005 he starred in a remake of The Amityville Horror, and, the year before that, in the action flick Blade: Trinity. Now, however, he’s returning to his funnyman roots, with the recently released romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe. One of that genre’s reigning queens, Sandra Bullock, with whom he’s slated to shoot a movie called The Proposal, exposes him to scrutiny.
Sandra Bullock: I don’t want you to think that I’m gonna go easy on you—I’m gonna ask sensitive and very prying questions to really understand who Ryan Reynolds is. Okay?
Ryan Reynolds: Okay. I’ll bring some of my best made-up answers for that.
SB: We’re obviously doing this because of your movie Definitely, Maybe. Could they not figure out the title?
RR: Well, it’s about a confused kid, and I think that the title is reflective of that kid’s inner monologue—she’s a funny kid.
SB: Are you the kid?
RR: I’m not the kid; I’m the father.
SB: So you play a dad!
RR: Yes. [In the film] I have a young daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, who’s very precocious and wonderful.
SB: How was it playing the dad?
RR: It made me feel old all of a sudden. It seems like just three weeks ago I was a freckle-cheeked son, hoping to borrow the car keys.
SB: You also worked with Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz on the film.
RR: Yes. They play loves of mine in the movie. Over the course of the film I’m basically backtracking a bit of my love life for my daughter because she wants to know how I met her mom, who I’m in the process of divorcing. I make it a bit of a game. I say, “I’m gonna tell you the story of all three of my great loves, but I’m gonna change their names, and you have to guess which one’s your mom.” It’s kind of a romantic whodunit.
SB: I don’t know if most people know this but you moved here from Canada. How old were you when you came to the USA?
RR: At the tender age of 19. I remember being upset because I was finally legal to drink in Canada, and I decided to throw that all away and move to America, where I had to wait another two years. I came here to do improv and to try to join the Groundlings.
SB: Did you get in?
RR: I didn’t. I got an agent and ended up doing a sitcom instead.
SB: Was that Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place? That one?
RR: Exactly, yeah, and I felt like on that show I was given the opportunity to do a lot of improv.
SB: Didn’t you start acting in Canada when you were pretty young?
My father was a police officer before he retired. One of my brothers is also a police officer, and I think they kind of expected I would do something along those lines, like become a fireman or something.Ryan Reynolds
RR: Yeah. By the time I came to L.A. I’d already cried on movies of the week with two of the women from Knots Landing.
SB: Which ones?!
RR: Donna Mills.
SB: [gasps] She was genius. Who else?
RR: Tracy Scoggins. [Bullock gasps again] Was that Knots Landing or Dynasty? I forget. [Editor’s note: It was Dynasty.] But I want to go back to one of your earlier questions, which relates to my move here. I remember that coming to America was scary for me because everything here is just bigger, better, shinier, you know?
SB: Where did you grow up in Canada?
RR: I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia.
SB: Did you know since you were a young lad that you wanted to be an actor?
RR: This sounds ridiculous but it really only happened five or six years ago, and by that point I’d already been acting for a long time. I used to just do it because I could, and because it got me out of the house. But five or six years ago is when I really fell in love with doing dramatic work, and all kinds of different work, and when I felt like I could expand in ways that previously I couldn’t even conceive of.
SB: I think people who do comedy tend to do it well, and to do it painfully and truthfully. So making the leap to drama is easier for them because everything they’ve done is from pain anyway. Growing up, what kind of world did you live in?
RR: It was like Guy Central. I had three older brothers, my dad, and a lot of roughnecks, and my mom was this wonderful person who held it all together. My father was a police officer before he retired. One of my brothers is also a police officer, and I think they kind of expected I would do something along those lines, like become a fireman or something.
SB: I think you’d be a good fireman. They make those great calendars.
RR: [laughs] Yeah, they do.
SB: We know you work out and that you’re in excellent shape. I think if you were to be a fireman, you’d be a nice June.
RR: Yeah, they’re recruiting now just for that. It’s so cold in Canada nothing really burns there. [laughs]
SB: It has to give your family great joy to watch your path and to see how brave you are. Do they have favorites of your work? Are they good critics?
RR: They’re actually the best kinds of critics: They observe but they don’t evaluate.
SB: But they don’t say, “Ooh, I love that one”?
RR: They’ll be mortified when they read this, but my brothers are all huge gossips.
SB: Oh, I love that! Male gossips!
RR: They love to know all the nitty-gritty. They don’t care about the movie or what I’m doing. They just want to know what Kevin Kline said to me when the director yelled “Cut.”
SB: We all know when “Cut” happens, Kevin immediately goes into some soliloquy from some Shakespeare masterpiece.
RR: Yes. [laughs]
SB: Moving on to other works: You’ve got the movie Fireflies in the Garden coming out soon. Didn’t you shoot that in Austin, Texas?
RR: Yeah, one of your favorite cities.
SB: What is that about?
RR: It’s a straight dramatic film that deals with a family’s loss of their mother. It’s a semiautobiographical story of the guy who wrote and directed it, Dennis Lee. In a sense, I play him in the film. The character goes back to visit his family, who he hasn’t seen in 10 years. It’s his mother’s graduation [she had gone back to college to get her degree], and she ends up dying on the way to the graduation. Obviously it’s not a lighthearted comedy. There are no fart jokes or talking dogs.
SB: I don’t know if people know this-in 2007 you were named one of People‘s sexiest men. Did you do a photo shoot with your shirt off, maybe leaning on your knee, like, flexing a muscle, or was it more of a GQ fan blowing open your shirt kind of thing?
RR: [laughs] I’d feel like the most unapologetic jerk if I did that. They took me into this room, took a picture of me, slapped me with this title, and then I was left to my own devices to work it into every conversation I will ever have for the rest of my life.
SB: Last time I saw you, it was like you were preparing for the Tour de France-you were in such good shape. Do you still have your six-pack or did you let yourself go?
RR: When I exhale, I just turn right into Louie Anderson.
SB: Do you have a plan for yourself? Do you say, “In five years I see this for myself, or in 10 years I see this”?
RR: No. I have a plan to get lunch.
SB: You ride motorbikes a lot, don’t you?
RR: Yeah, I have a few bikes.
SB: And didn’t you do a trip through New Zealand?
RR: I did two trips in 2006. I did one through New Zealand on a motorcycle, and I tried to cross Australia on a motorcycle from one end of the continent to the other. My friend and I did not make it, unfortunately-he crashed, and we had to find a hospital.
SB: Is he okay?
RR: He’s fine. He just got up and spat on what was left of his bike and paced around like a caged animal. Then we left.
SB: [laughs] And then you double-teamed it on your bike, and made it a friendly trip?
RR: Yes. Not a pretty image, by the way. Two 6-foot-2-inch men on a tiny motorcycle.
SB: [laughs] Maybe not for you, but there are a lot of Interview readers who’d be very happy to have that image. Were you wearing shirts?
RR: No, we were shirtless.