In his latest film,
Ryan Reynolds plays Will, a father in the midst of a divorce telling his daughter (Abigail Breslin) the story of how he fell in love with her mother. The trick is, this romantic comedy is also a mystery, as neither his daughter nor the audience knows which of his leading ladies ended up being his wife.
Opening February 14, Definitely, Maybe features an all-star cast that
includes Isla Fisher,
and Derek Luke. RT caught up with Reynolds in San Francisco to chat about
child actors, avoiding the paparazzi, and his hunger for U.S. politics.
Definitely, Maybe combines many different genres — romance, comedy, mystery,
drama. When you first read the script, what genre drew you to the film?
Ryan Reynolds: I’ve been calling it a romantic whodunit . That’s what drew it to me. It’s a
romantic comedy of course, but it’s also unpredictable, which is completely unusual. I guess in a sense it defies genre, and the
romantic comedy genre in particular. I would say the best way to describe it is that it feels like a love letter to broken homes… which is also kind of funny.
Like Breslin, you started your career at a very young age and the two of you have a lot of scenes together…
RR: I was just a couple of years older than her when I started — I of course wasn’t nearly as accomplished as she is now — but it was great. I firmly believe that you can’t manufacture chemistry with anyone, let alone a kid. I just spent time with her, we hung out, and we hit it off, and thank God we did. But I was prepared to put whatever our dynamic was onscreen. Even if she hated me, that’s what we’d put onscreen, because you can’t lie about that. Everything that’s out there when you’re watching the film is authentic, it is exactly our dynamic. I love her.
RR: Yeah, I think he wanted to write the “anti-romantic comedy” in a sense. He wanted to do something different, he was tired of the same old, same old. I think it was a bit of a battle cry for him. He was pretty excited to get this made.
Do you get a lot of scripts like this?
RR: No, I don’t get a lot of romantic comedy scripts. I get comedy scripts, the last two years I’ve gotten all kinds of scripts, it’s great. Typically,
romantic comedies are female driven, not only in its viewership, but also in the actual film. The actors are usually female protagonists. So it was definitely unusual.
Now that you’ve done romantic comedy, horror, raunchy comedies and dramas, do you have a favorite?
RR: I find that drama is the easiest. I really rely on the words more than I do in
comedy. When I do comedy, my brain sort of locks up in the infinite possibilities. That’s where I get sort of lost. I think, “Oh, there are six other jokes that we could say here!” I feel more at home with
drama lately, maybe it’s because it’s easier. I think it’s also because I’m older. When I was younger, I was reticent to be vulnerable on camera and everything I was doing was just a really finely honed defense mechanism from when I was a kid, and I was now using this to make a living on camera. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve managed to soften a little bit in that regard and feel a little bit more comfortable being vulnerable. Not just in my personal life, but in film as well.
I heard you had quit acting for a while, and ended up in Los Angeles on a bit of a
It wasn’t like I was having a very illustrious career up in Canada. I was doing all of these movie-of-the-weeks with all of these ex-Dynasty stars. It was depressing. I would have rather gone to university or become a teacher, so I did quit, I stopped acting for about a year. At the time, a friend said he was going to L.A. and asked me if I wanted to come. I was doing improv comedy at this point, and thought I would go with him and join The Groundlings. I thought I would just come in and say, “I’m ready”, but of course — they said “F–k off pipsqueak, you have to take the course like everybody else.” I didn’t have the money or the time to do that, since I wasn’t a citizen. I was there for a short time and got an agent who sent me on an audition for a show called Two Guys and a Girl and I got that.
How have you handled your rise to fame?
RR: I wouldn’t say it happened quickly at all. I look at some of these other guys and they do one movie and then they’re on the cover of Vanity Fair. A long time ago, they would really take time and cultivate their movie stars and now it seems to be a much shorter process. I’m pretty happy with how it has gone, because it happened a little more slowly than most. It has been a slower ride for me than it has been for some of these other guys, and it would be scary for me if it had been an overnight thing, because the expectations are just though the roof.
Is it challenging to build a career based on your films, rather than crazy paparazzi attacks?
RR: That’s a really difficult thing to balance, I don’t have the crazy paparazzi attack, but I also don’t court that. I think to some degree, you really have to court that in your life. I think this is much darker thing that just celebrity, for some people it’s a sickness. I think they literally feel invisible unless they have 400 people teaming outside, so I think it’s indicative of something much darker than just celebrity. Also, I don’t want to know anything about actors. I want it to be a mystery, I want to watch them onscreen and have them be a blank canvas. If they save the world onscreen, then that’s fantastic, but I don’t want to know what they eat every night, or who they’re sleeping with, or their religious preferences. I don’t care. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen to people who don’t want it. I’m not saying that everybody wants it. But the people who are complaining about it are also the ones who are eating outside at The Ivy. Of course that’s going to happen — you’re eating at the f—ing Ivy!
Your character in Definitely, Maybe works in for the Bill Clinton campaign. How did you prepare for that aspect of the role?
RR: For people that are my age, I think that Clinton was their president. He was their JFK. I don’t think since Trudeau in Canada, had we had such a charismatic celebrity leader. I’ve always been a bit fascinated with U.S.
politics. During my blink-and-you-missed-it career in college, I studied U.S. history and I loved studying U.S.
presidents. It was the most fascinating thing for me. Mostly because it’s so gossipy, their lives are so sordid.
RR: Oh my God, he’s the king of it. So in preparing for the film, I read as much as I could about various U.S.
presidents that influenced Bill Clinton. I read all of the Clinton biographies — it’s like reading US Magazine without the pictures. That’s really the life of politics these days. It was really fun and exciting and created this voracious appetite for politics in me. Especially now, this election has been like the Super Bowl every week for me.
How much of the film was improvised, how much leeway did you have?
RR: We had a bit of leeway, I felt like I had less than usual. This was a great exercise in biting my tongue because my sense of humor tends to go to a similar place that maybe Isla’s maybe would. I feel like that would create a character that was too knowing. I really had to sell a character that was nice, and it was really difficult to sell that naiveté if I were to adlib a lot on play, so I had to be careful with that. It was really tough to kind of stay in that place. But it really pays of, because you really invest in the character and his journey. If he was wisecracking and too knowing, you wouldn’t really empathize and see where he’s coming from, and you wouldn’t understand where he got lost.
Your character goes through a lot of emotions that males typically go through in relationships. Was there aspect of your character that you related to the most?
RR: Oh yeah, to some degree I felt like this film was a mirror image of my life at that time. I had a tremendous amount of ups and downs in my career, personal life, and romantic life. For me, it was hard to find a spot of the film that wasn’t relatable.
With divorce at such a high rate, I think a lot of people will be able to
relate to the Breslin character. How did you react to that when you were filming?
RR: Aside from really exploring it in an adult way, it really showcases that there is hope for healing and moving on. The trick was that Adam took the subject matter and made it kind of funny, which was the genius of it. But it was still hard to read the script without even bawling. So many people have experienced what divorce is like, especially children. I think many children have this notion that no matter what, they just want their parents to stay together — even if they are unhappy — just keep it together. I think it was really wonderful to see that subject handled in a really adult and mature way, basically expressing to this little kid that it’s okay that we’re apart. We find happiness elsewhere.