The last time we talked to Ryan Reynolds, he was merely the handsomest, charmingest actor alive. His quirky superhero movie, Deadpool—an obsession, to put it mildly—was a few months from being released. But now, more than a year and a handful of box-office records later? He’s a superstar. A heavyweight. But it wasn’t a transformation.
Ryan Reynolds tells Blake Lively we’re headed to the war room. More accurately, he tells her we’re going to the barn, which sits on an old upstate New York farm that functions as Reynolds’s family center and creative headquarters.
Why Deadpool? Because Deadpool is one of the most unique protagonists to appear in a blockbuster. He’s a movie character who’s aware of how absurd it is that he’s a movie character.
Because Reynolds is one of the most unique figures in Hollywood. He’s a movie star who’s aware how absurd it is that he’s a movie star. Reynolds recognized himself in a beloved character and spent a decade persuading doubters to let him blow up the superhero-industrial complex with the role of his lifetime.
Ryan Reynolds: Remember how awkward it was when we were talking about my dad?
GQ: I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he had passed away. When you said he was “scattered to the wind,” I thought you meant, like, metaphorically.
I love situations like that. I really do. I actually didn’t know I was stringing you along. I thought you were totally hip to the fact that he was super-dead. But no!
Ugghh. You had just mentioned your estrangement, so I was confused!
I had a rough ten-year patch with my father. So we were estranged. Now we’re really estranged. But I actually had that sort of epic moment that only happens in films, where I saw him before he died and closed the loop as much as I could.
Why did it take Deadpool so long to happen?
I’ve been on the train for 11 years trying to get it made. We did every iteration of that script we could to allow them to make the movie that looked vaguely like the movie we wanted to make.
You Trojan-horsed your Deadpool in through a regular superhero script.
We thought, “Okay, if they let us do this, we’ll actually shoot this and hopefully they won’t notice.” Once the test footage leaked, that created a groundswell of support. And the studio responded to that groundswell by saying, “Okay, here’s the absolute bare minimum amount of money that we will give this character. Let us know when the movie’s done.”
I heard you personally paid $20,000 to use a picture of Bea Arthur in the movie.
It was more a question of talking to the estate and the family personally and just reaching out and saying, “We’re gonna take care of this.” And there was a little donation made to her charity.
You played Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it seemed like no one was happy with how that went.
It was during a writers’ strike, so all my dialogue in that movie I wrote. I mean, in the stage directions it just said, “Deadpool shows up, talks really fast, and makes a lot of jokes.” At the beginning of that movie, that’s pretty close to Deadpool‘s Wade Wilson. But then it completely departed all canon and reason, and he wound up being this abomination of Deadpool with his mouth sewn shut and weird blades that came out of his hands and these strange tattoos and stuff like that. If you watch the movie, I’m actually playing only a small section, and another actor, this gifted stunt performer, is doing the lion’s share of that work. The conversation at the time was “If you want to play Deadpool, this is your chance to introduce him. And if you don’t want to introduce him in this fashion, we’ll have someone else play him.”
That movie leaked online a month and a half before it was supposed to be released, and all these people saw it and were so upset about Deadpool. I was in Mexico with some friends, and I was called by the chief of the studio, who said, “You have to get on a plane right now. We need to re-shoot the very end of the movie.” I was such a jerk, because I was like, “I told you so.” I still get angry, because I remember saying, “You know, there are more Deadpool fans out there than you realize, and they’re not gonna be happy with this.” I was met with a plausible reason, which was “We don’t have enough time to develop a proper Deadpool suit and make him the fully realized version of the comic, so we’re going with this.” But I was like, “Then don’t do it at all!”
You’ve been obsessed with Deadpool for forever. You were literally talking about it when you were doing press for Green Lantern.
It’s like when your husband or wife is out there doing interviews and constantly batting their eyes about some other actor or actress—like, that’s a problem. Right before I took Green Lantern, I wrote a letter to my executive at Fox saying, “I’m gonna take this movie Green Lantern if you guys aren’t gonna make Deadpool.” And they said, “Unfortunately, we can’t green-light that movie, and I don’t think it’s gonna ever get green-lit.” So I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna go move on with my life, then, I guess.”
It must have been unbelievably gratifying when Deadpool was a hit. When did you know?
When the Thursday midnight numbers were so excessive that I just went, “Whoa.” We made our production budget back on Friday. There’s a certain vindication that comes with that, especially because the studio—granted, under different regimes—for years just kept telling us to go f** ourselves.
Is Fox shoving money at you now?
Are you insane? It’s not like, “We really want to shoot this on $70 million,” and they’re like, “We insist: It’s 150.” That never happens, trust me. And the first time, it was almost like the more Fox took away from us, the stronger we got. There’s two moments of the movie where I forget my ammo bag. That’s not because Deadpool’s forgetful. That’s because we couldn’t afford the guns that we were about to use in the scene.
And I was banging the loudest drum for Deadpool. I wasn’t just trying to open it; I was trying to make a cultural phenomenon.
How weird to be courting attention you don’t want.
Well, I’m courting attention for the film.
But you are the film.
It is genuinely like an alter ego I can turn on and off.
You just seem more comfortable being yourself than you have in the past.
I think that was a slightly fear-based reaction—I never wanted to reveal too much. Even now I’m a little nervous, because you’re having a conversation with somebody, and you could say something that either (a) just exposes your utter explosive ignorance about any given subject or (b) could be misinterpreted. I used to just shut down, like, “Okay, only crack jokes and cover the subject at hand in a very kind of cursory way.” But I’ve embraced the fact that I’m smart. I’ve embraced the fact that I’m an idiot. I’ve embraced the fact that I’m funny. If this were five, four, three years ago even, I wouldn’t have been like, “Come on in to my home, meet the baby.” It’s all human life. Take it or leave it.
When did you know it was going to happen with Blake?
Probably after the sex. No, we were hanging out at this little restaurant in Tribeca that’s open really late, and this song came on and I was just like, “Want to dance?” No one was in there, so it was just totally empty. And it was just one of those moments where halfway through the dance, it was like, “Oh, I think I just crossed a line.” And then I walked her home. And, uh, you know, I don’t really need to go into what happened after that.
Do you remember the song?
I do, but I’m not gonna say.
Chris Pratt said that he’ll use lines he wrote years earlier, and that the best acting he does is pretending he’s coming up with them in the moment.
Yes, exactly! I often will write out bullet points before a talk show. I don’t care who you are, going on Letterman was always a terrifying experience. You never want to be that guy who’s like, “I just gotta work this in somehow.” Everything you write, you have to be just as willing to throw away. But yeah, it’s a lot more manufactured than people think.
We all sat around and wrote Deadpool 2 in here, actually. I have Life, which is also written by Rhett and Paul—the whole film takes place on the International Space Station, and they discover a form of extraterrestrial life. I’m friends with Jake Gyllenhaal, and this was our first working experience together. They literally manufactured the ISS on a soundstage in London. I showed an astronaut the inside on FaceTime, and he was like, “Oh! That’s amazing!”