Going nuts in Brazil for Ryan Reynolds
The Dead Pool star is endearingly open about his struggles with anxiety and his early family life, writes Áine O'Connor
People like Ryan Reynolds. He has made some great movies and some not so great ones, and it is probably his willingness to admit this, to laugh at himself, that makes him so popular.
He has 34.1 million followers on Instagram, through which he delivers a steady stream of knowing humour, a lot of it gentle slagging between himself and his wife Blake Lively. But lots of people are funny; Reynolds also comes across as human. He has spoken of his lifelong anxiety, and that perhaps contributes to the decency to which his co-stars often refer.
His latest film is 6 Underground, which at a rumoured $150m is thought to have had Netflix's second biggest budget ever, after The Irishman (a rumoured $159m). He and most of his co-stars are in Sao Paulo, at CCXP, the Brazilian multi-genre and comic convention, to launch the film. And it is very evident just how much people like Ryan Reynolds. The crowds go wild.
6 Underground is based around six people who are officially dead, live totally off-grid and know each other by number only. They each have a skill-set and together they form a unique take-down team.
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Reynolds plays One, the billionaire who leads and funds their missions, and the film whirls around their plan to remove and replace a murderous dictator.
A sort of geo-political thriller, it's written by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Michael Bay, so it is non-stop wise-cracking and heavier on action than plot or character.
Reynolds describes it as "The most Michael Bay movie in the history of Michael Bay. At one point I think Michael Bay stopped and thought 'This is too Michael Bay'."
An action movie requires great physicality from the cast, Reynolds says. "The movie isn't as driven as much by CGI, it's a lot of practical stuff so we were out there getting our ass kicked and that is kind of what you do. No complaining, everybody knows it's part of the job," and he adds: "Most of Michael Bay's direction is "Faster! Faster!"
Some of the cast went through three weeks of intensive training under Navy Seals in LA before the shoot. Corey Hawkins, who plays Seven, says it was hard at first but he ended up being in the best shape of his life.
"It was definitely a lot of training and it was really challenging leading up to it but once you get in the mode, once you go, you really can't stop."
"You think?" Reynolds pings back. Adria Arjona, who plays Five, said all the training paid off until they got to Florence, where they faced a month of delicious pasta-based food challenges. It's hard to imagine, however, that any of them are ever flabby.
"I think we all wax and wane all the time," Reynolds says, "it's natural, it's life." And, adds Mélanie Laurent, who plays Two: "We have beauty staff!"
"Yes, in fact 30 per cent of my body is still in the hotel room," Reynolds adds fast.
When we were introduced he asked, "Did you actually come in from Ireland? Wow that's a long flight." And he definitely knows where Ireland is: when his wife was shooting the upcoming thriller The Rhythm Section in Dublin in 2018, he and their daughters, James and Inez (they had a third daughter four months ago), moved to the city for a while. He has likened it to Vancouver, saying: "The people are very warm and friendly and open and willing to chat about, you know, whatever. And when they ask you how you're doing, it's an actual question."
Back in Sao Paulo, the cast is asked whether they would erase their pasts if, like their characters, they could.
Straight off Reynolds replies: "Can we erase certain movies?" He has joked about the flop superhero movie The Green Lantern as "the hairshirt I'll wear" - although he did meet Lively on that shoot.
He does have a super-fast comeback for everything, but he has spoken eloquently of how that humour was honed as a child as a means to diffuse situations, and as a defence mechanism.
Asked whether he has enjoyed finding his voice on social media he says: "I think the illusion is that it's this cavalier, wonderful thing, and the real thing is that my nervous system is a frenzied mess generally when you're embarking on bigger things on the social media platform so it's a double-edged sword. It all requires little moments of detox."
Reynolds was born in Vancouver in 1976, the youngest of four brothers; their father was a policeman and their mother a sales assistant. He started to act in school; when auditions for a TV show came to town he got the job, and from the age of 13 to 17 he filmed five days a week on a teen soap called Fifteen in Florida. Afterwards he moved to LA, where by his late twenties he had a good, mid-range career, mostly in romantic comedies. He has said he used to be uncomfortable with not working - he has made well over 50 films - but has learned to slow down. However, he said of his 20s: "I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way." There was a lot of waking at night with chronic anxiety. Like many he self-medicated but reined it in after the deaths of friends through overdose.
He had a "fractured" relationship with his father and they were estranged for a time but, with Lively's encouragement, they were reconciled, and his father got to meet his granddaughter, James, named after him, before his death from Parkinson's. He told Mr Porter Journal, "He was good in many ways as well, but he was tough on us. This is not meant to be some sob story - everyone carries their own bag of rocks around and I am no different - but growing up in my house, it was never relaxing or easy, and I know that, throughout my life, I've dealt with anxiety in different ways."
In the same interview he said: "I'll look for the joke in things so that I don't look for the sadness and the grief," adding, "I tend to get pretty depressed and I have some issues with anxiety and things like that."
Now he looks after himself: he uses exercise to manage his mental health, and the meditation app Headspace.
His former co-star Mary Louise Parker said, "You can almost smell the decency off him," and his current co-stars agree.
Reynolds says he had never experienced a cast as close as the 6 Underground one, "This cast is the closest I have ever seen a cast, we were forged in fire, it was a crazy shoot and we did really stick together." He adds, "We did a tiny bit of drinking on set, just a tiny bit, responsibly."
Mélanie Laurent says the film is in part about how the team come together as a kind of family, and she says the same happened for them. She says of Reynolds: "He is super-fun and great and smart, but you now that - what you maybe don't know is … he was there for protecting us and for taking our defence when we couldn't say anything. And that's something I never see with any other big movie stars really."
She doesn't want to elaborate, so Reynolds takes up, "I was very good at translating Michael Bay's adrenalised mouth for everyone else sometimes, I speak Bay."
6 Underground is now showing on Netflix
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