Oh God. Ryan Reynolds.
That annoying pretty boy rom-com actor who’s dating Scarlett Johansson and has terrible taste in film.
At least that’s what I used to say about him. Now he’s married to Blake Lively. Oh yeah, and then he made Deadpool, which really made me fall in love with him.
My sudden appreciation for Ryan Reynolds is like the plot of a cliché rom-com: film fan meets actor, actor makes a bad impression, film fan dismisses actor, actor tries to win film fan back in a series of blundering mistakes, actor finally makes one last plea for the film fan’s love and nails it, film fan and actor ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
Deadpool made such a huge impression on me that after watching it I instantly started following Reynolds on social media and realized he had a comedic wit worthy of the Marvel character he brought to life so vividly. Deadpool has always been a favorite Marvel character of mine so Reynolds gained a lot of geek credibility with that film. This is a far cry from how I used to feel about Reynolds, an actor who I hated more than any other actor a mere five years ago.
Ryan Reynolds is a Canadian actor and comedian who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1976 (although he recently became an American citizen).
His acting career started on Canadian television in the early nineties with the teen soap opera Hillside, known as Fifteen in the U.S. when it aired on Nickelodeon (it has the distinction of being the only soap opera to have ever aired on the network).
Throughout the nineties he appeared in the Canadian fantasy series The Odyssey, the revival of The Outer Limits, The X-Files, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and other random shows. Once he gained popularity as the lead in the box office success National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, he proved he was comfortable with raunchy humor and so he made guest appearances on shows like Scrubs, Saturday Night Live, Mad TV and Family Guy.
But it was his film career that first brought him to my attention.
One of the frustrating things about Reynolds’ career from my point of view was something that wasn’t his fault: he gained fame from his bad films but his good films were largely ignored.
I saw him when I watched the critical darling Adventureland (2009) starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart (not that I remember him being in it, but a lot of things about that movie failed to make a lasting impression on me), and that was a rare time when I wasn’t put off by his film choices, but in these days I didn’t go looking for Ryan Reynolds films. If I did, I would have discovered some hidden gems like Buried (2010), The Voices (2015), and Mississippi Grind (2015), but I did not give him the time of day. I’ve never seen Van Wilder but I know I wouldn’t like it, and I questioned anyone who said “yes” to being in it.
You may be wondering why my hatred for Reynolds was so strong. Don’t a lot of actors star in horrible movies?
Here’s the thing. Whenever I saw that Reynolds was in a big movie, it was always two different kinds. The first kinds were the romantic comedies like Definitely, Maybe (2008) or The Proposal (2009) (not my favorite genre), but worse were the genre films like The Amityville Horror (2005), Safe House (2012) or Self/Less (2015), specifically because of how much I love genre films.
But what really depressed me were the comic book adaptations he starred in. As you may know, comic book movies are kind of my thing. And when one of them fails, I die a little inside.
His first was Blade: Trinity (2004), the third film in the Blade trilogy starring Wesley Snipes, based on the Marvel comic. Reynolds was mostly a comedy guy, but he started to branch out into serious roles, including roles in action films. In Blade: Trinity he played vampire hunter Hannibal King.
Verdict for that film: bad.
In addition to this movie, there was X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009 (bad), Green Lantern in 2011 (garbage), and R.I.P.D. in 2013 (somebody shoot me).
So now I’m starting to associate this guy with all my biggest film disappointments, especially after Green Lantern. I am a huge fan of Hal Jordan and the entire lore of the Green Lantern Corps and I had always wanted to see a great live-action film adaptation of the comics. Seven years later and I have yet to see one (you’re better off with the animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights).
“Rom-com pretty boy Ryan Reynolds wants to be a superhero but he doesn’t have the skill to pull it off!”
Then came that fateful day in February 2016 when an R-rated movie about a foul-mouthed katana-wielding superhero mercenary was released against all the odds by one of the major studios: 20th Century Fox. But what I didn’t know was that Ryan Reynolds had been preparing for this role for half his career.
The character Deadpool first appeared in issue # 98 of the X-Men spin-off comic The New Mutants cover dated February 1991. He was created by Rob Liefeld (who came up with the name and design) and Fabian Nicieza (who came up with the character’s speech pattern). Deadpool’s real name is Wade Wilson, which was created as an inside-joke about him being related to Teen Titans villain DeathStroke whose real name is Slade Wilson, due to similarities between the two characters’ appearances.
Deadpool is aware that he is a fictional comic book character, and as a result he frequently breaks the fourth wall to the confusion of other Marvel characters who simply think he is psychotic. The character makes constant wisecracks even while stabbing enemies with his katanas. His talkative nature has earned him the nickname the “Merc with a Mouth.”
He has a mysterious past but what’s clear is that he was a lab experiment, and just like Wolverine he has a regenerative healing factor which prevents him from sustaining injuries.
A film based on Deadpool had been in development since 2000, the year the first X-Men film was released.
Film director David S. Goyer and Ryan Reynolds had been working on adapting the comic for New Line Cinema after finishing work on Blade: Trinity, although due to Fox owning the film rights to all the X-Men characters, the film did not go forward.
Reynolds had shown interest in playing Deadpool ever since learning that the character referred to himself in the comics as “Ryan Reynolds crossed with a shar-pei.” Clearly this was destiny.
After finding out Deadpool would be included in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds starred as the character in that film and pursued a Deadpool film further, going through several directors before landing on visual effects animator and Blur Studio co-founder Tim Miller. Blur Studio had provided VFX for several movies and video games but Miller’s experience creating short films was what led to him being chosen to direct Deadpool in 2011, despite having no feature film experience.
Unfortunately 2011 was also the year Green Lantern was released and underperformed, leading to even less confidence in the movie from Fox executives, although filmmakers who read the script like James Cameron and David Fincher had recognized how great it was and urged Fox to develop it.
However, it wasn’t just a lack of confidence in Reynolds holding up the movie. The R-rated material and unconventional nature of the project made Fox afraid to release it, until the filmmakers made test footage to convince Fox that the movie would work. Of course, the most interesting thing about the test footage was how it was released.
It got leaked in 2014 on the internet to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, and Reynolds credits the leak for Fox deciding to greenlight the film. In exchange for creative freedom, Fox gave them a smaller budget than most superhero films, and the rest is superhero film history.
So now that Ryan Reynolds has nailed the role of one of my favorite characters, and I found out he’s been trying to get it made for the entire decade that I’ve been hating on him, I must ask myself if I actually loved him all along, and that his mediocrity was just an illusion masking the truth of his likability.
Apparently much in the way that Deadpool masked Reynolds’ insecurity. In 2018 Reynolds revealed his lifelong struggle with anxiety, and that doing press for the film Deadpool in character as Deadpool helped alleviate his stress.
I related to this because I use social media in much the same way as a mask for my social anxiety. Like many comedians, Reynolds appears to find comfort in comedy.
This revelation of my love for Ryan Reynolds has made me feel guilty for dismissing him for so many years, but it was neither his fault nor mine. We don’t really love celebrities. We love the idea of celebrities. For example, the idea of dating Ariana Grande may sound appealing, but if I actually met her, I would be nervous because I know nothing about her. Not really anyway.
So Ryan, I apologize. You were the only person who could have played Deadpool and I applaud that you never gave up on the film even when Fox had no faith that it would work. You never lost faith, and I can’t wait to see you in Deadpool 3 or whatever Disney puts you in next.
(To my girlfriend Constance, I would never date Ariana Grande unless you said it was okay. Obviously I would ask for your permission.)