Ryan Reynolds talks about his new buddy comedy Red Notice, working with 'best buds' Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, and why he does not dwell too much on repeating himself.
It's not easy to be Ryan Reynolds. When you slip into those slippery shoes, you get brickbats for daring to be different. From his social media presence to his work on screen, Ryan Reynolds is expected to be just that — Ryan Reynolds, or a better version of that. While the actor has embraced that predicament as "subscription to a personality," for fans who identify with that version of him, a part of him craves to be different.
After tapping into that part with Michael Bay's 2019 action thriller 6 Underground,
Reynolds is back on Netflix, doing what he does best — being a more 'Ryan Reynolds' version of himself. In an interview, he talks about his new buddy comedy Red Notice
, working with "best buds" Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot
, and why he does not dwell too much on repeating himself. Edited excerpts below:
Some of the lines in Red Notice are very Ryan Reynolds. For example, you describing Dwayne Johnson's head as a penis, explaining Deepfake to him as, "If there are seven pictures of you online, I can send your mom a video of you goatsexing," and responding to his "Do you know what's funny?" with "Vin Diesel's Cats audition. Yes, it exists." Is there a Ryan Reynolds dialogue writing team or do you improvise these on set?
(Laughs) These ones notwithstanding, I generally try to do five or six, or maybe 10, alternate versions for each joke. I write them out in advance, and then I fire them up. I do some that are clean and family-friendly, and then I do some they probably won't use. Jokes like those, they sometimes end up using too. But I leave it to Rawson (Marshall Thurber, director) to choose that. The movies I produce are much more hands-on with which ones we use, where, and how. But here, I gave options to Rawson, and let him figure out which ones are the best.
What do you think are the markers of a great buddy comedy? Is it a "marriage of convenience," as Dwayne's character puts it in the film, or is it "going to work with your best buds," as you described a few minutes ago?
I think, neither. It's the chemistry. If you don't have that, you're screwed. Gal, Dwayne, and I are pretty lucky we have that. It's not something you can invent. You have actors who aren't necessarily trying to win a scene as much as they're trying to play. Dwayne is very good at listening in scenes. I love to listen in scenes, and Gal does that too. So I think that's why we're very good at it when we're performing. More than a buddy comedy, this is like a proper threehander. You're really trying to shine a light on each character. They each have an arc, a moment. As far as buddy comedies are concerned, I haven't done too many except maybe The Hitman's Bodyguard with Samuel L Jackson. I loved those movies, like Lethal Weapon as a kid. But I haven't really done a ton of it personally.
Dwayne, Gal Gadot, and you have such different energies. How challenging or rewarding was it to team up with them on this film?
There was a lot there that was left on the cutting-room floor. Most of the time we're spending just to make each other laugh. I was surprised by the number of lines that made it to the movie that I didn't even intend on using, but I was just trying to make Dwayne laugh, and make him ruin his take and delay us. It was a really exceptional experience because I was working with people I know. Dwayne and I have been friends for 21 years. Gal, I've known for a little less than 10 years. So it's a little bit like going to work with your best buddies. And that's the best way you could possibly go to work. And I didn't take that for granted. I really loved that experience.
This is your umpteenth action-comedy. What do you think makes the appeal of this genre cut across age groups?
I don't know specifically, but people love action-comedy adventures. I personally love treasure hunts, which are part of this movie's DNA. Growing up, there were a lot of films like National Treasure, Indiana Jones, and The Thomas Crown Affair. These are the treasure hunt or heist kind of movies that I find to be exciting. Like a lot of people do.
Your last film with Netflix was 6 Underground, also an action film of a different kind. At that time, you had said performing hand-to-hand combat sequences was much more fun than the high-scale action scenes. Almost two years of pandemic later, how do you think that kind of action has changed in films since then?
Of course, there's a tremendous host of health hurdles everyone needs to clear before they can even enter a room on a set like this. The protocols were incredibly strict. I don't think it's hyperbole when I say that Netflix set the bar for how to do it in an intensive way. We were one of the first movies to come back in the pandemic. So it was a little off-putting for us because I, Dwayne, and Gal are the only people on set not wearing masks. But the protocols were so strict that I was never really concerned. We were following every rule, and testing every person everyday. We were making sure the set remains healthy because if one of the three of us goes down, the whole movie shuts down. Four hundred people lose jobs. We didn't want to be responsible for that so we were really careful.
Your character Nolan Booth starts like another version of your popular roles like Deadpool and Free Guy. But he later reveals an emotional backstory, a strong core. How do you add depth and dimensions to characters like these?
I don't know if there's a rhyme or reason in a movie like this. It's mostly bringing in me, Dwayne, and Gal, and looking at our interpersonal dynamic offscreen to be reflected on screen. That's literally how we talk to each other when we're just sitting around. You can't really experience the pathos of the movie without at least setting it up properly in the beginning. So the emotional spine of the movie is sort of the connective tissue which holds everything together. But it's not the primary focus. I'd say the focus of this movie is the action, the swashbuckling adventures, and the comedic parts. But yes, you do need a little bit of the other stuff to hold it together. Now, I do other movies sometimes where the emotional aspect is much more centerstage and prevalent. That's a different approach. But with Red Notice, I felt so lucky to be able to go to work every day with my buds.
Ryan Reynolds in a still from Free Guy
But imagine meeting Nolan Booth while growing up. How would he have affected you at a deeper level, beyond all the tomfoolery and wisecracks?
A guy like Nolan Booth has an unquenchable thirst for validation. He's a fundamentally broken person.
There are many parts of my personality that are broken as well, and I exploit them to work in genres like these.
I don't know if Nolan would teach me anything but he's definitely a cautionary tale for not resolving some of your past, childhood issues before you become a grown-ass adult. He hasn't really figured that out, which makes him amusing but also makes him a lowlife thief.
Since a lot of your characters are versions of the ones you have played before, is it too much pressure then to outperform yourself every time you appear on screen?
That's a good question. I'd say a little bit. But my next movie that's coming out is The Adam Project. It's a blockbuster kinda movie but it's much more personal, emotionally grounded than this. There's no intense sarcasm or pop culture references. It's very specific. It's inspired by movies like E.T. that I loved as a kid, in terms of tone, not really in terms of the subject matter. I don't have pressure as much as I want to tell different kinds of stories, and hopefully work in films that are surprising. I think Free Guy was quite surprising for people. And I think The Adam Project will feel like that as well.
Ryan Reynolds in a still from 6 Underground
But how do you manage to be funny everytime, even if it comes at the risk of repeating yourself?
You'd be hard pressed to find someone in this genre who doesn't find variations in a theme. We're always repeating aspects of things and changing them up. To keep stuff funny, I think the only barometer I should have is whether I find it funny. I don't have anyone dictating me to do this or not to do this. I mostly have just myself to figure out. I mostly use writing as a tool to get me out of trouble, in the last 10 years or so. That's been a huge asset of mine. I don't take it for granted. I'm very lucky I'm able to do that. But you know when you realise it's not coming as easily then you decide to give it up and dive into a different genre.
Do you fear the day when you will keep repeating yourselves even if you do not want to?
I don't think of it as much like that. I think of people I loved as a young actor growing up, like Steve Martin, John Candy, Gene Wilder, and Eddie Murphy. A lot of guys worked in similar ways. Steve Martin wasn't really Daniel Day-Lewis, shooting my left foot! He was Steve Martin! I loved the persona, the myth that surrounded him. For me at least, it was part of a subscription to a personality that you like or identify with. The other thing is, scarcity and surprise are two very valuable assets in this industry. That's why I'm taking a sabbatical now, and stepping away from film for a while because you need to do that to allow yourself to get creative again, to get excited again.
Red Notice premieres in India on Netflix on 12 November.