Ryan Reynolds' dark humour

Deadpool 2, which sees Ryan Reynolds (left) reprise the title character, will again present its protagonist with an existential crisis and a deeply personal cause.
Deadpool 2, which sees Ryan Reynolds (above) reprise the title character, will again present its protagonist with an existential crisis and a deeply personal cause.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Deadpool star learnt to plumb tragedy for the absurd in his childhood

BEVERLY HILLS (California) • Actor Ryan Reynolds faces the moment movie franchisers dream of: the sequel.

While Deadpool had less on the line in 2016, the runaway success of the blockbuster about a sardonic Marvel antihero meant that Deadpool 2 will open to towering anticipation - it has already broken ticket pre-sale records for an R-rated movie - and the bigger question of whether Reynolds can catch lightning in a bottle twice.

At an interview at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills late one afternoon last month, he had barely eaten all day because interviews for profiles make him crazy jittery.

"I have anxiety. I've always had anxiety," Reynolds, 41, said as the hotel suite filled with an Angeleno sunshine that perfectly matched his golden latte-hued self. "Both in the lighthearted 'I'm anxious about this' kind of thing, and I've been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun."

Deadpool, a passion project for Reynolds 11 years in the making, was largely unknown, cost just US$58 million (S$77.4 million) and was marketed with a grassroots campaign that included viral videos, silly billboards and Reynolds' wry promotional tweets. It ended up earning US$783 million worldwide.

It also marked a phoenix-from-the-ashes moment for Reynolds, whose high-profile relationships - an engagement to singer Alanis Morissette, a three-year marriage to actress Scarlett Johansson - have sometimes overshadowed a hit-and-miss career that included the 2011 superhero clunker, Green Lantern.

The stakes are much higher now. "When there's built-in expectation," Reynolds said, "your brain always processes that as danger."

Deadpool 2 takes up where the original left off and again presents its protagonist with an existential crisis and a deeply personal cause, an approach that helped make the first one a hit. "Keeping the stakes personal is much more compelling to audiences, instead of global stakes they've seen so many times," said David Leitch, the film's director.

The first film's director, Tim Miller, exited, reportedly after Reynolds, who was a writer on the sequel, fought against making it a mega-budget project.

Reynolds is viciously funny. The Internet is full of assorted compendiums of his best tweets - he has 10.6 million followers - many about his two young daughters with his wife, actress Blake Lively.

Among them: "No matter which kids' book I read to my screaming baby on an airplane, the moral of the story is always something about a vasectomy."

And: "On our 6am walk, my daughter asked where the moon goes each morning. I let her know it's in heaven, visiting daddy's freedom."

When someone asked in a tweet how his daughter might one day respond, he shot back: "Joke's on you. We're not teaching her to read."

Much of this humour, he said, is rooted in self-defence mechanisms he learnt as a kid.

He grew up the youngest of four boys in Vancouver, British Columbia, in a home that was made volatile by his father Jim Reynolds, a former police officer-turned-food wholesaler whom Reynolds calls "the stress dispensary in our house".

To head off screaming matches or any tumult, Reynolds tried to fix anything that might set his father off, be it by keeping the house immaculately clean or mowing the lawn.

"I became this young skin-covered micro manager," he said.

Yet he said he did not view his childhood with sorrow.

Jim was difficult, but also quite the character. He made homemade red wine in a garbage pail in the basement - terrible, noxious stuff that Reynolds still has a bottle of, despite worries that someone will one day mistakenly drink it and die.

His father also introduced him to comedy greats such as Buster Keaton and Jack Benny, and could perfectly imitate Robert Goulet or recite any episode of Fawlty Towers. Out of all this, Reynolds learnt to be watchful, listen closely and to plumb tragedy for the absurd.

His father had Parkinson's disease and died in 2015. Reynolds named his first-born daughter James after his dad.

Before the interview wrapped, Reynolds was asked how he deals with anxiety, what with all the promotional interviews and inevitable talk-show appearances ahead.

First off, he said, he is doing a lot of the interviews in character as Deadpool. Also, he uses the meditation app, Headspace. And, finally, the second he walks onstage, he knows that the anxiety will lift and then the blessed relief descends.

"When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set," he said. "That's that great self-defence mechanism. I figure if you're going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2018, with the headline 'Ryan Reynolds' dark humour'. Print Edition | Subscribe