It’s a Wonderful Life

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Ryan Reynolds is the sole survivor of the unfortunately titled nineties sitcom Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. Not to say that his two co-stars are dead, but their careers seem to be. That Reynolds is not only working but also thriving has to do with a few things, some in his control, some not: He’s very cute in an unthreatening, snarky-older-brother-of-your-best-friend way; he can make a big impression in a small role (see his washed-up Lothario in the recent Adventureland); and he’s had a noteworthy love life: He dated fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette for four years, then split with her to marry Scarlett Johansson last September. “Living my life,” says the 32-year-old actor, “it isn’t a letdown.” Sounds like something a Ryan Reynolds character would say—so arrogant it’s funny. Coming from Ryan Reynolds the person, it just sounds true.

You might argue that the guy could use a good role. The highlights of Reynolds’s ten-year film career include his breakout part as a cocky, dog-semen-peddling frat boy in the cult hit Van Wilder; the forgettable fantasy-action movie Blade: Trinity; and the underappreciated romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe. “I’ve tried to avoid the sophomoric humor in the past few years because now it’s expected,” says Reynolds, who sees advantages in the lack of blockbusters. “I’ve never had a Titanic or a Spider-Man. It’s a tough thing to grow out of, so I never really had that problem. It’s allowed me to genre-jump in a way big stars can’t.”

His small part in Adventureland and his next role as the comic-book hero Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (out May 1) are two steps in the right direction. And, according to Adventureland director Greg Mottola, Reynolds has more nuance than his résumé might suggest: “I was looking for someone who could play against type, and it struck me that Ryan would be interesting playing wounded male pride. He created a nice tension by pulling way back on his natural charm. He’s a smart actor; he understands that even people who behave badly have their reasons.” Sandra Bullock, co-star of his third film this year, the romantic comedy The Proposal (June 19), sees another strength: “Finding a leading man who can as effortlessly do comedy as drama or action is a rarity,” she says. “It goes back to what the actors of the thirties and forties did so well—they did it all!”

Reynolds had long coveted the role of Deadpool, a Canadian mercenary turned X-Man with a dark sense of humor. “I’ve always liked the character—I felt like he was a real misfit, like he was this great mixture of the Phantom of the Opera meets Commando,” says Reynolds, who co-stars with Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber.

It’s not the first time he’s had to get in “crazy shape” for a role. Back in 2005, he got ripped enough to pose shirtless for Men’s Health’s “Lose Your Gut” issue. “I thought, What the hell?” says Reynolds. “It was dipping my toe in something that made me deeply uncomfortable, and then trying not to care about it. But the thing is, that picture never went away. My breasts were in my face every five seconds, ’cause people wanted me to sign it.”

Given how uncomfortable that made him, imagine the emotional havoc resulting from marriage to Johansson, officially Hollywood’s Most Desirable Actress. “Sure, you can ask me about it,” he says, “and yes, I’m going to evade your questions.” He’s as good as his word. “We know so much about every actor on planet Earth. We know how they like to slice their avocado, what they named their baby. When I’m watching them save the world in a movie, I don’t want to be thinking about their baby’s name.” Unaware of the viral rumor mill he may be fueling, Reynolds adds, “I will now go on record to say I’m not going to even name my kid.”

It’s a Wonderful Life