NEW ORLEANS – Six hours to go. That’s all Ryan Reynolds had left to shoot on Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” when he stepped into a screening room on a New Orleans studio lot to talk to members of the press.
It was a sweltering August day outside, but Reynolds had spent most of the last month being thrown across the air on wires in front of a blue screen on an air-conditioned soundstage. “Lantern” has a tremendous amount of CG work and the (at the time) 33-year-old actor had endured a lot to bring one of DC Comics’ most popular characters to the big screen. Still, Reynolds, no matter how tired he may be, is a rare breed of naturally charismatic actors (such as his good friend Sandra Bullock or John Travolta, Kevin Spacey and Matt Damo) who can charm the pants off any member of the press while seemingly being both down to earth and a true superstar at the same time. As producer Donald De Line and DC Chief Creative Officer and co-producer Geoff Johns watched, Reynolds took almost 30 minutes of questions and revealed his thoughts about Warner Bros.’ potential new big screen superstar.
HitFix: Did we catch you pre-blue screen, post-blue screen or are you done?
I just like to look beautiful sometimes. I just didn’t come in the motion capture suit because I didn’t want you to laugh. I look as threatening as Estelle Getty.
Were you able to see that little kid’s hand after you recited the oath at Comic-Con for him?
Yeah, and I met him backstage too. I wanted him to come down and see if it was a plant. (Laughs.) But no, he was the real deal. Not to overly romanticize it but that moment when that happens I sort of recognize the gravity of this and you have a real sense of the perception a kid has of something like this and how I can make good on it. And it’s a pretty great feeling.
You had shot some of the movie at that point, but since you’ve come back do you feel like you’ve had that moment? A little extra oomph because of it?
Yeah, I guess so. This is the first movie I’ve ever done where I feel like my nieces and nephews are all tracking it already. I mean, my nephew, the first thing he asked me when I was meeting on the movie was, ‘Can I have the ring?’ And I said, ‘[Expletive] no!’ Again, I don’t want to sound to corny about it, but that’s the stuff that makes it all worthwhile like at Comic-Con with that kid. Boy, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
We’ve just seen a lot of the production art and designs for the movie. When you were first approached for the role what were you told? How have things changed since you came on board?
I knew of the ‘Green Lantern,’ I wasn’t versed in it like Geoff Johns or anyone like that, but I knew hew was an ordinary guy who was bequeathed a ring by a dying alien and shot lasers out of it or something. Beyond that I wasn’t that familiar with it. I think I was most startled to find out how vast the universe is. I know Geoff Johns linked it to the ‘Star Wars’ of the DC Universe and it really does feel like that. The scope is the thing that really blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it when I made that discovery. And I had met Martin like I was meeting on any other movie. They were casting the ‘Green Lantern’ and I knew I’d dipped my toe in the comic book world a little bit. Years and years and years ago I’d played in ‘Blade Trinity’ and then I had four minutes of Deadpool. So, I wasn’t sure if this would be the right fit. I was really more interested in Martin Campbell because I loved ‘Casino Royale’ and I’d loved some of his other films as well. And I had three meetings with him total. At first, they were trying to convince me and by the end I was begging them for the role. I mean they took me up to the art department and I met Grant Major and Ngila Dickson and Dion Beebe was there and I saw the art work and the possibility there and to see that if this was to work, you don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but if this were to work you could do another movie and baring that you could do one after that and you could see this going well beyond Hal Jordan into the other Green Lanterns. The Fall of Hal and dispensing with him and bringing on Guy Gardner or Kyle Rayner or some of those guys.
Did it start with just a script or did you read the comic before that?
I read ‘Secret Origins’ before my meeting that was about it. Someone slipped it to me. I’m not sure if it was out yet, but no, I didn’t know what their plan was. I didn’t even know if it was Hal Jordan. I just assumed by reading that it was maybe Hal Jordan. I just kind of learned as I went.
Can you talk about the character of Hal? He’s sort of a classic hero. He has no fear, but how do you make sure he’s not a cocky jerk?
We’re not playing him as a fearless guy as all. The reason the ring chose Hal Jordan is because he has an ability to overcome fear. And he’s as baffled by this decision, these cosmic entities have made as anyone. He doesn’t understand why he was chosen. He’s afraid to admit he’s afraid. And that’s kind of his challenge throughout the film. Finding that footing and that ability to overcome it and that’s the reason he becomes the greatest Green Lantern of them all because fearlessness is insanity. Courage is an amazing trait. It’s noble that everyone wants, so that’s what it is that he has to find within himself. He’s one of those guys who is trying to be fearless when we meet him and we realize he’s going in the exact wrong direction.
Can you talk about the difference about playing a superhero where the power comes from an exterior source like a ring?
It does come internally, the power source is will and imagination. And the ring is just sort of the conduit of that. It’s what manifests the will and the imagination. It is from within and that’s what I think is most interesting about the character and not necessarily that he can fire things out of his rings. This ring is so much more. He becomes almost a bio-weapon in almost a sense.
There is so much innovative visual effects in the designs we’ve looked at. Is this something you shot already or are about to shoot that you can’t wait to see when it comes together?
God, yeah, the first trip to Oa is something I’m dying to see. I’ve seen artwork on it, I’ve seen pre-visuals, I’ve seen those kind of things, having guys like Grant Major — that’s the smart thing. Any great director is also incredibly intelligent about who they hire around them. I think Martin was incredibly clever in assembling a team in what they do. I think that trip to Oa, seeing some of the other Lanterns is gonna be really cool. There are so many of them. I think we are gonna have 20 or 30 of them featured in the film.
The one thing they really can’t get into is the humor. We saw this one scene where you made this comment to this one guy about how it’s impossible to watch your back.
That’s a true story.
So in the grand scheme of Ryan Reynolds smart asses where is Hal Jordan? Is he somewhere in the middle? Is he beneath Deadpool?
Yeah, Deadpool lives for that. It’s just finding that tone. I always saw the guy as Han Solo crossed with Chuck Yeager. He’s not funny, but he’s witty and his wit is more a self defense mechanism than anything else. He’s skilled at avoidance in every way, so in anyone who is skilled at that can divert someone’s attention with humor, an offhanded remark or something like that. He’s really good at that. He’s quick with his mouth, but he’s not making jokes or something like that. There’s no moment in the middle of the film where I feel there is a ‘ba-dum-bum-bum’ moment. (Laughs.)
When you meet the Green Lantern that looks like a fly or stuff like that is their some commentary you’ve put in?
Yeah, there are a lot of comments I don’t think will be in the movie. (Laughs.) I always try to come in with five or six options for any given moment that might be kind of funny. So, I might have five or six lines and they can pick and choose depending on their rating. (Laughs.)
Anyone you can give us that you are most proud of?
No, I don’t think so. I think we best wait and see. I might get in trouble with that. There are a couple moments with Kilowog that he thinks I smell funny and I have a response where I aptly describe his smell.
HitFix: Reading the script you must have known a lot of this was going to be blue screen. Is it more than you thought it would be and how much of the shoot would you say you find yourself by yourself…
…rehearsing with a tennis ball. A little bit. There is a far amount of it. So much of the film takes place in space. I don’t know what the exact percentages are, but there is a lot of blue screen, but at the same time a lot of the flying is practical. They have these rigs that are so articulate now that you can fly in, you can land and just are you are landing you can bank off to the side and then land here instead. There is just all this stuff you are doing that’s just unbelievable and long flights too. I have some on my phone which are just videos of testing. Testing out the rigs. That’s really kind of cool. That stuff has been done on the blue screen, but I was surprised by how much practical flying I’ve been doing.
Can you talk about the challenge about getting into character in the blue screen world?
Well, after 103 days of anything you’re going to be into it. If you’re not than there is something wrong. I have a lot of faith in a lot of the artwork that is around me. I get a lot of examples of what I am looking at. And that helps and a lot of that you just carry with you. Knowing what direction you are supposed to be pointing and looking at and that sort of thing. For the most part, Hollywood is a world of imagination so you have to just be there and trust that they are going to do their part when I walk away tomorrow.
You were talking about doing scenes with Kilowog but the voice hasn’t been cast yet*
We have a guy that is 6’8 and his thighs are bigger than my wife and he’s huge. He’s just a great reference. He’s got a huge barreling voice and I don’t even know if that’s the voice they are going to use, but he’s kind of a good reference. And we have a Tomar-Re and some of the other Lanterns that are with me. I’m able to talk to them and reference them, but later on the voices will be added.
*Michael Clarke Duncan was eventually cast as the voice of Kilowog.
There has been a lot of interest online. Were you aware of it beforehand or did it hit you when the paparazzi were there for the first exterior shoot?
Those were citizen paparazzi. I don’t think those were the guys lurking in the bushes, but yeah there is a lot of interest. I mean, I’m interested! So, I think just as a part to full-time fan boy I think I would be — once production starts — looking online to see a glimpse of the suit or something I know from that world. So, I wasn’t surprised at all. I think there is an appetite for it. I’m shocked we didn’t have more stuff leak out. We were pretty careful around here, but there were times we were pretty vulnerable and we just got lucky.
Did you have any say on the look of the suit or your character’s dialogue?
A ton of the dialogue, but as for the look of the suit there are a ton of people way more skilled than me. I mean Ngila, I wouldn’t mess with her on her worst day. She’s a tough lady right there. She’s just got great ideas. I’m assuming they haven’t shown you the suit in motion yet, but I’ve seen that. And once you see that you sort of shut your mouth and let them do their job.
When did you know it was going to be CG?
Oh, I knew going in. I knew on my third meeting with Martin. Just because the suit is a manifestation — a biological manifestation — of the rings, I knew that. It is a construction, essentially, and everyone’s is different and I couldn’t imagine there would be a scenario where they were trying to design practical suits. It just doesn’t make sense with the mythology.
What are some of your favorite Science Fiction movies or stories?
Number one is ‘Back to the Future.’ That’s a huge one. ‘Star Wars,’ the first three. I like ‘Total Recall.’ As a kid I loved ‘Robocop.’ I thought that was pretty awesome.
HitFix: Can you talk about working with Peter Sarsgaard? We’ve seen some of the photos of him as Hector and we saw a scene and he looked pretty creepy in that. What was he like to work with?
Peter is great. He’s such an incredible actor, but Peter captures the one thing that makes every screen villain great in that he just fully owns every second. And I also think this is something that people who do it very well pick up on in addition to Peter, is they understand that villains are not intentionally evil. They just have opposing convictions. There is no mustache twisting or any of that kind of crap. It’s born of something very real and vulnerable. It was tough, because Peter is Hal Jordan’s foe in this, but in our mythology they have known each other their whole lives and there is a lot of empathy mixed in when I look at this guy. And I think you feel this when you get to the end of the movie. That to me is something Peter brought to the page which was so important. Even when we’re battling there a regret with Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. He doesn’t want to have to do this.
For years you were trying to get The Flash off the ground. Theoretically, if you ever appeared opposite another actor playing The Flash would you be a little jealous?
If we ever did a ‘Justice League’ movie, after he says his first line of dialogue I’d have to say, ‘Is that how you are going to do this?’ (Laughs.) No, whoever they get will be fantastic for sure. There is too much riding on it for them not to. I was kind of partial to The Flash, but that kind of died for me with Deadpool, because I thought if I did Deadpool, I couldn’t do The Flash just because there is that same sort of acerbic wit, but it’s more of a PG-13 version than maybe Wade Wilson. I have no feeling on that. The Flash is such a cool character. I read the original Flash script and I thought it was really interesting.
But in your mind now Green Lantern is the best of the DC Crew?
Well, now that I am introduced to it, of course. But it’s not just because I am doing it. It’s because I see the scope. You’ve got earth, you’ve got space, you’ve got fighter jets, you’ve got aliens, you have all of these elements together in one film. It’s something you haven’t seen in so long. For me, the last time I saw it done well was watching Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. I just thought, ‘I want to be in that world.’ And I feel we get to experience with this.
Where do you come up with your reaction to being sucked up into space in a movie like this?
There is a catalog of reactions you could have in a movie like this. You just always try to ground it as much as you can. The great thing, the biggest asset this movie has, I think, is that it starts on earth. Because of that it gives us a point of comparison. It gives us that essential element we need were we can see where we come from and where we are now. I think if it started in space it would be a little difficult. You get to carry that reality into the next. And that’s what I used to inform me in all those moments. You can only go through your full catalog of facial expressions before you just need a nap. (Laughs.) So, you kind of just chose one emotion in that moment and obviously it’s some form of disbelief.
Do you try and draw it back to something you’ve actually experienced?
No, but I’m never one of those actors. No,that’s always dangerous to do that I think because then you have one take where that’s effective and then the rest you are kind of stranded. In a pinch you use that, but for the most part I don’t replace anything.
At this point are you invested in doing a part 2 or 3? And Geoff Johns will be killed if he talks about this stuff, but has anyone talked to you about doing the larger DC Universe?
I’ll talk about this stuff. I think there is a lot to mine out of it. Again, you don’t want to say you’re just doing a second and third one because the first one has to work. That’s the mission, that’s the job in front of everyone. But the second one, I’ll tell you man, whether it’s Martin Campbell directing it or someone else, we inherit a ton of answers and that’s the biggest thing you get out of it. You start work and now we know what Hal Jordan looks like. Now we know what Sinestro looks like. All these guys look, how these guys fly. There are so many answers that the second production gets. You almost feel like you get a six month head start. In terms of a larger DC Universe, I would love to see a ‘Justice League’ movie. Personally I have not talked to anyone about this, but I would like to see Geoff’s’ DC Universe Online, this sort of post-apocalyptic ‘Justice League.’ I thought that was just really amazing. Just the visuals of that. I think it’s a different way to go too. You can really be a bit more creative with something like that.
This film shoot is almost 100 days, how are you keeping your energy up?
You train for it. The physicality of it. I know a lot of actors yak about this ad nauseam, but a movie like this, especially with Martin, he likes it fast, ugly, brutal, real. So, he’s pushing people to the limits and its tough. I’ve had a few moments where you just sort of have to take a knee and call for a time out. Smacked my head a lot. It got to the point where I am nauseous now when I hit my head and that’s a weird feeling, but we are getting there. We have another six hours left, so it’s easy to sit back and laugh about it now. The training I did was mostly functional so I could make it through this. Especially for a guy like Martin who can be mentally unhinged. [Editor’s note: That last night was reaped with sarcasm.]
What sort of misconceptions have you run into when people approach you about the movie?
Usually it’s ‘Who is playing Kato?’ If you are going to have a misconception about the movie, but y’know I’m surprised that even since the film’s production has happened that there is so much more awareness than there wasn’t before. It’s funny, it’s on a lot of people’s radar who otherwise didn’t know much about it. I think just the filming and the production has generated a lot of interest for people to just learn a lot about it.
You are lucky to have someone like Geoff Johns who knows the Green Lantern universe on a movie like this…
Leering over your shoulder…
Has it actually been helpful to have him around?
Actually it’s been great. Geoff’s sort of like an integrity officer. He’s there to make sure we are doing it the right way. This character and this universe is so interesting there isn’t a lot you need to do. There are moments that depart from the traditional comic book, but the themes are all there and the feeling is all there and even in some instances the look is really all there. I think people are going to be really happy. I’m not sure if you’ve seen Mark Strong or what he looks like as Sinestro, but I got chills when I first saw him. He is the spitting image of Sinestro. He is Sinestro. It’s kind of cool to see him walk on a set. They didn’t depart widely for his look. He doesn’t look like a samurai. A lot of ideas are tossed around at the beginning like, ‘What if?’ But everyone just went back to the source material.
Can you talk about working with Strong and the mentor relationship Sinestro has with Jordan?
There is a great, y’know, tip of the hat or nod to what could be forthcoming with these two guys, but Mark is a very generous actor and he’s also just incredibly good in every moment. I mean, we are talking to each other on an alien planet and he’s purple with a crazy widow’s peak and y’know, there is a moment where you can catch yourself and say, ‘This is ridiculous.’ But, as soon as you start to converse with him, when you look into his eyes, it’s pretty magical. He’s right there and he’s that character, sink or swim. They hired well. I think across the board they just did a great job of that. Mark and I have had a lot of fun together, but there was a great moment when we started shooting too which was the first time he and I kind of meet and square off and it’s a great moment. It’s one of those moments where I’m on Oa for the first time and I’m looking at him and there is immediately an unspoken sort of friction between these two that is very watchable. And that was something I was glad about. That’s a chemistry thing, that’s not something they planned on.
HitFix: This is your last day, you’re obviously exhausted and tired. Do you get to take a vacation or is the agent on the phone saying, ‘You gotta do this movie in two weeks’?
No. No, that’s not a call you answer. (Laughs.) That’s a good problem to have, but no I’m taking some time off. I have to take some time off just to stay sane. I’m very excited to be done.
Anything you will miss about the experience?
Look, when you do a movie for 103 days, that crew isn’t a crew, it’s family. So, everybody is all feeling that a little bit. Getting that last call sheet last night. Everyone wrote a little message on it too. Just to the crew just to say thank you. Those are tough moments. You sort of fall asleep a little touch of nostalgia already.
You’ve got ‘Deadpool,”Green Lantern’ and there [was] talk you’re going to be doing ‘R.I.P.D.’ What is it about comic book characters or the genre that continues to pull you in?
I think [the genre] is more popular than ever because, first off, there is an appetitive for it, but also technologically we are able to capture these elements we couldn’t capture before. I mean, ‘Green Lantern’ I don’t think could have been done even two years ago. Just the way they have advanced with the motion capture stuff alone, let alone the CGI elements. It’s so current its unbelievable. But, ‘R.I.P.D.’ when I read the script first I didn’t know it was a comic book actually. I found that out later that it’s a graphic novel. So, I read that and thought it was pretty cool, but I don’t know why. I don’t know the coalition with the comic books. I just assume it’s technology.
You’re obviously still working on ‘Deadpool,’ is there any sort of apprehension about another sort of comic book thing? Too many franchises?**
I don’t know if ‘Deadpool’ would be a franchise. It’s also not a superhero movie. It’s like a deconstruction of a superhero movie. It’s like a whole other thing, y’know? The script is a nasty piece of work and I love it for that. But, that script, whatever it is, stays throughout production. We’ll see. I don’t look at it like that. It’s not necessarily a franchise. Obviously, the studios sometimes do, but we’re on for one right now.
**Since this interview, Reynolds has downplayed the possibility of a “Deadpool” movie happening anytime soon.
The scene that we saw after you crash and crater your plane, the dialogue isn’t campy it’s very, very direct. Is the rest of the movie very real?
Something we have done that I love, obviously this is something Martin is doing, a lot of the moments are messy and real and people are talking at the same time and you have to pay attention. There are definitely a lot manifestations as well, but it’s also just because Hal has those moments and cracks wild. But, that’s because he’s a test pilot. As the movie progresses though, he’s bestowed this gift and this magical ring, this element which sort of sets him on a more humbler pat. That’s the movie.
Look for a complete set visit report this Friday on HitFix. To check out Reynolds talking about “Green Lantern” last month at WonderCon watch the video embedded below.
“Green Lantern” opens nationwide on July 17.