Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong dish on ‘Green Lantern’

“Green Lantern” star Ryan Reynolds, along with cast mates Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard, joined producer Donald De Line, director Martin Campbell and screenwriter Greg Berlanti in discussing the film at an L.A. press conference last week. While no earth-shattering news emerged, the cast and crew offered some insight into the film, and entertained with some amusing anecdotes (especially the ever-witty Reynolds).

The film centers on Hal Jordan (Reynolds),  a hotshot fighter pilot who encounters a dying purple alien (Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in the “Star Wars” prequels). Abin Sur, as the alien is known, gives Jordan a ring which turns him into a Green Lantern, one of thousands of elite warriors who protect freedom across the cosmos. Meanwhile, the universe, and the Green Lantern Corps, are under attack by a mysterious fear-driven entity known as Parallax.

In comic book form, Green Lantern has been around in one incarnation or another for seven decades, but this is the hero’s first big screen adaptation. Reynolds discussed the differences between this film and the slew of other superhero titles that have recently hit multiplexes. “A lot of the current iterations of superheroes are a little bit darker and more serious in tone,” he explained. “The thing I distilled from diving into that mythology and that universe is that there’s a tone that’s different. He’s not overly funny, but he’s witty. I always say he’s that guy who can throw a punch, tell a joke and kiss the girl. It was mostly just finding out who Hal Jordan was and also distilling what it is that the fanboys love about him and making sure that that can be found up on screen because if they love it there’s a good chance that a broader audience will love it.”

Co-screenwriter Berlanti added: “You’re trying to honor that, but you’re also just trying to tell a good story and you hope that your own love and respect for the character will ultimately come through. You end up feeling like a custodian for that character in some regards.”

Director Campbell wasn’t too worried about Green Lantern not being as instantly recognizable to the general public as other heroes, like Superman or Batman. “The movie has to stand alone,” he commented. “Whether or not the hero is first-tier or second-tier is irrelevant.” He used the example of Iron Man as being a lesser-known hero that was translated into box office gold.

The long-running comic series features thousands of Lanterns from all over the universe, but the series’ main protagonists have always been humans. Jordan was the best-known version of the character for decades, until convoluted story lines pushed him to the side. Other human lanterns, such as John Stewart (no, not *that* John Stewart), Guy Gardener and Kyle Rayner, have also been the series’ main GLs. However, in recent years starting with the best-selling “Green lantern: Rebirth,” Jordan has returned to the forefront of the Green Lantern books

Berlanti: “(DC Comics writer) Geoff Johns really had brought Hal Jordan back with ‘Rebirth’ when you’re trying to honor the origin of the comic, it felt like the right place to start. Hal was the first Earthling that was picked to go and join the Corps. When we went in and pitched the studio in terms of what the film could be and what the subsequent films could be, it seemed like the natural place to start, with the hope of one day of honoring the same order of what the comic books had.”

That was just about the press conference’s only allusion to the possibility of sequels to the film. Being based on such a huge print franchise, the idea is certainly a possibility, but Warner Bros. will likely wait to see if the film is a hit before even considering green lighting (ha ha!) any ideas.

Reynolds, of course, has had experience bring comic book characters to life on the big screen before. He played Marvel’s anti-hero Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” opposite Hugh Jackman in 2009. Is Reynolds trying to corner the market on playing super heroes? “By 2014, I’m gonna do ‘Wonder Woman,’ but after that I’m gonna hang it up,” he joked. “Growing up, I read a bit of ‘X-Men,’ and I loved Deadpool. Beyond that I didn’t know that much about comics. Deadpool is a character I love and I got a great opportunity to play him in more of ancillary sense on a film which was great, because it allowed me to jump in and play him but not be committed to too much beyond that. For the most part, Green Lantern’s the first real kind of iconic superhero role that I’ve ever had the great opportunity to play and I’m pretty damn grateful for that.”

The solo “Deadpool” film, with Reynolds attached, has been in development for sometime. “We’ll see what happens with that,” he said.

Lively (“Gossip Girl,” “The Town”) plays Carol Ferris, Hal’s co-worker and potential love interest. The actress discussed what appealed to her about the script. “Carol is very unique in this genre,” Lively enthused. “She’s an incredibly powerful woman — she’s a fighter pilot, she runs her father’s aviation company. It’s rare to see such strong women existing as equals amongst men in film, especially in this genre.” Ferris’ eventual transformation into the villainess Star Sapphire in the comics also appealed to Lively.

As the increasingly mad scientist Hector Hammond, whose head grows to grotesque proportions after coming into contact with the evil alien Parallax, Sarsgaard underwent hours of makeup daily. Likewise, as the pink-skinned humanoid Green Lantern known as Sinsetro, Strong also went through a dramatic physical transformation for the film. Both roles required many uncomfortable hours in the makeup chair.

“We shared the same glue,” Sarsgaard joked. “When I finished, he was starting and my passing comment to him was ‘your going to find that you have this thing about the glue. You dream about the glue. You want the glue again. It’s the smell, it’s something about it. It’s like do you really like Tang? Or is it just a sense memory?'” By the end of his hideous transformation in the film, Sarsgaard looks nothing like his real self. “I’m glad I’m married,” he quipped, “because I’m not gonna be getting any dates from this.”

After playing full-on evil dudes in “Sherlock Holmes” and “Kick-Ass,” Strong now plays a hero with a dark side that, in the comics, inevitably overcomes his heroic side. As seen in the film, the polar opposite of the will-driven power of the green spectrum used by the heroic Lanterns is the fear-derived power of the yellow spectrum, represented by the film’s chief villain, Parallax — a giant alien entity that thrives on fear, and is bent on destroying the Green Lantern Corps.

“It’s great to play (Sinestro) before he goes there (to the evil side),” Strong explained. “Usually villains are just villains in these things and are very straightforward. So it’s nice to have him as a hero in this. What I tried to do was give him characteristics that would lend themselves to being believable, should he decide to go to the dark — or the yellow — side. I couldn’t think about where the story is going. The source material is so vast, there’s plenty to draw from. But I had to just stick to the script as it was. If we do go somewhere else with it, I hope that he’s a believable character that would go that way.”

The actors all expressed awe over the final product, after spending months on sets that were largely just empty bluescreen rooms, where computer effects would eventually fill in the rest in post-production.

“There’s nothing around you when you’re shooting,” Strong said. “You’re in a big blue room, so it was amazing to see the environment that you were in, what you were imagining, and see it realized. It’s mindblowing.”

While the film relies heavily on CG effects, Campbell — who is best known for the Antonio Banderas “Zorro” films, as well as resuscitating the James Bond franchise with the hard-hitting “Casino Royale” — stressed the film’s realistic physical tone. “We wanted the action to be tough and hard,” he said, “we didn’t want Green Lantern to get up having been slung against the wall at 100 mph and sort of shake his head and go back into the fight. He does get pushed around and beaten up a little bit and really does have to feel the pain, as it were. So, in a lot of respects, it’s very similar to doing Bond or any other action film.”

As for the DVD and Blu Ray release, De Line explained “we’re still working on it, but there are some nice bits that were excised from the final cut of the movie. Some cool things that Hector did at a certain point that are kind of fun, that might be involving some small animals” Details were not forthcoming. “I think it’s best left a mystery,” deadpanned Sarsgaard.

“Green Lantern” opens nationwide in 2D and 3D this Friday.

Watch the trailer here: