The actor says his own past has influenced sarcastic characters like Deadpool or heist-thriller ‘Red Notice’’s Nolan Booth
Netflix’s Red Notice (starring Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot) is, in many ways, the quintessential big-budget Hollywood crowd-pleaser. It has unrealistically charismatic leads (all three headline their own superhero franchises) and a simple but malleable plot, with bullets flying as thick and fast as the scene-ending one-liners. Reynolds’ character, Nolan Booth, and Gadot’s The Bishop are art thieves, while Johnson plays FBI profiler John Hartley.
During a recent promotional event, Reynolds talks about the scene where the three meet for the first time, in a prison chapel. “For me, it was the most interesting scene to film. It was the first time that the three of us had shot in the same room,” he says, adding, “It’s where we meet Gal’s character, and she’s charming and funny and easy. In the past we’ve seen her as Wonder Woman and other really authoritative characters. So, to watch her be almost like a Cary Grant in this moment was really fun for me.”
When Booth met Hartley
Speaking about the experience of filming an action-adventure story with Johnson, perhaps the most commercially-successful actor in the genre, he shares, “The way that you see Booth and Hartley talking in the film — you know, sarcasm and putting each other down, and yet there’s a kind of underlying respect there. That’s how Dwayne and I talk to each other in real life. If you go to dinner with us you’ll know.”
The two have known each other for over 20 years now. “Weirdly, Dwayne and I have a lot more in common than you’d think. Certainly not body mass, but we each have three daughters, extracurricular businesses that we care deeply about. We both very much feel we’re in service of an audience and that they’re the boss, so we have very similar outlooks on life.”
Indeed, the film derives much of its narrative frisson via the comedic repartee between these two actors. “There are other films that I have done where the emotional stuff, the tissue that holds together the action, adventure, swashbuckling parts, is much more prominent,” says Reynolds. “But in the action comedy genre, obviously the adventurous bits are front and centre.”
Of Deadpool and daddy issues
Reynolds has played characters like Nolan Booth in the past: quick-witted, sharp-tongued ‘tricksters’ who live on the fringes of society and follow the ‘trust nobody’ dictum. His current role as the Marvel antihero Deadpool, is perhaps the biggest example of this. Is he worried that he might get typecast? “Well, yes and no,” he says. “I think every artist has this in their career — where you do kind of the same thing but with different setups and in varied ways and hopefully, you get it exactly right a couple of times. What’s important is that you enjoy the work and the day it gets to be too much, you take a step back and reevaluate.”
In the film, both Booth and Hartley have daddy issues. Booth’s father was a Swiss cop who cared more about lost treasures than his own family, while Hartley’s was a con-man. Much is made of the fact that the cop’s son becomes a thief and vice-versa. “I think that in a lot of ways Nolan is broken,” says Reynolds, “The way he speaks, he obviously has trust issues, which come across in his scenes with Hartley… these things are his way of dealing with his past. There are things about me that are broken as well and I kind of use that to play these sarcastic characters.”
On a break
Reynolds has been quite prolific of late: earlier this year, his film, Free Guy, was one of the biggest hits of 2021, when Hollywood badly needed theatrical blockbusters to shore up flagging numbers. Then there was The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard towards the beginning of 2021. The upcoming Netflix film, The Adam Project, will make it four big-budget releases for him in a relatively short amount of time, which is why he has announced that he is taking “a little break” from the movies, not least because he wants to spend more time with his three young children (ages two to seven).
“The time that you don’t spend with your family, when you’re off doing your thing, that’s time you are never getting back. It’s important to take a break once in a while, to allow yourself the time and the mental space to get creative again, and that’s what I am doing,” concludes the actor.