“Man has always quested for some version of immortality, through theology or science.”
No, Ryan Reynolds isn’t reading from a prepared statement. Nobody’s given him talking points for his new body-switch thriller, “Self/less,” a film about a dying tycoon (Ben Kingsley) who spends a fortune to buy a new body (Reynolds) to extend his life. But if they had, he’s more than ready to go off-script.
“Thinking about it, it’s probably the most vain, arrogant, out of control desire that anybody can have, the most INSANE thing that somebody with way too much money could want. Immortality. It’s ludicrous to want it, let alone to buy your way into it. That’s a whole other LEVEL of crazy.”
“Self/less” could have just been the latest in a long line of body switch thrillers, one that traces its origins to the 1966 John Frankenheimer cult film “Seconds.” But it has a certain timeliness, with the world’s attention focused on just how much the system seems rigged in favor of the ultra rich. Reynolds picked up on that as production was about to begin.
“I met a couple of these guys — you’d have to characterize them as billionaires — right at the beginning of the shoot. We were talking about renting out their apartments for a couple of scenes, penthouses of New York high rises. Every single one of them asked about this procedure (called “shedding” in the film), wondering if it actually exists or was in the works. Every one of them.”
“We’ve tapped into something that, old or young, the super rich would be interested in — the possibility of immortality, treated in a practical scientific way, that somebody with enough money could buy. That gave me inspiration for the character, in a way. He would jump at this. Maybe he’d only think about the consequences later.”
Reynolds has been doing a lot of jumping himself of late. He was in “Woman in Gold” earlier this year, and “Mississippi Grind,” an indie picture, opens after “Self/less.” Then there’s the long-anticipated comic book adaptation “Deadpool” due out early in 2016. “Criminal,” a film about a CIA agent whose skills/memories are implanted into the mind of a condemned killer, follows that and sounds suspiciously like “Self/less.” You cannot say the man doesn’t have a work ethic.
But I’m catching up with him in Bangkok, and no, he’s not there for work. Or for the other things Bangkok is known for. He’s there with wife Blake Lively, looking after their child while mom films “All I See is You.”
“I know I won’t be lying on my death bed, no less than 60 years from now, wishing I’d done another three movies, or spent another three months in Prague,” Reynolds jokes. “I’m in my late 30s now. I have a greater appreciation for those quiet moments with family than I did when I was 22.”
For now, he’s sitting back, taking stock. He turns 39 in October. “Deadpool” was a project that took eleven years to get made, “and getting that thing you’ve been striving for finished and done is a good time for that — stopping to figure out what you want to do next. Whatever it is, I know it’ll be small.”
Reviews of “Self/less” might aid that. They’re mixed, with critics to a one, calling Reynolds “likeable” and “resourceful” (Variety), but “miscast.”
At least the “likable” label sticks. The public Reynolds has a refreshing humility that belies his stardom, or the fact that he’s been married to two of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood (He’s divorced from Scarlett Johansson).
“Everybody who does this has their peaks and valleys,” he says. “And the valleys are a lot deeper if you’re an SOB to work with. You’ve got to remember that. It’s the one bit of advice I let myself say to young actors I’m on the set with. ‘You know? Just be NICE!'”
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