Ryan Reynolds on Indie Films and the “Uptown Problem” of Being a Character Actor in a Leading Man’s Body

Ryan Reynolds in Mississippi Grind

“Actors get an undeserved amount of credit when a movie works. The same is true when it doesn’t work. So you kind of take the good with the bad” – Ryan Reynolds


After ten years of acting in minor roles and failed TV series, Ryan Reynolds burst into films the scene in the hit comedy National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. That role and several comedic follow-ups (including Waiting…) gave the public the perception that Reynolds was a snarky comedian. However, over the last dozen years Reynolds has acted in a variety of different types of roles and has worked hard to break away from what is expected of him by audiences. Reynolds recently did an interview with GQ to talk about the tough parts about his career in addition to apologizing for the recent box office bomb Self/Less (“the movie didn’t turn out as well as I think I wanted.”)

When asked if he is deliberately making more indie films these days, Reynolds says, “It’s not not deliberate. But I find that, like, studio movies have always been much more deliberate choices. You just never know. I’ve done big movies that just absolutely sucked, once they were finally cut together and put up on the big screen. And I’ve done small movies where the same thing can happen. You just never know. I do have faith in directors. I believe that film is a director’s medium.” He also adds that the director isn’t always the person to blame for a movie being poorly made, noting, “There have been some hard-earned experiences with respect to that. But I have to take whatever responsibility I have to take, too. I’m not just saying, ‘Oh, it was them’ or ‘They fucked this up.’ I also chose it, you know. There’s my face up there the whole time. I made those choices.

Reynolds points out that when it comes to the business aspect of Hollywood, blame for a movie not doing well can often be passed around unfairly. He explains, “I’ve done a lot of movies where the person I was co-starring with is a massive star, and [its underperformance is] still, for some reason, it’s my fault… Actors get an undeserved amount of credit when a movie works. The same is true when it doesn’t work. So you kind of take the good with the bad.”

To suggest why Reynolds sometimes has difficulty finding the right roles, the interviewer brings up an old quote that Stanley Tucci once said about Reynolds — that he is a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body. Reynolds responds, “Yeah, that’s an uptown problem, I would say. But no, I love it—because the character roles are the ones that get to be more outrageous. They’re the ones that are imbued with a lot more character. They’re the ones that get to take weird risks, because the whole film isn’t hinged upon their ultimate redemption, like it is for the leading role. Because the audience doesn’t have to like me.

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