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Ryan Reynolds doesn't want to do only franchises

The "Self/less" star talks about the thrill of doing a one-off movie, the idle rich and the grind of some interviews.
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    Ryan Reynolds fights to stop a shady body-swapping company in "Self/less."

Considering he has jet lag, Ryan Reynolds is both willing and able to talk about deep stuff. His latest film, “Self/less,” touches on morbid dread, the dissolution of the self and class issues. It features Ben Kingsley’s dying wealth monster literally becoming Ryan Reynolds, after he accepts a revolutionary, though possibly shady, procedure that transfers consciousness from one body to another. Still, at least it’s a break from franchise movies, such as “Deadpool” and “The Croods 2,” both starring him. And perhaps more importantly, at least having a one-on-one chat is more humane than the barrage of quickie video interviews he sometimes has to do.

This is a film that really digs into anxieties over mortality and the dissolution of the self. Were those the ideas that most grabbed you?

Not really. It was the idea of hubris and arrogance and the class system, and all these things that propel a person say, “Oh, I cocked up the first life. Let me just buy another one.” It’s just so vile to think like that. I like seeing characters fall from grace, and I like seeing characters accept or deal with consequences.

Damian actually becomes someone who doesn’t know what to do with his wealth.

I know a couple people who are at that level of obscene wealth. There’s something perverse about their lives, especially when they’re young. There’s this quest for thrills that is ever-growing. I know one guy who just does some of the most insane s— you can imagine. Maybe it’s because he’s experienced so much already. He’s bought everything he’s wanted. He’s always owned the fastest cars, the coolest planes. After awhile it becomes a law of diminishing returns. There’s a lack of well-being with these people. Not all of them, just particular ones.

Not every rich person is terrible and bored.

Not at all! I know wealthy people who are truly wonderful. And people like Bill Gates — those guys are going to die and leave 20, 30 billion dollars to charity. That’s spectacular, if you ask me.

[pauses for a second or two] I had a brilliant question I was going to ask, and it just left me.

I’ve had several points that have just left my brain. I’ve been in a jet lag fog all day.

Junkets can be trying, I’m sure especially for the ones being interviewed.

These are great. It’s the sitting down with the guy who comes from Cleveland, and he sat on a plane and thought of not a single question. You’re like, come on, man, [laughs] have some pride in your work.

It’s a surreal way for people to communicate.

One-on-ones are great. And round tables I don’t mind because there’s some energy. For me it’s when you’re sitting in a room [with a camera] and each one is four minutes. They just keep coming, like an assembly line. It’s so emotionally violent for everyone. I was trying to talk to the studio people today, I said, “You need to think of a new way to do this so it’s immersive and fun for the reporter.”

OK, here’s a question: This isn’t as ostentatiously visual as the other films by Tarsem Singh, like “The Fall” and “Immortals,” but he’s still a director known for his images. For an actor how do you deal with filmmakers like that?

It’s nerve-wracking, because you think going into it, are they going to be able to talk to actors? Are they going to understand what the scene is about apart from it just looking cool? But he’s the opposite for me. I found him really attentive to each scene. A movie is only as good as its director, and the sort of unfortunate truth is in this industry it’s a director’s medium. The director is god on a film set. We can only succeed as far as he’s willing to take us.

“Self/less” seems rare, not only in that it’s a character-driven, ideas-driven sci-fi movie, but also that it’s a one-off, not a franchise movie. I can’t imagine there being a “Self/less 2.”

Oh god, no! But that’s great, isn’t it? It’s refreshing that there are some films like that still. It’s scary, because everything’s a franchise now. It does kill off the one-off movies — the small films by Screen Gems or Focus Features. It’s getting harder and harder to finance those movies. I’m worried for the future, in the sense that one day, 12 months a year it’s just going to be franchise films. Even at awards season it will be franchise movies that will collect all the gold. It’s a rare breed these days to have a one-off.

There needs to be diversity, though I do like the occasional franchise movie.

Me too! I love them. But there are a lot of them. It’s scary when that’s the marker of success — that as long as it’s a franchise. It’s a frightening prospect.

You still occasionally get to do something small, like your forthcoming gambling drama “Mississippi Grind.”

I always try to do those. I love those. “Buried” was one of those. “The Voices” was one of those” — the smaller ones that sometimes just play at festival circuits. But to me they’re everything. I love, love doing them.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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