If you've visited the Twitter of Ryan Phillippe — ‘90s teen movie heartthrob and Katy Perry boyfriend denier — you know that he has a playful side. "I use social media [to make people laugh]. Yeah, I promote my projects, because you're sort of required to at this point — and it makes sense. But when I do the personal stuff, it's almost always jokes," he says over the phone. "I love that you can check your phone throughout the day and get a laugh. That changes your body chemistry, that changes your mood."
So what's he promoting these days? The very zen Phillippe is on the press trail for the second season of “Shooter,” a thriller that follows the journey of Bob Lee Swagger, a highly decorated veteran, as he navigates his world of exile. “I like the challenge of portraying vets accurately,” he says over the phone. “I love the training as well. I really enjoy getting into the tactics and learning how to look like a soldier.” Oh, trust us. He looks the part.
We talked to the 42-year-old — who is thoughtful, funny and, definitely still as dreamy as he was in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" — about Twitter, depression and of course,”Cruel Intentions.”
You have a long history of playing soldiers on screen, and both your father and grandfather were servicemen. What about it appeals to you?
Part of the appeal is that it’s something that I know. Having had friends and families that have served and hearing their stories and spending time getting to know what’s involved, and that kind of sacrifice. It’s also the height of human drama, our enlisted men and women are literally putting their lives on the line for us. So as an actor, I’m drawn to that material as well.
How do you prepare for that role, fitness wise?
Because I do my own stunts, I have to physically train all the time, it’s the best way to prevent injury. Or at least severe injury — I’ve always got little injuries but I don’t want to get the big ones. [Ed note: Shortly after our interview, Phillippe broke his leg in a freak accident during a family outing. So much for just little injuries.]
Television is a bigger commitment, and you’ve talked a lot about talked about prioritizing your kids over acting. Is that a realization you’ve had as you’ve gotten older?
No, no no. That’s always been, ever since my kids were born. Every decision you make, every choice that involves being away from them is a difficult one to make. And so I’ve limited myself a lot of ways because of that, in terms of turning down certain jobs.
But they’re young adults at this point. My daughter [with ex-wife Reese Witherspoon, Ava Phillippe] is almost 18. She doesn’t need as much help as she used to.
Your Twitter has gotten a lot of attention lately — you volunteered to be the white dude in the Lupita & Rihanna scammer movie, and you shot down Katy Perry rumors via the app. Why did you choose the app to address these things?
Usually I’m just trying to be silly and have fun. I’m not really known by a lot of people as a funny person, [but] my favorite thing about [social media] is when I’ve made people laugh. That is such a gift for me, and so primarily I use those platforms for that.
When I know that I’ve genuinely made people laugh, I know that I’ve made them feel a little bit better that day. And as stupid and small as that is, it’s real. And you’re really connecting to this wide net of people and I enjoy that.
Social media can also be a double edged sword.
There’s a lot of ugliness out there, and we have to combat ugliness in real life the way we do online. You ignore it, you stand up to it, you present something opposite to it, that’s just life, the good and bad. It’s a balance.
Speaking of balance, I’ve read that you have a long history of depression. How do you combat that — especially being in the public eye as you are?
I have a life that I’m really appreciative of. I’m so thankful but there are days where I can't see or feel any of that, for whatever reason, for whatever body chemistry I have. So there’s another part of me that wants to show the reality of humanity. That even though things might look a certain way on the inside or that a person has the perfect life, it’s not always that way.
I hate that it’s something that people are afraid to talk about. When I do talk about [depression], it’s about letting other people know A) you’re not alone and B) there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
And finally, we have to talk about "Cruel Intentions." Did you ever think it would become so iconic?
I love the nostalgia, and that people continue to rediscover that movie. It’s fun to have done a few things that people still watch and that are on TV with regularity. That’s a rare thing! And I think it’s cool.
I hoped I would one day have a seminal teen movie the way that “Breakfast Club” was for me when I was young, I wanted to have one of those, so I was hoping that was what “Cruel Intentions would be.” And it was.
Follow Rachael Vaughan Clemmons on Twitter — @rachaelclemz