In August of 2010, on the last day of principal photography, I got to visit the set of Green Lantern with a few other online reporters. While the production had been hard at work for months, you’d never have known Ryan Reynolds might be tired, because he walked in smiling and ready for all of our questions.
During the interview, Reynolds talked about how he got attached to the project, how much did he know about Green Lantern before he signed on, did he read the comics, how was he going to play Hal Jordan, the challenges of doing so much blue screen and motion capture work, how he got ready for a film shoot that’s over a hundred days, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to a very in depth interview.
Before going any further, at this year’s WonderCon, Warner Bros. premiered ten minutes of footage from Green Lantern. Shortly after their presentation, they released four minutes of it online. If you haven’t seen the footage, I really recommend checking it out.
As usual I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Green Lantern gets released June 17.
Ryan Reynolds: Well, not that much. Not really. We did a little at Comic-Con. It’s such a closed off set. This is actually kind of the first. We had a group of people yesterday and today.
Did we catch you pre blue screen today or mid blue screen? Or are you done?
Reynolds: I just like to look beautiful sometimes. [laughs] No, we are blue screen all day. I just didn’t come in the motion capture suit because I didn’t want you to laugh. I look about as threatening as Estelle Getty I think.
Were you able to see that little kid’s face after you recited the green lantern oath to him at Comic-Con?
Reynolds: I did! I met him backstage too. I just wanted to shake him down to see if it was a plant, but no. He was the real deal. I got to see his face. I mean, like, not to overly romanticize it, but you have that moment when that happens where I sort of recognize the gravity of this. You have a real sense of the perception a kid like that has of this and how I can make good on it. It’s a pretty great feeling
Reynolds: Yeah, I guess so. I mean, this is the first movie that I’ve ever done where I really feel that my nieces and nephews are all tracking on it already. I mean, the first thing my nephew asked me when I was meeting on the movie was “Can I have the ring?” and I said, “Fuck no!” [laughs] It’s that stuff. I don’t want to sound too corny about it, but it’s that stuff that makes it all worth while. It’s moments like that at comic con with that kid that just, boy, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
They revealed a lot of information to us while working through the production art room. When you were first approached for the role, how much where you told and what did you know about the comic? How have things changed since you came on to the project?
Reynolds: I knew of the Green Lantern, but I wasn’t versed in it. You know, like, Geoff Johns, or anyone like that. I knew that he was an ordinary guy who was bequeathed a ring by a dying alien. It shot lasers out of it or something like that. Beyond that, I wasn’t that familiar with it. I think I was most startled to find out how vast the universe is. I know Geoff Johns likened it to the Star Wars of the DC Universe and it really does feel like that. The scope is the thing that blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it when I made that discovery. I met Martin [Campbell] like I was meeting on any other movie. They were casting the Green Lantern and I knew that I had already kind of dipped my toe in the comic book world a little bit. I mean, years ago, I played in Blade: Trinity and I had four minutes of Deadpool. So I wasn’t sure if this would be the right fit or anything like that. I was really more interested in Martin Campbell just because I loved Casino Royale and I had loved some of his other films as well. I had 3 meetings with him total. At first, they were kind of trying to convince me and then by the end I was begging them for the role. They took me up to the art department and I met [production designer] Grant Major, [costume designer] Ngila Dickson, and [cinematographer] Dion Beebe was there. I saw the artwork and that was it. Seeing that world and seeing the possibility there. You don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but if this were to work you do another movie. Barring that, you do another one after that. Then, you can see this going well beyond Hal Jordan and into the other Green Lanterns. You know, the fall of Hal and dispensing with him and then bringing on Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, or any of those guys.
Reynolds: I read Secret Origins before my meeting and that was about it. Someone slipped it to me. I don’t know if it was out yet or if they had just started working on it or not. I didn’t know what their plan was. I didn’t even know if it was Hal Jordan. I just assumed by reading that that it was going to be Hal Jordan. I kind of just learned as I went.
Could you talk a little bit about the character of Hal Jordan? He’s kind of the classic hero. He has no fear and he is a little cocky. Where is the divide of making him a man of no fear and also making sure that he is also not a…
Reynolds: We are not playing him as a fearless guy at all. Hal Jordan is…the reason that the ring chose Hal Jordan is because he has the ability to overcome fear. He is as baffled by this decision that these cosmic entities have made as anyone else. He doesn’t understand why he was chosen. He’s afraid to admit that he is afraid. That is kind of his challenge through out the film. It’s finding that footing and finding that ability to overcome it. That is what is deep within him. That is the reason why he becomes the greatest green lantern of all because fearlessness is insanity. Courage is an amazing trade. It’s noble and it’s a virtue that everyone wants. So that is what it is that he has to find within himself. He is one of those guys that is trying to be fearless when he meet him and we realize that he is going in the exact wrong direction.
If you could extend that a little bit, could you talk about the difference in playing a superhero where the power doesn’t necessarily come from internally but it doesn’t come from an exterior force from the ring?
Reynolds: Yeah, it does come internally. I mean, it’s the power sources will on imagination. The ring is just sort of the conduit of that. You know, it is what completely manifests the will and imagination. It is from within and that is what I think is most interesting about the character. It’s not necessarily that the fact that he can fire stuff out of this ring. It is that that this ring is so much more. He becomes kind of like a bioweapon in a sense and I thought that was very cool. It was something I hadn’t seen before.
There is so much innovative visual effects in the designs we have looked at. Is there is something that you have shot already or about to shoot that you can’t wait to see when it is put together?
Reynolds: Oh, god, yeah. The first trip to OA is something that I am dying to see. I’ve seen sort of artwork on it and I have seen previsuals on it. I’ve seen those kinds of things, but having guys like Grant Major. That is the smart thing. Any great director is also someone who is incredibly intelligent about whom they hire around them. So I think Martin [Campbell] was incredibly clever in assembling a team that is so unbelievably talented in what they do. I think seeing whatever that is going to be like with that trip to OA for the first time and seeing some of the other Lanterns is what is going to be really cool I think. There are so many of them. I think we are going to have about 20 or 30 of them featured in the film.
One thing they can’t really get into is the humor that we assume you are going to inject into it. We saw this one scene where you made this comment to this one guy about how it is impossible to watch your back.
Reynolds: That is a true story. [everybody laughs]
So in the grand scheme of Ryan Reynolds smart asses, where is Hal Jordan? Is he somewhere in the middle? Is he beneath Deadpool or way far away from Van Wilder?
Reynolds: Well, yeah. Deadpool just lives for that. It’s just finding that tone. I mean, I always thought of the guy as Han Solo crossed with Chuck Yeager. He just feels kind of like that. He is the guy that is not funny, but he is witty. His wit is more of a self defense mechanism than anything else. He is skilled at avoidance in every way. Anyone who is skilled at that should know they can divert somebody’s focus and attention with humor or with some offhanded remark. He is really good at that. He is quick with his mouth, but he is not making jokes or anything like that. There is no moment in the film where I feel like there is a “ba dump bump”.
Well, when you meet with the Green Lantern that looks like a fly or the Green Lantern that looks like whatever. Are there some comments that you make to them that you are particularly proud of?
Reynolds: Yeah! There is stuff. There are some comments that I don’t think will be in the movie. [laughs] You know, I always try to come in with 5 or 6 options for any given moment that might be kind of funny. So I will have 5 or 6 lines and they can pick and choose depending on their rating.
Any one that you can give us that you are most proud of?
Reynolds: Uh, no, I don’t think so. [laughs] I think we best wait and see. I might get in a little trouble with that. There are a couple of moments with Kilowog. He thinks that I smell funny and I have a response for him that aptly describes how I find his smell.
Reading the script and seeing all of the production art you must have known that a lot of it was going to be blue screen. Is it more than you thought it was going to be and how much of this shoot so far would you say that you have found yourself by yourself standing…
Reyonlds: Conversing with a tennis ball? Yeah. A little bit. There is a fair amount of it. So much of the film takes place in space, you know? I don’t know what the exact percentages are, but there is a lot of blue screen. At the same time, a lot of the flying is practical. They have these rigs that are so articulate now that you can fly in, land, and then just as you are landing you can bank off to the side and land here instead. So there is all of this stuff you are doing that is unbelievable. You know, it’s long flights too. I have some on my phone that I can show you later that are just videos of testing. Just testing out the rigs and it’s really kind of cool. So, that stuff has been done a lot on the blue screen obviously. I was surprised by how much practical flying I was doing.
Can you talk about the challenge of getting into character where you don’t have a costume, you’re looking at blue walls, and you got a couple of tennis balls in front of you. You are really out there.
Reynolds: Yeah. I mean, after 103 days of anything you are going to be into it I think. If you’re not, there is something wrong. You just have to have a lot of faith and a lot of the artwork is around. I get a lot of examples of what I am looking at and that helps. You just carry that with you. A lot of it just kind of knows what direction you are supposed to be pointing, looking, and that sort of thing. For the most part Hollywood is a world of imagination so you have to really just be there and trust that they are going to do their part when we all walk away tomorrow.
You were talking about scenes with Kilowog. The voice hasn’t even been cast yet. Is there somebody off camera just reading lines?
Reynolds: We have a guy that is 6 foot 8. His thighs are bigger than my life. He is huge and he is just a great reference. He has this big barreling voice and I don’t even know if that is the voice they are going to be use, but he is a good reference. We have a Tomar-re and we have some of the other Lanterns that are all there with me. So I am able to talk to them and reference them. But later on they are going to look much different.
There have been a lot of photos from the set online. There is a lot of interest through the online community. The first day you were shooting the bar thing and already there were shots from that first day. Were you aware of the interest in the franchise beforehand or did it sort of strike you on that first day when you had the paparazzi already there?
Reynolds: Yeah, those were citizen paparazzi I think. I don’t think those were “the guys”, you know, lurking in the bushes. There was a lot of interest I think. I’m interested so I think as just a part to fulltime fanboy I would be looking online once production starts to see if there is a glimpse of the suit or something that I know from that world. So I wasn’t surprised at all. I think there was an appetite for it. I’m shocked that we didn’t have more stuff leak out. We were pretty careful around here, but there were sometimes where we were pretty vulnerable and we just got lucky.
Is there anything that you get to put your input in like the look of your suit or the dialogue?
Reynolds: A ton of the dialogue, yeah. But the look the suit – there are people way more skilled than me for that. You know, Ngila [Dickson], I wouldn’t mess with her on her worst day. That is a tough lady right there. She just has such great ideas. I don’t know what they showed you yet, but I assume that they haven’t showed you the suit in motion yet. I’ve seen that and once you see that you sort of shut your mouth and let them do their job.
Reynolds: I knew going in. I knew on my third meeting with Martin [Campbell]. Just because the suit is a biological manifestation of the ring’s wearer. So I knew that it is a construct essentially and that everyone’s is different. I couldn’t imagine there would be a scenario in which they would be trying to design practical suits. It just doesn’t make sense for the mythology.
What are some of your favorite science fiction stories and movies?
Reynolds: Boy…number one is Back to the Future. That is definitely up there. That is a huge one. Star Wars…the first three. What else? I like Total Recall. I don’t know. As a kid, I loved Robocop. I thought that was pretty awesome. That is off the top of my head.
Could you talk about working with Peter Sarsgaard? We’ve seen some of the photos of him as Hector and we saw a scene and he looked pretty creepy in that. What was he like to work with on set?
Reynolds: Peter is great. Peter is obviously an incredibly capable actor. I think that Peter captures the one thing that makes every great screen villain screen, and that is that he fully owns every second of it. I think that something that a lot people pick up early on that do it well in addition to Peter is that they understand villains are intentionally evil. They just have opposing convictions and that is all it is. There is no mustache twisting or that kind of crap. It’s born of something very real and kind of vulnerable. It was tough because Peter is Hal Jordan’s foe in this, but in our mythology they have known each other their whole lives. There is a lot of empathy mixed in when I look at this guy. I think that you feel that till the end of the movie. Now that is something to me that Peter brought to it that was not on the page. That is something that is so important. Even when we are battling, there is regret with Hal Jordan and Green Lantern that he doesn’t want to do this.
Your fans know that for years you were trying to get The Flash off the ground and trying to play The Flash.
Theoretically, if you ever appeared opposite another actor playing The Flash, would you be a little jealous or after The Green Lantern have you been converted that he is the best in the DC Universe?
Reynolds: God, if we ever did a Justice League movie after he does his first line of dialogue I would say, “Is that how you are going to do it?” [laughs]
Would you be like, “I developed this for 4 years.”
Reynolds: No, whoever they get will be fantastic I’m sure. There is too much riding on it to not be. I was partial to The Flash, but that kind of died for me with Deadpool just because I felt like if I did Deadpool I couldn’t do The Flash. You know, just because The Flash felt like there is that same kind of acerbic wit, but it’s more of a PG-13 version than maybe Wade Wilson. So I have no feeling about that. The Flash is such a cool character, though. I read the original Flash script and I thought it was really interesting how they were tackling it.
Reynolds: Well, now that I am introduced to it, of course. I mean, it’s not just because I am doing it. I just kind of see the scope and it’s incredible. You have earth, space, fighter jets, aliens, and all of these elements together in one film and it’s just something you haven’t seen in so long. For me, the last time I saw it done well was watching Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. I just thought, “I want to be in that world!” I feel like we get to experience of bit of that with this, or a lot of that actually.
As far as acting touchstones are concerned there is a moment where you are perfectly human and you surprise yourself with this fist that comes out of nowhere and you are sucked up into space and taken to another planet. Where do you start to come up with your reaction for something that is so unrealistic in our universe?
Reynolds: There is a catalogue of reactions that you can go through for something like that. You just always have to try to ground it as much as you can. The biggest asset this movie has I think is that it starts on Earth and because of that it gives us a kind of point of comparison. It gives us that essential element that we need where we can see where we have come from and where we are now. If it just sort of started in space I think that would be a little bit more difficult. You get to carry that reality into the next and that is what I use to inform me in all of those moments. I mean, there are only so many. You can only go through your full catalogue of facial expressions before you just need a nap. So you kind of just choose one sort of emotion in that moment and obviously it is some form of disbelief.
Do you try to draw back to something that you have experienced?
Reynolds: No, but I’m never one of those actors. That is always dangerous to do that I think because then you got one take where that is effective and then the rest you are kind of stranded. So in a pinch you use that, but for the most part I don’t replace anything.
Now that you are almost done with one, do you feel fully invested and ready to do another two or three? Geoff Johns will be killed if he talks about this stuff, but has anyone talked to you about doing something in the larger DC Universe?
Reynolds: Yeah, I will talk about this. Yeah, I think there is a lot to mine out of it if you do a second and third movie. Again, you don’t want to just say that we are doing a second and third one because the first one has to work. That is the mission and that is the job right in front of everybody. The second one, I’ll tell you, whether it’s Martin Campbell directing it or somebody else, we inherit a ton of answers and that is the biggest thing you get out of it. I mean, you start work. Now, we know how Hal Jordan looks like, what the Green Lantern looks like, and what Sinestro looks like. We know how all of these guys look like, how they fly, how they move, and interact with one another. There are so many answers that the second production gets. You almost feel like you get a six month head start, and that is going to be amazing. But In terms of the larger DC Universe? I would love to see a Justice League movie. Personally, and I have talked to no one about this, but I would love to see Geoff’s [Johns] DC Universe Online – that kind of idea with this kind of post apocalyptic Justice League. I just thought that was really amazing. Just the visuals of that. I would love to see something like that. I think it’s a different way to go with it too. You can shoot and be kind of a little bit more creative with something like that
Reynolds: Well, you train for it. You definitely train. I mean the physicality of it. I know a lot of actors yak about this ad nauseam, but it is on a movie like this. Especially with Martin [Campbell] who likes it fast, ugly, brutal, and real. So he is pushing people to the limits and it is tough, you know? I’ve had a few moments where you need to take a knee and just call for a time out. I’ve smacked my head a lot and that sucks. I’m at the point where I am just nauseous now when I hit my head and that is a weird feeling, but we are getting there. We have another six hours of it so it’s easy to look back and laugh now, but it’s tough. The training I did for the movie was obviously doing a lot of stuff, but mostly it was functional for me so that I could make it through this with a guy like Martin [Campbell] who can be mentally unhinged.
What kind of misconceptions are you finding when you hear back about what The Green Lantern is?
Reynolds: Usually, it’s about who is playing Kato. [everybody laughs] If you are going to hear a misconception I think. But I am surprised that even since the film’s production happened there is so much more awareness of it that there wasn’t before. It’s funny. It’s on a lot of people’s radar who otherwise didn’t know much about it. I just think the film being in production and the amount of interest that that has generated has caused a lot of people to learn a bit about it.
A lot of these comic book film adaptations are completely separate from the comic book’s creators or writers. You have fortune to have Geoff Johns on set and being heavily involved.
Reynolds: Leering over your shoulder. Yes.
Could you talk a little bit about that?
Reynolds: Actually, it’s been great! You know, because Geoff is like an integrity officer I would say. He is there and he is making sure we are doing it the right way. This character and this universe is so interesting that you don’t need to change much. There isn’t a lot you need to do. There are moments that maybe depart from the traditional comic book, but the themes and feeling are all there. I think even in some instances the look is really there. I feel like people are going be really happy with it. I don’t know if you have seen Mark Strong yet or what he looks like as Sinestro, but I got chills when I first saw him. He is the spitting image of Sinestro. He is Sinestro and it’s kind of cool to see him walk on the set. Those are amazing moments that we get to have down here. They didn’t depart for his look and he doesn’t, you know, look like a samurai or something like that because all of these ideas were thrown out at the beginning. You know, “What if?”, but everyone just went back to the source material.
Reynolds: Yeah, there is a great tip of the hat or a nod to what could be forthcoming for these two guys. But Mark is a very generous actor and he is also just incredibly good in every moment. You know, we are talking to each other on an alien planet and he is purple with some crazy widow’s peak. There is a moment where you can catch yourself and say, “This is ridiculous!” but as soon as you start to converse with him and you look into his eyes it’s pretty magical. He is right there and he is that character. It’s sink or swim, and it’s pretty fantastic. They hired well. I felt that across the board they just did a really good job on that. Mark and I have a lot of fun working together. There was a great moment when we started shooting too, which was the first time he and I kind of meet and square off. It’s a great moment. It’s just one of those moments where I am on OA for the first time and there is this guy and I am looking at him and there is immediately a kind of unspoken friction between these two that is very watchable, and that is something I was glad about. That is a chemistry thing. That is something they didn’t plan for either.
Mark Strong is English. How is he dealing with the New Orleans weather?
Reynolds: [laughs] My god, I keep saying that the weather report here is for actual fire. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I think the locals here are having a tough time with it. It’s unlike anything you will ever experience. I mean, I am still trying to get used to it. I feel like we are shooting an entire movie inside Dick Cheney.
You were talking about how this is your last day. You’re understandably exhausted. Do you take a vacation or is it like your agents are on the phone saying, “Hey, you have to go do this movie in two weeks.”
Reynolds: No. [laughs] That is not a call you answer. [laughs] That is a good problem to have, though. No, I’m taking some time off. I have to take some time off just to stay sane. I’m very excited to be done.
Is there anything particular that you are going to miss in the last 6 hours here?
Reynolds: Look, when you do a movie for 103 days that crew isn’t a crew, it’s family. So everybody is feeling that a little bit. Getting that last call sheet last night we all wrote a little message to the crew just to say thank you. Those are tough moments. You kind of fall asleep a little. There is a little touch of nostalgia already.
There is Deadpool, Green Lantern, and there is talk that you are going to be doing R.I.P.D. What is it about the comic book world or the comic book characters that draw you in? Why do you also think that the genre seems to be more popular than ever in movies?
Reynolds: I think that it is more popular than ever because there is obviously an appetite for it, but technologically we are able to capture these elements that we couldn’t before. Green Lantern couldn’t have been done even two years ago. The way that they have advanced just the motion capture alone, let alone the CGI elements. It’s so current that it is unbelievable. But when I read R.I.P.D. I read the script first. I didn’t know it was a comic book actually. I found that out afterwards. I guess it’s a graphic novel. So I read that and I thought it was pretty cool. I don’t know why and I don’t know the correlation necessarily with the comic books. I just assume that it’s the technology and the things they can capture now.
You are obviously doing Deadpool and this. These are probably both going to be a franchise. Is there are apprehension about doing another comic book film or being in too many franchises?
Reynolds: Oh, yeah! You don’t want that. I don’t know if Deadpool will be a franchise. It’s also not a superhero movie. It’s like a deconstruction of a superhero movie. It’s a whole other thing. I really like it. The script is a nasty piece of work and I love it for that. So I hope that that script we have made now stays through out production. So we will see. But, yeah, I don’t look at it like that. I don’t think it’s necessarily a franchise, but obviously the studios sometimes do. We are on for one. That is all I know.
We saw the scene where you crash and the dialogue is not campy and it’s very direct. Is the rest of the film like that? The tone seems very real.
Reynolds: Yeah, it’s something that we have done that I love. It’s something that Martin [Campbell] is doing, but a lot of the moments are messy and real. You know, people are talking at the same time and you have to pay attention when you are watching. Yeah, that is definitely the tone. I mean, there are a lot of light elements as well. That is because Hal has those moments where he cracks wise for a second, but he is a cocky and kind of arrogant test pilot, you know? As the movie progresses, though, he is bestowed this gift and this magical ring and this element. That sort of sets him on a bit of a humbler path, but that is definitely the movie that you saw right there.
Here’s more of our Green Lantern set visit: