I saw “The Nines” for the first time at Sundance and walked out of the theater not knowing exactly what I felt. I knew I was blown away by the film and the story, but I wasn’t sure if it was due to the no sleep and the surprises the film unexpectedly threw at me. So I decided before attending the junket that I ought to see the movie again and take it for a second spin. Thankfully, the film was even better the second time as I was able to catch a lot of little things that I missed during the initial viewing.
But while I bought into the film hook, line and sinker, I did speak to some friends and they were less than impressed by John August’s feature debut. And this doesn’t surprise me. I really thinkJohn has made a film that will polarize the audience. Some of you are going to be like me and LOVE this movie. And some of you are not.
But that’s also what’s so great about this film, the ability to be so different to so many people. It’s not like this is a huge budget
Anyway, posted below is the transcript of the roundtable interview that I got to participate in with Ryan Reynolds – the star of the film. During our long discussion we cover everything you might want to know about – from this film to what is coming up, plus we even discuss Sundance and Comic-Con. If you’re a fan of Ryan’s you’ll love this interview.
And before getting to the interview, I think you do need to know that the film unfolds in three parts, featuring the same actors in different (and in some ways overlapping)incarnations. Here’s a summary of the parts…
Part 1 – Gary
(Ryan Reynolds) – aTV actor who finds himself under house arrest after one too many benders.He istended to by an impossibly chipper publicist (Meliisa McCarthy)and a sexually tempting new mothernext door (Hope Davis).
Part 2 – Gavin
(Reynolds), a show-runner who is the subject of a reality TV show about the thorny process ofcreating a network series (not dissimilar to John August himself). His show stars his (and August’s) best friend, the actress Melissa McCarthy,much to the chagrin of the network’s development executive (
Part 3 – Gabriel
(Reynolds) – a successful video game designer who runs into car trouble with his wife (McCarthy)and daughter (Fanning) in the woods and then into even greater trouble when he seeks help from an attractive hitchhiker (Davis).
As always, you can either read the transcript or download the audio as an MP3 here. But be warned, I’ve edited the transcript and taken out a MAJOR spoiler from the movie so if you listen to the audio you will still hear it. You’ve been warned.
“The Nines” opens today in limited release.
Question: What’s the beard for?
Ryan Reynolds: Lethargy. It’s my salute to lethargy. Yeah, I have a couple months off so I’m enjoying it by not shaving.
Q: So how did you come to the project? Did you read the script or
Ryan: Well, I have a team of interpretive dancers that acted it out for me. No, I read the script immediately as soon as it came to me. It was something that my agent I guess was very, very excited about so I read it right away and fell in love with it and tried to get a meeting with John as soon as I could and we had lunch and I think half of the casting process these days is a matter of finding somebody as excited about a project as you are so, I think John could see my enthusiasm and how into this thing I was and I think he felt maybe I had a similar idea as to what it was all about. We had similar notions on it. The next thing I knew I was shooting a movie.
He said the main reason you got cast was the physical resemblances.
Oh, between he and I? Yes, of course. It’s like looking in a mirror often. In fact, I’m John. He’s over there doing the other interview. Yeah, John became a really fast friend as well which is I think no coincidence to me getting cast. I mean, we really just hit it off right off the bat. He’s a good guy. Even when we’re doing these press days they can be a little stressful particularly when you’re as jet lagged as I am. I just got back from
So your agent was excited about this project then? That’s interesting for an agent because it’s kind of risky, like a small film.
Yeah, definitely. I think for him it’s a calculated risk. I mean it’s a movie that deals with subject matter that I think is exciting to him and anyone else who would have read it. I mean, anytime you can find something that you can get behind that unorthodox and hasn’t really been seen before but you’re still really able to stretch yourself and dive into wholeheartedly I think that’s kind of unusual these days. So many projects you read are cast up already or it’s really is difficult…good problems to have, but it’s difficult to find a script and a director in particular that can really pull something really fantastic off. I particularly believe that actors are as good as their director and it’s their medium. Theatre might be our medium but this one’s theirs through and through.
When you do a project like this, do you in the back of your mind think that well, it may not be a box office success but it will be a good calling card role for future projects?
Yeah, I don’t have a lot of like $150 million box office gross movies in my wake so it’s not like it’s the first thing I think about. I also don’t think that’s anyway to survive in this industry. There are certainly guys out there that are those 20/20 guys, you know. $20 million 20% gross guys that like have a way of a science to this thing that they’re in and I ever really think that way, I just love the material and it was something I felt that I could do something with. It was one of those really tough movies because it’s 3 distinct characters and to find a way to do 3 distinct characters that doesn’t feel really indulgent was the trick. In fact, it wasn’t finding the differences in the characters that was hard it was finding the similarities that I was looking for. I felt like not to be so esoteric about it but this is a story about the puppet and the puppeteer being one in the same.
Your films are almost always different from each other and it’s hard to categorize you. What attracts you to a project?
You know, it’s always a tough question. I don’t know. I mean, usually if it’s something that I feel is challenging I feel like it’s very difficult to choose movies way in advance because if I shoot one—sometimes I have the good fortune to have 2 movies lined up in a row and I’ll inevitably drop out of the 2nd one because once you finish the 1st one everything’s different. You have different ideas of where you want to go next or what you want to do and as soon as you realize you’re kind of pegged into this thing you have to do in a month from now, I sort of blister a little bit and so yeah, as far as choosing roles go it’s just hard to find the stuff that presents something different or is a challenge. I like doing the mainstream, right down the pike broad comedies as much as I like doing the kind of unorthodox different stuff.
How did you approach playing John, or a character based on John?
With kid gloves. John, yeah, I think that’s more of a challenge for him than it is for me because I’m not portraying him in the sweetest light. I mean, you’ve met him and he’s an excellent human being but he’s really showing his ambition and his hubris in that piece. I’d have a really tough time watching that if that were me being played on the screen. I had a tough time doing it because usually I always find that the most rewarding things in life are somewhat kind of counter-intuitive and what was counter-intuitive about that to me was that I was presenting myself as John but presenting myself in a way that is not appealing and not like pre-packaged to make people think I’m this guy or like this really funny charismatic charming fellow or somebody that is likeable. It was this really kind of ugly side to this person and doing it felt disgusting then walking away you kind of look at the movie now and that’s my favorite part. I love that section. I mean that’s the warts and all section and that’s what it’s all about. I loved it but it was definitely strange, you know, capturing John’s little things that John does.
What about playing the actor? From the first part, how much of your own experience as an actor or your friend’s experience in Hollywood having attention or having a break down that you drew on for that?
Anyone with access to outside information knows that you can’t even get into any acting union without smoking crack, crashing your car, wearing an ankle bracelet. Yeah, it is a little strange playing an actor, but that character Gary’s a bit—he walks that line between kind of vacuous and emotional and there’s a lot of actors out there like that. There’s a lot of actors I think that appear so much more together as the characters they portray as opposed to the actual people, so I know I’ve said this before
Who would you want to play you if you saw yourself in a role? Is there a particular actor you would want to see play yourself in a bio pic or anything like that?
Whoopi Goldberg. She’d be doing me and really capturing…no, I don’t know what they’d be to…I hope I’m never in a place where people know so much about my life that I could be portrayed in a movie, Jesus. That’s just my worst nightmare. I think we know too much about actors as it is and their personal lives and it’s this information age where we’re stimulated constantly by the celebrity buzz effect or whatever it is, these web sites and blogs and different things.
You’ve done a good job of staying out of that. How did you manage that?
You know I think in some degree you can court that. If you court it, it’s going to find you, but yeah, to some degree you can’t completely control it. There’s a very real possibility in this industry of going out and leading your life and then going home and being a voyeur of your own life. You can literally go watch yourself—where you went last night, what you did, what the things that people presuppose about you. It’s kind of crazy. That stuff is a real turnoff for me so I don’t really…I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to why I don’t have all that going on, I don’t really go out. Maybe that’s just sad.
So you can handle house arrest just fine.
Yeah, absolutely man. Yeah, the ankle bracelet in my case comes off every once in a while but I love it. It’s terry cloth and washable, soft.
Yeah, there is. Yeah, yeah.
You were great in that.
Oh, thanks. I love to do an action movie. There’s some out there but …
You got buff for your role in Blade Trinity which I liked, but you never followed up with more action. Was that something that you…?
Well, I mean I can’t do the movies where I’m just intermittingly clenching my jaw muscles and shooting people. There’s got to be something… if it’s funny, then that’s kind of cool or if it’s very real and it taps into something for me that’s great too but I don’t think I want to go see those movies let alone be in them. Yeah, like I said it’s just finding those.
You have a few projects coming up later this year. Can you talk about your roles in these things?
Yeah, I have a movie called Definitely,Maybe which has a great cast. It’s got Kevin Kline and Rachel Weisz and Abigail Breslin and Isla Fisher, Derek Luke. It’s just a big cast and that is about I kind of liken that to a love letter to broken families. It’s about a guy who’s explaining his impending divorce to his daughter and she asks how I met her mom. I say come on what do you think I’m going to tell you to story of how I met mom and I’m going to fall back in love with her. It doesn’t work that way, I’m sorry. And she says I need to know. I say ok, I’ll tell you what. I had 3 great loves in my life. I’m going to tell you the story of these 3 great loves but I’m going the change all the names and you have to guess which one is your mom. So we go all the way back to ’92, that’s when the story begins and it goes to 2008 and it’s sort of really sweet, sort of comedy but more romance and several romantic who-done-it kind of thing. Then I have another movie called Fireflies in the Garden which I love. It’s a story about a family broken apart by the death of the matriarch—her mother who’s played by Julia Roberts. That kind of echoes some stuff with my own childhood and growing up. I mean, who doesn’t have a fucked up family. So, I think that’s probably a little bit more broadly appealing than I like to believe but I’m really excited about that one as well. Then I have this little thing called The Nines. Yeah, called The Nines.
You mentioned that you were taking a few months off right now which is the reason for the beard. So, do you have some things that you’re thinking about because there’s a lot of rumors about a strike happening next June. I’m sure there’s a lot of movies out there that are…
It’s probably not the best time to be taking off, huh?
Actually, it might be the best time to be taking off, then when something gears up in January you might be free.
That’s true. Actually it’s weird because I know the climate right now is that everyone is sort of grabbing up everything because there’s this impending strike coming. Who knows if there’s going to be a strike coming but I don’t want to grab something to grab it. I mean, I’m not starving. I’ll be fine.
Is there a sense of panic out there because of that or do you think it’s going to happen?
I honestly haven’t opened my union mail since ’91 so I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. It’s not even my union, it’s the writers unions and I’m the least qualified human being on the planet Earth to even discuss that. I just know that it’s supposedly going to happen or maybe it’s going to happen. I don’t know.
I guess what I was trying to get at was are you purposely not working or are you just waiting for the right script to take the next role?
Oh, I always just waiting for the right script. I’m never not working intentionally. It’s just a matter of finding the right thing. It’s difficult. I don’t want to work just to work. Lots of people can do that. I’ve done that before and deeply regretted it.
You don’t want to mention the film do you?
I don’t want to mention the film.
Do you have anything that you’re planning on doing during your time between movies?
Yeah, I’ve just been traveling. I was just in
Would you do that again?
Backback? I think I can actually safely say I can’t do the hostel thing anymore. I’m a little too spoiled but I could definitely backpack it around
I was going to say, can you go through
I get noticed. It depends on where I am. Like
You mentioned you’re writing. What type of material are you writing?
I’ve always written stuff. It’s never like script format. I did some stuff for the Post for awhile and just little shit-agrams.
So you’re a member of the blogosphere?
I guess so. What qualifies it as a blog? I don’t what is the criteria?
No one else reads it.
I think that’s exactly it, right. If no one is reading it then it’s a blog. Wow, oh that’s great. So actually I’m inner monologueing that’s what I’m really doing. Yeah, I’ve always just kind of written little things. I’ve been a part of writers circle for a long time so I’m on that but that’s not really for public consumption.
You don’t care about the writer’s strike that’s coming up?
Well, no. It’s not how my bread and butter is issued. But I imagine it is for them so John (August) would probably be a much better person to talk to about that. I believe he opens his mail.
Was there anything in The Nines that you were nervous about doing or apprehencious about doing before you did it?
No, the biggest thing for me was being really careful about Part 2. Just John and when I started I baby stepped it and checked it out and he’s ok if I’m going this far with it and he was not just ok, he was very happy with it. It was really liberating but it was the one I’d given the least amount of thought to as well because I was so overwhelmed. It was the last one we were shooting, the last piece and it was like one of those nightmares that I just kept putting in the back of my mind like I have no idea how I’m going to do this. There’s very little script for it. It’s all kind of improvised reality television kind of feel so it really speaks…you try different processes every time I do a movie. The research is insane. It’s so overkill. I have no life beforehand and I don’t think you see it on the screen as much as I would like to believe. Like I’d feel like sometimes you can just shoot from the hip and it’s great. There’s something to be said about just surrendering to something instead of just trying to shape it into something. I really learned a lot doing that one. I just really just dove in and I let go and I surrendered and just let myself be it as opposed to trying to figure it out, have some sort of logical equation as to how to play John, you know, just listen to him and do it.
Have you done that level of improv on film before?
In comedies, yeah, but it’s usually just designed to offend as much as possible. It’s unusual to say oh, you can use this power for good. This is neat. No, I’d never done it like that before. That was just all out.
Yeah, I love her.
More so than you and I forget the other woman’s name?
Oh, Hope Davis. She’s no small fry either though, Hope Davis.
How did you two develop such a good chemistry?
I just love Melissa you know what I mean? I think chemistry is something you can never force and if you try to you see it but if you have it it’s great. Just from the moment I met Melissa, she’s just like a …you guys have already met her I’m sure…she’s hilarious. The woman is just…
How do you describe this film to your friends who haven’t seen it?
God, I don’t. I don’t. I say it’s a charming story about a boy and his dog. I don’t know what to tell them. It’s really a difficult movie to log line. Most people want to kind of grab onto like what they think is a hook which is oh, you play 3 different people in one movie and it’s not really a hook it’s actually part of the story. It’s not done in this indulgent vain kind of way. So most people kind of grab onto that. My parents—oh, that’s the one where you play 3 different people. Oh, I can’t wait to see that. My mother’s Marge Simpson. It’s a difficult thing to explain, I usually say it’s 3 separate stories that interlock in mysterious ways.
Well, it’s partly a musical when
It is. It has a little bit of that as well. It was definitely strange. I can’t say that I fully understood what was happening in that moment, but when you see it you do but at least I do but yeah, it was definitely odd though. It was a great song, though.
Yeah, and I was expecting more like musical numbers and it was like that’s it?
I don’t think it would so well in part 3—the musical number in the woods there with Hope.
What was your experience like at Sundance? You went didn’t you?
Yeah, I did–the
Do you not like it because it is too commercial or because there’s too many people?
No I don’t like it because it’s sensory overload. There’s no peace to it. It’s absolutely crazy. You land and you do 500 interviews, you go to some completely crazy party and you go screen the film and it’s like the 5th thing on the list—the film that you’re promoting.
You might want to stay away from Comic-Con.
Yeah. I’ve been to Comic-Con but I’m charmed by Comic-Con—I don’t know why. I find it really kind of charming.
But there’s no Prada tents.
Yeah. There’s no Prada tents. There’s none of that stuff. These are just people that are really like into this and you wander around and you see all these guys in their Stormtrooper outfits and you just like wonder what that is like to wear. What does that smell like? My God. It’s just awesome. I could wander around and people watch all day. It’s great.
Do you pick up comics when you’re there or do you just kind of watch it?
I don’t actually go. I’ve been just for a movie before but I’ve never gone as a participant or anything like that but when I did go I went to a couple of different ones and they were pretty cool. It was like wandering around like from pavilion to pavilion and stuff. I read comics every once in a while but not religiously.
What do you do when you’re locked in your house? Do you play games or any of that stuff?
No, I don’t know if I’m actually locked in my house but I live in
Do you still ever get approached by fans based on your role as
My God, you don’t say anything the whole time and this is like the one thing you know?
No, I don’t. There were no fans of that, come on. Really super baked college kids got that on the air for 3 years. No, that was the first job I ever did. No, I don’t think anyone ever recognizes me other than you for that.
Well, you’ve got a whole litany of fans out there that are saying ask about 15.
Oh my God, wow. Oh boy, I should watch that sometime. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen those shows.
Not even when you were younger?
I lived in
What would you say to some other kid in
I wouldn’t say I’m not different from a lot of people, I mean, you know a lot of guys started in like Jordache commercials and stuff. People break into it in many, many different ways. Most people don’t walk in and their first film is Schindler’s List. I’d just say to do it. Most people that ask what is the best way to break into the industry, I just say like if you love it then do it. Do it in your town, do it in a bigger city, go to another place. That’s how you kind of find it and it finds you.
Was there one thing you told them not to do?
Crack. It’s important. It doesn’t actually get you into the union like I tell people. But yeah, no I think the important thing to not do is to lose faith in yourself and your abilities if it’s something that you really love and your chances are you’re going to be good at it.
I noticed the 9 on your tattoo. Is that coincidental?
No. That’s the 9:00 gun. It’s a cannon in my hometown that goes off every night at 9:00.
Is that a real tattoo or is that just for show?
It’s Wal-Mart. This will just rub right off.
Is that a reminder to stay true to your roots?
I don’t know what it is. It’s really a reminder to not get tattoos when you’re young, I think that’s pretty much it. Usually it’s covered up.
On a movie doesn’t it cost money to cover that up.
No, not quite, no. Not quite. Probably in time it might—time is money it’s probably somewhere around there but tattoos are like the Wal-Mart of rebellion these days. I don’t know if there’s much point to it.
Are you the type of person who can enjoy watching yourself on-screen when you’re at like a premiere or do you just bail out the minute it starts?
I fuckin’ hate it. It’s so hard to watch myself. If I can get away from it long enough, I’m ok. I just watched The Nines again when I was away and I hadn’t seen it in a long time and it was actually great to watch it because I watched it with a few other people and I kind of saw it how they saw it. It was great. I really fell in love with it. I was like oh, great. If I can get away from myself enough, if I’m far enough away from it that I forget what the options were in that particular scene—wasn’t it done angrily at one point or wasn’t there…I sort of do this Rubix cube process in my mind and it’s really frustrating. If I can get away from it and forget it and then see it again, I can relate to it. It’s an honest test, sometimes I’ve seen…I have other movies that I’ve been away from a long time and not liked and that’s usually the biggest indicator of whether I like it or not. It’s just enough time between it.
How long of a shoot was it?
I think it was like 3 weeks. It was 3 weeks.
Wow, that’s like a 30 minute piece a week.
Yeah, 3 weeks and it was in
You said something about filming the 2nd sequence was like 1 camera, 1 sound guy almost no one there.
We had a crew of 5.
So did you have a lot of people watching or you just blended right in?
I kind of blended in. We occasionally had a little glitch but for the most part everything we did was so fast. We hit ‘em so fast. The extras were just people on the street so by the time they could figure out who I was or what we were doing it was already over. It was like reality television when we were shooting it. One take and we’re moving on.
There was even one shot when you guys were on the street where you might have moved where the camera wasn’t expecting and got behind someone? It seemed…
Yeah, that was at the end I think, right? Towards the end of part 2 I think I’m just trying to get away from the camera. Yeah, I’m just trying to get away from the camera. My show is over, their show should be over too and now this camera is still following me around and I was just trying to move out of its way and get past it and obviously the guy kept staying with me.
Was that like a planned shot or was it a lot of improv?
Oh, it was all improv. It was just you know, we’re in a little alcove where no one can see us and we’re going to walk down that way and that’s kind of the plan.
Have you explored television opportunities or would you be interested in going on TV?
No, TV’s great but I just feel like the mediums I would have most fun in be it like a live audience type stuff would probably be the thing I’d have most fun in. I think that medium is a little bit corpse-like at the moment, so probably not. If I don’t have to I wouldn’t. Yeah, why would you want to play the same character for 6 years unless it kept evolving? Who knows? Never say never.
There’s a lot of really good quality stuff going on with television these days.
Yeah, I know. I mean, So You Think You Can Dance? I mean it’s a real reality driven industry.
What about an HBO show that was a 6 or a 12 episode sort of thing?
Oh, that stuff I love. Oh yeah for sure. I mean, HBO does great television and so does some of the other outlets like Showtime and all these other guys like FX and stuff. I’ve seen some shows on that station that are great. I don’t know. I don’t have a wife and kids and I don’t need to be anchored anywhere so I can see why it might be appealing though somewhere down the road.