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SYFY WIRE Ryan Reynolds

Free Guy's Ryan Reynolds explains why he started poking fun at his superhero history

By Jacob Oller
Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds has made a second career of poking fun at his first career. The actor has been a longtime rom-com staple, appeared in less-than-beloved fare like the early superhero movie Green Lantern, and otherwise had a lot to look back on and laugh. Most prominently, this started with his turn as Deadpool, a character known for his own brand of self-reference and self-effacing humor. But as that trend has continued beyond the big-screen requirements of the Merc With a Mouth, some are curious as to why Reynolds has taken this particular tack. Now Reynolds has explained for himself.

Speaking at a press conference for his upcoming comedy Free Guy, in which he plays an NPC in an open-world video game that suddenly becomes self-aware, Reynolds opened up about his all-too-rare-in-Hollywood decision to poke fun at himself. That pores into his latest film too, as Free Guy has already jabbed a bit at Green Lantern (which Free Guy co-star Taika Waititi also appeared in alongside Reynolds).

"Well, it seemed like a really interesting white space, to be honest," Reynolds said about the strategy. "In the marketing world in particular, you don't get a lot of people shining a spotlight on their own pitfalls. Careers are ebbs and flows. They're ups, they're downs ... even movies that you know just don't work, and they don't work for a variety of reasons sometimes. There's usually very little acknowledgement of that. Everybody's sort of like, 'It's great.'"

For example: With a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, Green Lantern can't really deny the fact that it was a swing and a miss. But it's less about bashing the movie itself and more about Reynolds' own association with it.

"I think it's more about just laughing at myself, not laughing at other people, necessarily, that are involved in a project. But laughing at myself and my own contribution to that failure or however you want to characterize it," Reynolds explained. "It was just something that I thought was worth examining, you know? And in examining it, you take that energy that is — typically, maybe it's hurtful or maybe it's something that's dragging you down — and you end up creating a sort of mental Judo with it. You're using its energy against it and creating something positive out of it."

Some of that positivity came when clicking with one of Marvel's most iconic (and hard-to-get-right) heroes.

"I wrote it into the Deadpool script, I think where my character says something like, 'Please don't make this suit green or animated,' when he's being shoved into the superhero factory or whatever," Reynolds remembered. "And I noticed that it felt good to shine a light on that for a second. So I don't know, it's just something I've always done, but the most significant thing that's ever happened in my career is laughing at myself always. Like, since the start of the work. And there's plenty there to laugh at ... Everybody has their own, you lay in bed at night and you think, 'Oh God, this thing I did was so awful or silly or ridiculous.' I think that's got this fuel for lots of stuff."

Reynolds continues his personal reckoning by turning embarrassment into humor — though perhaps he won't have much more of that to pull from, as his more recent fare has been well-loved by critics and audiences alike. Next up, written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, is Free Guy, which hits theaters Dec. 11.