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Last year, Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy scored acclaim and attention for Free Guy, a film that, despite its genre-heavy premise, managed to tell a new story that wasn't based on any pre-existing IP in the age of the megafranchise. This spring, they'll try to do it all over again with The Adam Project, another high-concept sci-fi adventure hitting Netflix in a matter of weeks.
The film follows the title character (Reynolds), a pilot living in a future in which time travel is real, as he journeys back through his own past, re-uniting with his younger self (Walker Scobell) and his late father (Mark Ruffalo) as part of a mission to undo what time traveling in his time has already done. Also starring Jennifer Garner and Zoe Saldana, the film seems primed to give Netflix another hit from Reynolds, who also delivered Red Notice for the streamer alongside Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot last year.
For Reynolds, who also produced The Adam Project, the film is a chance to merge the often disparate worlds of kids' films and films for adults, not just through a multi-generational story, but through the tone the project sets.
"Shawn is in Budapest right now, and he would love nothing more than to be sitting here doing this interview as well, but I speak for him when I say that [The Adam Project] is the type of movie we were weaned on," Reynolds told The Hollywood Reporter at a special screening of The Adam Project earlier this month. "Movies like E.T., Back to the Future, Stand by Me, and Goonies all appealed to kids as if they were adults. Now, in the modern age of entertainment, we tend to bifurcate those by saying that kids’ movies are really kids’ movies, and grown-up movies are grown-up movies, while we’re being blasted with a fire hose of content 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"[The Adam Project] has a storytelling device that doesn’t feel slow, so it’s the same pace that we watch movies these days, but it also has this high-concept, wish-fulfillment engine behind it. And, at the end of the day, it’s a very personal story, a story about something that I think every single person can relate to. That’s magic, man. That’s what I love about movies, and it’s what I’ve always loved about movies."
Of course, within that magic was also the opportunity to act across from what's essentially a younger version of himself. According to Reynolds, he saw about 40 young actors out of the hundreds who auditioned to play young Adam, and auditioned himself alongside three of those 40 before finally deciding that newcomer Scobell was the right kid for the job. For Scobell's part, his acting journey started back in 2020, and when it came time to take his shot at starring alongside Reynolds, he decided there was only one thing to do: Mainline the Deadpool movies.
"I didn’t really mean to," Scobell said. "I just watched it so many times so that if anyone asked me if I had seen it, I could start reciting lines. I didn’t realize that I had memorized the whole thing from start to finish [until that day]. So, I did a call with Ryan, and again, I thought I wasn’t going to get it. But Shawn called me. He said he wanted to do an interview, but he tricked me into thinking that I wasn’t going to get it. I kind of expected that, so I wasn’t too sad, but then he surprised me and said that I got it."
According to Reynolds, who said his young co-star knows the Deadpool films "verbatim," Scobell's deep dive into his other genre work actually made for an interesting dynamic on set.
"He’s so alive. He wasn’t doing an impression of me — even though he basically flash-fried all the Deadpool movies and injected them directly into his eyeball — and he really understood how to switch gears emotionally," Reynolds said. "He knew that the movie required some really emotional heavy lifting as well as all the quippy fun stuff. It’s like the Mary Pickford model of make them laugh, make them cry, bring them back to laughter. It’s a style of movie-making that I feel is so urgently needed right now. Everything that we look at is so doom and gloom.
"Walker really has the ability to toggle back and forth between hiding behind maladaptive coping mechanisms of humor while also being able to suddenly become very emotional, real and vulnerable in these scenes. It blew us away."
The Adam Project hits Netflix on March 11.