Date of Birth
23 October 1976, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Ryan Rodney Reynolds
6′ 2″ (1.88 m)
Hailed by his northern countrymen as “The Canadian Ham,” actor Ryan Reynolds was even better known as the supreme idol to a certain mostly intoxicated, segment of the population, following his starring role in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” (2002). The predictably bawdy flick helped him to earn a place in Hollywood as “the frat guys’ Jesus Christ,” according to onetime co-star Justin Long. After suffering through a slow-moving career that, at one time, nearly led him to quit the profession altogether, Reynolds finally established himself as an affable “actor’s actor” by demonstrating his versatility; not just relying on his handsome coverboy looks. Through his comedic beginnings as a loveable keg-standing hero, to an ass-kicking, bulked-up vampire slayer – to, of all things, a possessed step-father out to kill his family, Reynolds finally proved his mettle as a leading man in all types of genre films.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Oct. 23, 1976, Ryan Rodney Reynolds was the youngest of four brothers to his father, James, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman – who later became a food wholesaler – and mother, Tammy, a retail store saleswoman. After working a string of odd jobs in Vancouver as a busboy/waiter at a yacht club serving rich kids, and later, doing stints at a nightclub and grocery store, Reynolds thought he would try his hand at acting – ironic, since he ended up failing drama class at the age of 12. Creative ambition had set in at a young age when, as a kid, Reynolds had formed an improv comedy group in Vancouver called Yellow Snow. At age 15, between 1991-93, Reynolds first caught audience attention in his television debut as Billy Simpson in “Hillside” (1990) (a.k.a. “Fifteen”), at which time the aspiring young actor relocated to Florida to tape the show – a live-action TV series that aired on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and on YTV in Canada. The show, which dealt with teenage angst-filled issues such as dating, divorce, alcohol abuse and friendship among the students of Hillside School, was Nickelodeon’s first and only teenage drama and featured a large ensemble cast which underwent several changes over the show’s four-season run. Reynolds later recalled it as a “terrible, terrible soap opera.” Despite the show’s lack of quality, it set the actor on his way – even providing him with a nomination for a Young Artist Award in 1993.
Unfortunately, after the series ended, Reynolds returned to Vancouver where he struggled to find the true breakout role he dreamed of. He was cast in a series of forgettable made-for-TV movies, including landing the lead in the children’s film, “Ordinary Magic” (CBC, 1993), as a boy raised in India who is forced to move to Canada with an aunt after his parents’ death. Even appearances as the teenage son of such seasoned actors as Donna Mills in “My Name Is Kate” (CBS, 1994); Glenn Close in “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” (NBC, 1995); and Sam Neill in CBS’s remake of “In Cold Blood” (1996) left Reynolds yearning for more substantial roles. He also sharpened his comedic teeth on the big screen as Kate Capshaw’s son in the black comedy “The Alarmist/Life During Wartime” (1998), alongside Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in the dumb lackluster comedy “Dick” (1999), and with Mia Farrow in “Coming Soon” (1999).
However, this run of bad roles – and luck – in show business led him to contemplate giving up on acting altogether – even going so far as to begin studying at Kwantlen College in Vancouver while he kept acting on the backburner. But his pursuit of a higher education was short-lived. After only a few months, Reynolds dropped out to continue his acting career. Not long after, he ran into fellow Vancouver actor and native Chris Martin, who found Reynolds rather despondent and told him to pack everything because they were headed to Los Angeles. The two stayed in a cheap L.A. motel and on the first night of their stay, Reynolds received a less than warm welcome when his Jeep was stripped clean. Ever the dedicated pavement-pounder, for the next four months – even during the cold rainy season – Reynolds drove it to auditions without doors. Determined to make it as an actor, Reynolds found himself getting sidetracked as he became more and more involved in the famous comedy improv troupe, The Groundlings. Although at the time, he was frustrated with the mandatory classes it took to become an official Groundling member, little did he know that those same classes would soon come in handy. After auditioning for a show called “The Best Years,” Reynolds inadvertently stumbled into a fictional Boston pizza parlor that changed his life forever.
In 1997, Reynolds landed the role of medical student Michael “Berg” Bergen in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” (USA, 1998-2001) – a sitcom about three twenty-somethings who share a Boston apartment and work at a pizza joint. Initially, the show was reviled by critics, but it was renewed for a second season after receiving some much needed script help from former “Roseanne” (ABC, 1988-1997) writer Kevin Abbott. The script revisions, however, did little to revive the show’s slumping ratings. Regardless of the sitcom’s fate, the part of Berg did lead to film roles for Reynolds. He went on to star in the independent feature “Finder’s Fee” (2001), a thriller written and directed by Jeff Probst of “Survivor” (CBS, 2000- ) fame, and in 2002, the comedy “Buying the Cow” with Ron Livingston and Jerry O’Connell.
Later that year, Reynolds turned a career corner by portraying the hard-partying, good-looking, slacker-turned-campus king in “Van Wilder.” With no prior hits, getting the role was not an easy sell to Artisan Studio, which was skeptical this relative unknown could pull off the title role. In a speech to execs, Reynolds promised to create his own larger-than-life on-screen character; not portray a mere copy of National Lampoon’s already-invented personas. Eventually winning over the studio, Reynolds’ portrayal of a seven-year college student who starts a shady business after his father refuses to pay tuition, helped the film to become a cult college comedy loosely reminiscent of the frat-boy epic “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978). Even Tim Matheson, who played Reynolds’ father, was one of many nods to the 1978 classic, having starred as Otter thirty years prior. Producer Andrew Panay described Reynolds as an “amazing amalgam of Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Jim Carrey.” A lot to live up to, Reynolds was apprehensive about tackling the Lampoon legacy, but that subsided after sneaking in to watch the film with average moviegoers and being struck by the laughter. Critics, though, did not share the same enthusiasm, calling the movie “tacky,” “unfunny” and “crude.”
After the release of “Van Wilder,” Reynolds met someone who would ultimately help raise his profile –singer-songwriter and fellow Canadian, Alanis Morissette. After meeting at Drew Barrymore’s birthday party, the couple began dating. At the time, she was the better known, but by the time their relationship would end a few years later, he had almost eclipsed her fame. As Reynolds’s love life took off, so too did his post-“Van Wilder” resume. After appearing in a 2003 episode of “Scrubs” (NBC, 2001- ) as Spence, a college friend of J.D. (Zach Braff), he co-starred in the misbegotten remake of the 1979 feature comedy classic, “The In-Laws;” this time, starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks. In the limp slapstick comedy, Reynolds played the son of a Douglas’ CIA agent character who is about to be married.
After a small role as a male nurse in the strange comedy “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” (2004), Reynolds transformed himself – literally – to play the vampire-hunting, wisecracking sidekick Hannibal King in “Blade: Trinity” (2004), co-starring Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel. Even as the dryly hilarious King, the six feet two actor, who previously resembled what the film’s writer-director David Goyer called “a single chopstick,” was suddenly very bearded and very, very buff – gaining 25 pounds, all of it muscle. His performance was considered to be one of the few highlights in a movie that appealed more to comic book geeks than mainstream moviegoers. To get his new physique, Reynolds had to undergo rigorous training; so much so, that he and co-star Biel had to do all of their own stunts because producers could not find stuntmen who remotely resembled them. Off-screen, Reynolds’ personal relationship was also taking on a transformation of its own. In 2004, after two years of dating, Reynolds and Morissette were engaged.
Reynolds’ next project, “The Amityville Horror” (2005), represented a departure for the actor – he was finally shedding his longtime frat-boyish image. Producers admitted Reynolds was not the most obvious choice to star as the possessed George Lutz in the MGM remake of the 1979 horror film classic. Reynolds had to fight for the role, but ended up being the only serious contender as far as the producers were concerned, as he had both the presence and the chops to show the progression from good to evil. Still in great shape from his role in “Blade,” Reynolds had his own ideas for how Lutz should look – big and a lumberjack-like. To give the impression of such an imposing character, Reynolds gained 10 more pounds for the role and emotionally, was put through the wringer in his layered performance. Reynolds became so immersed in his character, that at one point during filming, he accidentally slapped his onscreen son (Jesse James) – the effect of which was so dramatic, that it was kept in the final version of the film.
Reynolds returned to his comedic roots with “Waiting” (2005) – a parody on the food service industry, which followed the exploits of employees of a fictional, Fridays-esque chain restaurant appropriately dubbed Shenanigans. Even with an impressive comedic ensemble cast, including Anna Faris, Dane Cook and Justin Long, the movie did little for Reynolds’ growing resume. Continuing his comic streak, Reynolds portrayed a geeky high school student who transforms into a babe magnet in the romantic comedy “Just Friends” (2005), co-starring Amy Smart and Anna Faris. As Chris Brander, Reynolds went from a grossly overweight high school student to a hunky ladies man who flees his hometown to become a successful L.A. music executive. Due to the music industry backstory, Morissette even put in a cameo appearance.
Reynolds next blew onto the scene in “Smokin’ Aces” (2006) with an all-star cast that included Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman and Ray Liotta. The tale of two FBI agents (Reynolds and Liotta) and a crew of hitmen racing to get their hands on a mob-schmoozing Las Vegas magician was neither a critical nor commercial hit. Thankfully, Reynolds emerged from the film unscathed. The same could not be said of things on the homefront. Shocking many fans – particularly from their native country – Reynolds and Morissette called off their engagement in 2006, amidst reports that the couple had been having trouble staying together for years. After the split, Reynolds would become linked to blonde starlet Scarlett Johannson – much to the happiness of the tabloid culture.
From personal losses to professional gains, the 31-year-old actor’s triple performance in “The Nines” (2007) was hailed by The Los Angeles Times as one that “shifts so easily from dumb TV star to slick producer to crunchy video game design god that he’s hardly recognizable from one story to the next.” Playing a burnt-out actor under house arrest, a successful L.A.-based show-runner looking to sell his new series, and a married videogame designer lost in the California hills, Reynolds mesmerized – offering further proof that he had evolved greatly from his onscreen frat boy roots in only a few short years.