Ryan Reynolds isn’t an actor who is particularly well known for his cerebral, literary roles. The Canadian shot to superstardom as Van Wilder and a string of similar characters, all stunningly handsome, popular, successful… and in films that capitalize on low-brow humor. From Waiting to Adventureland to The Proposal, Reynolds was the ultimate sexy-guy-in-comedies for over a decade, before adding some action roles to his resume. Now, of course, he may be most famous as Deadpool, the foul-mouthed and funny superhero (who, in many ways, is Van Wilder in a super-suit with a bunch of guns).
However, as the actor turns 44 in October, we’re taking a look back at Reynold’s filmography, and the surprising number of roles that do come from the page. Some may be the comic book page, of course, and others are looser adaptations of the classics, but there should be no doubt that Reynolds has a range far beyond retro stoner comedy.
As Ryan Reynolds big screen debut, Ordinary Magic is an adaptation of Ganesh by Malcolm Bosse. This sweet teen flick didn’t make a huge impact, but that doesn’t take away from its charm. Reynolds stars as a young boy, raised in India by his activist father—and then sent to Canada after his father’s death. Lots of culture shock comedy is followed by a fight between a big ski resort and his aunt’s right to stay in her home, and all the predictable heartwarming action of young Jeffrey’s part in the battle.
Originally titled Big Monster on Campus, Boltneck is certainly an unusual adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Reynolds stars as the monster, a school outcast who dies after an accident, and is resurrected with the brain of a serial killer (that these other teens just happened to have lying around, of course). Post-brain-swap, the kid becomes much cooler, but also potentially murderous, leaving the original brain-swappers frantic to fix things. And while Frankenstein has been adapted countless times, Boltneck has to be one of the more ridiculous versions out there—possibly even in so-bad-its-good territory.
While this is far from a direct adaptation, the film world of the Blade trilogy is lifted straight from the Marvel comic books. Reynolds took on some extra action with this one (and a whole lot of the kind of language that would make Captain America faint), and it’s only the start of his comic book career, with more Marvel and DC movies to come.
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror was originally published in the ‘70s, and is so compelling that it has been the subject of over twenty films since then. Reynolds appears in the 2005 reboot of the franchise, as George Lutz. While the story remains fascinating, though, this particular adaptation failed to land. It bombed at the box office, and fared no better with the critics.
Reynolds’ next literary adaptation was another famous flop: the 2011 Green Lantern. Once again, Reynolds is the star, as Hal Jordan, the arrogant fighter pilot who becomes a superhero with a magical ring and lantern that allow him to create constructs from pure will. Truly terrible CGI was the main villain in this flick, leaving Reynolds to slink out of the DC universe in shame.
Reynolds went a little less cape-and-cowl for his next comic book movie, but sadly, RIPD (Rest In Peace Department) was yet another dud. The film, adapted from the comic of the same name by Peter M Lenkov, sees Reynolds as a dead Boston cop, recruited to the RIPD—he police force of the afterlife, chasing down recalcitrant ghosts. The premise was as ridiculous as it sounds, and the film was almost immediately forgotten.
After a string of failed comic book adaptations (including his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film so bad it doesn’t even deserve an entry on this list), Reynolds finally hit gold in 2016 with Deadpool. As the titular Merc with a Mouth, Reynolds was absolutely perfect—and unlike his first attempt at the character that was bungled by terrible writing, this version of Deadpool was stunningly comic-accurate, and thrilled fans all over the world. It helps that Reynolds is a fan himself, and was just as frustrated as everyone else with the Origins version—and now he is working on a third Deadpool film, almost guaranteed to be yet another huge success.
James and the Giant Peach with Taika and Friends
This year, Reynolds got a bit more literal with his literary work, when he took part in the charity mini-series James and the Giant Peach with Taika and Friends. The series featured various celebrities reading the Roald Dahl classic story of James and his adventures in enormous fruit, all to raise funds for COVID-impacted charities.
Last but not least, Reynolds has one more literary adaptation in the works—yet another remake of the Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Alongside Will Ferrell, Reynolds will produce and star in the musical take on the holiday tale for Apple. At the moment, there’s little news on a release date, though, as COVID has halted production on many films. This latest version of Scrooge’s story would aim for 2021 at the absolute earliest, but may well end up being pushed back even later.
What other literary adaptations or comic books should Reynolds take on? Tweet @quirkbooks and let us know!