Interview: Ryan Reynolds

Self/Less explores the consequences of taking a life to live forever. In this provocative psychological science fiction thriller, an extremely wealthy man (Ben Kingsley) dying from cancer undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds).

The process is offered to Damian by Albright (Matthew Goode), the brilliant head of a secret organization that caters to the wealthy.

When he finds himself drawn to single mother Madeline (Natalie Martinez), Damian starts to uncover the mystery of “Edward’s” origin – and those who will kill to protect the organization. Summoning two lifetimes’ worth of strength and resourcefulness, Damian fights for his life and for the lives that he has impacted.

Anticipating the sci-fi thriller release on Friday, 7/10 we spoke with one of the film stars Ryan Reynolds about his experience on set of Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Immortals) film, his thoughts about immortality and much more.

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You do drama, comedy, fantasy… I wonder, where your heart is?
Animation! (laughs).  Where my heart lies is all the above. I love the fact that I’m in the unique position that I get to do comedy, drama, suspense, action and all sort of things.

What compelled you to be part of this film?
As I’ve gotten older it’s about working with people that you want to work with. Ben Kingsley signed up before I was involved and so was Tarsem. I remember being so taken with The Cell, which I thought is an incredible film, and, of course, Ben.

What went through your mind when you first got the script?
For me, the idea somebody’s wish being granted and to see how the consequences of this wish can come about. So I love that idea this guy’s arrogance and ego pushed him to do this.

Have you done any research on the topic of immortality?
There are studies undergoing now in regard to the neurons changing ones conscious to another person’s body.

I read something that was actually compelling science that suggested this is something we could actually achieve. Not in a significant amount of time. I find the whole concept disturbing actually. Abuse this privilege of first life that we have and be arrogant to ask for a second one. It raises all kind of questions. For some people it raises a theological argument, for others it is just a moral issue and for other people it just sounds awesome.

I remember when we were scouting some locations for the movie we met a couple of billionaires in New York because we were interested in borrowing their penthouse for Ben Kingsley’s character. And everyone of them said: Is that possible? It was interesting.

How would you talk the Ben Kingsley’s character out of going through the procedure and what do you think of the basic elements that turned the sci-fi movie into a classic?

I don’t think you can talk Ben Kingsley out of anything.

What makes a classic sci-fi is tough… It would be the same reasons that would make a classic a romantic comedy work, or a classic drama. It touches something that is very true and very real for us. But again I can’t explain why Aliens is a classic, other than the fact that it’s riveting and incredible. I don’t know what theme it is that touches us. Isolation and fear maybe is enough, but again that’s a classic.

This was the second time you were confined in a small space. Was it challenging?

I actually always had a bit of an issue with claustrophobia. Elevators messed me up. I don’t know why. Every time I read a script that involves some aspect of that I am pretty intrigued and the only way to shoot it is to do it for real. That was life altering for me and a crazy experience.

Did you have any safety words on set?

I had safe words but when we shot in Barcelona, I was the only person who spoke English. I remember yelling out a couple of safe words and everyone looked at me as if I was demanding lunch (laughs).

Since you are playing the young Damian, and Ben Kingsley the older version, for the character’s research did you meet Ben Kingsley before?

I did and spent a lot of time with him. We only had one scene together, but we did met and talk beforehand. He is amazing, I think of him as the skin of a nuclear reactor. I’ve never seen someone with that kind of intensity.

How was it to shoot in New Orleans?
I thought it was fantastic. The back drop is a poetic symmetry there, the decay, everything that makes New Orleans so elegant is its age. It has so much character and it’s beautiful.

Do you have any desire in the future to play a villain? 

My dream role would be to play a villain. I still haven’t, as of this day, the chance to play a proper one on screen. I can’t wait to play a villain someday. I would play a villain in every line as if he is the hero. Because in real life that’s what villains are, with imposing convictions.

Why do you think you have not been asked to play a villain?
Hollywood tends to cast villains that seem like one. I would prefer if they cast someone that doesn’t necessarily strike anyone as a villain. Typically it’s in the writing, he’s written like a bad guy, talking and acting like one. I don’t think they are like that, they talk as if they were a hero. If you look back on history some of our most awful human beings that truly did the most damage, they believed in what they were doing.

How was it working with the child, Jaynee-Lynne? Did she ask you for advice?
I worry about child actors. I was thirteen when I started and I was just trying to get out of the house. I didn’t have stage parents. I worry about them because putting a kid in show business is a real scary proposition. Who is it for? I spend a lot of time with Jaynee and she was wonderful, smart and funny. She had nice parents. But I am always nervous for kids in show business. I know for a fact that adults can’t handle it so I don’t know how a kid is expected to handle it in any level of fame.

If this procedure would be possible who would be your body swap?
If I had to do this, I would probably want to make it a little funky. I would want to go back and do it differently. I would probably go as a woman. Why not? If I am going for another round I might as well try that.

And what would be the first thing you would do?

I probably would jump as the skin of Elisabeth Warren and run for office. Do something amazing. It would be interesting to see what that is like.

Do you think this movie could be in 3D and what do you think about 3D in general?

I don’t know, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about 3D. I don’t go to a lot of 3D movies, but I just saw Jurassic World in 3D and that was awesome. When you think of 3D it’s more about a world that requires to be immersing, we really want to feel that you are in that space. So I think for this particular movie it’s insignificant if it’s in 3D or 2D.

– Interview conducted, edited & transcribed by Lia Fietz
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