DID YOU READ

Ryan Reynolds on “The Nines”

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By Nick Schager

IFC News

[Photos: Ryan Reynolds in “”The Nines”,” Newmarket Films, 2007]

Ryan Reynolds’ résumé doesn’t prepare you for his performance in “The Nines.” Or rather, his three performances, as the former sitcom star (“Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”), wisecracking sidekick to Wesley Snipes in “Blade: Trinity” and upstanding gunslinger in “Smokin’ Aces” tackles a trio of roles to impressive effect in the indie mindbender. The directorial debut of “Go” and “Big Fish” scribe John August, “The Nines” revolves around three unique Reynolds characters — an actor whose life is in Lohan-ish freefall, a show creator being followed by a reality TV program crew, and a man stranded with his wife and daughter in the woods — all of whom are mysteriously, inextricably related to each other. Answers aren’t easy to come by in this trifurcated media-satire-by-way-of-metaphysical-head-trip, and the same might also be said about the Canadian-born Reynolds, a funny, handsome actor whose most memorable big-screen exploit — stuffing an éclair full of bulldog semen in “Van Wilder” — never hinted at the mature, nuanced and varied turn he delivers in his latest. While in New York, the actor sat down to discuss life in the spotlight, the challenges of playing a character based on his director, and his penchant for going topless.

The first segment’s protagonist, Gary, is an out-of-control actor. Can we assume this is based on your own life?

[Laughs] No. If you look at the news, there are all sorts of out-of-control actors, but it wasn’t based on anyone I know. Gary’s acting style on his TV show, which we only see for a couple of brief moments, is based on some people I know. But other than that, no.

Gary’s crack and booze bender seems to be driven, at least in part, by a desire to rebel against his own celebrity. Is that something you can relate to?

Well, the spotlight is as attractive as it is scary. It’s always a push-pull sort of thing. But I don’t know if Gary is necessarily feeling like he’s giving the finger to celebrity. I don’t think Gary is that intellectual, to process something like that. He’s definitely going through something, but I don’t think he’s actualized enough to figure out what it is.

Despite a somewhat revelatory finale, the film refuses to posit easy resolutions to its entwined mysteries. Was that what drew you to the project?

My attraction to it was a bit more microcosmic. I liked the moments in it, and I really loved the transition from one character to the next, in the sense that it didn’t feel as indulgent as it could have been. In playing three different characters, there’s a temptation to go overboard. The challenge was to find their similarities, not their differences, and that really attracted me to it.

But of course, I love that the film is, in and of itself, a question as opposed to an answer. I think that’s a treat, nowadays, to have a film that isn’t about the bottom line, that doesn’t leave the viewer walking away from the theater with that satisfied grin, that they’ve been coddled throughout the movie. With “The Nines,” they can walk away and have a cordial debate about it. I like that.

It actually sparked a street-corner discussion between myself and a friend immediately after our screening.

That makes me happier than any box-office revenue. This movie is obviously not designed to pull in $100 million. That’s the reason to do it, to have people walk out and want to discuss it. To be a part of that is infinitely cooler than anything else I can imagine.

I assume your preparation for this film was quite different than for something like “Smokin’ Aces” or “Blade: Trinity.”

Unlike those other movies, the things that are interesting about “The Nines”‘ characters are the little things, the small idiosyncrasies. The character I play in part two is a real person, and that’s [writer/director] John August. That was both exciting and terrifying for me, because it was the one piece that I didn’t feel like I’d connected with until we started shooting it. That’s just going in pants-less right there, and that’s a scary feeling. We obviously shot the film out of sequence, and part two was actually the last thing we shot, and I was glad because it gave me an opportunity to spend as much time as possible with John to get to know him and his experiences. But the film was largely unscripted, and that adds a whole other level of depth and difficulty. I was so concerned about it that it was beginning to affect my work on the other two segments, so I just let it go, and decided I was going to drive it like I owned it. And it ended up being my favorite part of the film.

Was it difficult playing August while he was sitting behind the camera?

It’s painfully awkward in the beginning, but there’s so much trust between John and me that he really gave me license to go for it. He said, “Expose me, warts-and-all.” A lot of what that character is dealing with is hubris, and that’s not a flattering trait to be portraying in somebody who’s standing in the same room as you. A lot of that stuff is improvised, and that made it even more of a challenge. I’m aping things I’ve heard him say. I’d have conversations with him and go home and furiously take notes on everything he said, and I would somehow find a way to [include those things] within a scene.

You’ve generally alternated between comedies and genre films, while “The Nines” feels like your first foray into drama. Is serious fare something you’ve been actively trying to segue into?

I’d like to work toward an evenly balanced pie chart of a career. A lot of times, the more comedy you do — and even “Blade” I consider a comedy, we had so many difficulties during shooting that it was just like, “Well, let’s do this, then” — the more comedy is sent to you. The more drama you do, the more drama is sent to you. It’s nice to have a mix of both. I just finished another straight drama, and there’s no humor in it at all. And the next two have elements of both.

Coming from a sitcom and comedy background, has it been tough to reverse preconceived notions and prove you can do more than just “Van Wilder”?

That movie took on a cult status, which was actually great, because it didn’t expose me to everybody on planet Earth. It wasn’t a huge box office success; it found its audience later, so it didn’t overexpose me, but it exposed me enough that it really helped. But I imagine that for people who really hold a movie like that dear to them, it’s probably a little bit more difficult. Still, at my last press conference, people didn’t even know I had done a television show. So you go, “Oh, wow, it’s been enough time that they don’t even know.” Honestly, I don’t know. I assume it’s probably a little bit difficult, but you just have to do it, and believe in yourself.

“The Nines” once again features you shirtless. Is that in your contract?

No! I try to avoid it, actually. This will be the only movie out of the last four that I had to do it. But it was necessary for the narrative, because you had to see his belly button — or lack thereof. That’s key.

Ever have any thought about going back to TV?

Um, no. There’s good TV out there, but film is more synchronized with my lifestyle. I love telling stories, I love being part of that process. And I also like never seeing some of those people ever again.

“The Nines” is now in theaters (official site).

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.