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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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