Why is bland, boring Ryan Reynolds a star?

Against all odds, the "Green Lantern" actor has managed to become a marquee name. We try to explain how

Topics: Celebrity, Action movies, Canada, Green Lantern, Movies,

Why is bland, boring Ryan Reynolds a star?Ryan Reynold's big break (and big abs) in "Blade Trinity."

Ryan Reynolds … where did he come from? It seems just yesterday that the most this Canuck was known for was playing Van Wilder in a National Lampoon movie and being engaged to Alanis Morissette, and suddenly he’s the buff, wisecracking superguy from both the “Wolverine” movie and “Green Lantern,” as well as the ex-Mr. Scarlett Johansson. For a guy whose major talent seems to be light banter and non-threatening, bland sexuality, he’s certainly managed to make it far past the other Zach Morrises of this world

So you may be wondering, as we are: Why did Ryan get A-listed over his arguably more talented costars? What gives him that extra spark when he can be, at times, little more than barely, pleasantly watchable. And when did this no-name pretty boy get on the track to becoming the Sexiest Man of the Year?

In order to properly assess the Ken Doll from up north’s rise to unlikely action hero fame, we have to go back to his somewhat humble beginnings. He’s been acting since he was a kid, most notably on Nickelodeon’s teen drama series “Hillside” — or, as it was called in the states, “Fifteen” — which was like “90210″ but minus the sex, drugs and valley girl accents:

As you can see, Ryan’s talent didn’t come from being a childhood thespian. He was good, but he didn’t pop off the screen. He was more, well, “adequate” is the word that comes to mind.

As recently as seven years ago, I remember being unable to distinguish the blandly handsome and pithy Reynolds from Michael Rosenbaum (who played Lex Luthor on “Smallville”), or Dane Cook. (Hey, they both were in that “Waiting” movie!) Ryan had cut out a niche for himself playing the smarmy “Saved by the Bell” types, like on ABC’s short-lived series “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place,” or “Van Wilder,” a role that led to an odd reprise in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.“ 

Though the role wasn’t supposed to be Van Wilder, per se, many people associated the cameo with Reynold’s only title character to date, mainly because Kal Penn’s first film happened to be the National Lampoon film.

Then in 2004, something funny happened. “Blade Trinity” came out, and even though it wasn’t even the best of the “Blade” franchise, something about Ryan’s embodiment of the vampire/vampire hunter Hannibal King struck a chord with audiences. Emphasis on the “body”: Reynold’s abs nearly stole the film. According to his interview in People for the 2010 Sexiest Man cover:

“My body naturally wants to look like Dick Van Dyke,” says the 6’2″ actor …. “When I stop training, I turn into a skin-colored whisper.”

Never before has an actor’s shirtless transformation so entranced audiences with his less-than-stellar performance. After “Trinity” Ryan went back to doing those passable rom-coms, like “Just Friends” and “Definitely, Maybe,” but it wasn’t till he was shirtless (and pants-less) with Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal” in 2009 that he once again garnered more attention. It was also the year that Reynold’s was announced to be getting his own “Deadpool” spin-off based on his other action role to date at the time: a toss-away character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” whose quippy one-liners and flippant attitude regarding good and evil — along with some totally sweet guns — seemed to have been tailor-made for the actor.

And then there was his marriage to Scarlett Johansson. It’d be a mistake to underplay what this romance did for Ryan’s career; his previous public relationship announced as an engagement in 2004 (the year of “Blade Trinity) to Canadian singer Alanis Morissette, in a move that made us all go, “Who? Oh, that guy? Cool … glad she’s not with Dave Coulier anymore.” At the time of his first engagement, Ryan was still being referred to as “‘Van Wilder’ star.” Five years later, he and his wife were being named (independently) the sexiest people on earth.

When the couple separated late in 2010, I wondered if Ryan would just fade away. Now, about his former marriage, Reynolds will only say that the media wasn’t invited into his relationship, and “I’m a different person than I was six months ago.”  And that’s more than apparent: for maybe the first time in his career, Ryan is headlining a blockbuster summer action film. He’s more famous than his costars, and for more than just his good jawline, quick wit and jaw-dropping body. Ryan has finally obtained the unsinkable air of someone with “star power,” despite his seemingly lack of any, and it will be up to his next several career choices to see whether he can keep his momentum. And let’s hope his metabolism holds up too.

Drew Grant is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @videodrew.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>