It's been more than 10 years since Ryan Reynolds had what was probably his breakout role in the sitcom "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place." Since that time, he's appeared in at least 20 film and television projects, some of which were solid hits, but it's hard to pinpoint a defining role for the 32-year-old actor.
Is he the quintessential frat boy who starred in "Van Wilder"? Is he the bearded action star from "Blade: Trinity"? Is he the romantic-comedy Everyman from "Just Friends" or "Definitely Maybe"?
"I get a little cooked doing the same thing over and over," Reynolds tells reporters at the junket for this Friday's (April 3) coming-of-age dramedy "Adventureland." "A lot of people do. The ultimate dream is to be able to do multiple genres and still function properly in those. I love it. I feel fortunate that I'm able to go from genre to genre."
It's beginning to look like 2009 could be a big year for Reynolds, with "Adventureland" opening this month, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" coming out in May and "The Proposal" hitting theaters this summer. While many actors of Reynolds' profile would only be looking at starring vehicles, "The Proposal" is his only lead role of the group.
"I've always loved character work," Reynolds explains. "When I was younger, I considered myself a character actor, but I didn't get those parts a lot of the time. So when they come along, in a movie like this, I try to jump at them usually, if it's a good film. That's just it, though, if it's a good movie, I don't really care if I'm a big role or a small role."
In Greg Mottola's semi-autobiographical "Adventureland," Reynolds plays Mike Connell, a disappointed former aspiring rocker who attempts to maintain prolong his glory years while working maintenance at a quirky Pennsylvania amusement part. Connell is the main romantic adversary for Jesse Eisenberg's James, a liberal arts grad with a crush on emotionally troubled co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart).
Reynolds found it easy enough to sympathize with Connell.
"For me, it was his unabashed fantasy life that he's living, this idea that he's so much more than he actually is and his inability to accept where he is in his life," he says. "That's something that I feel is heartbreaking, in a way. I found that touching in a strange way, this guy is so disappointed with how things turned out for himself that he's chose to try to be the biggest fish in the smallest pond he could possibly find."
While Reynolds has been acting since he was a young guy in Vancouver, he's no stranger to making ends meet at the lamest of jobs.
"I worked at a restaurant in Vancouver. I probably shouldn't even name it... I was a busboy there. No one every really ate there. I think I was actually working for Peruvian drug lord," he recalls. "I had this abusive boss, who had a fuse that was absolutely minimal at best. I worked there all day and at night I would work at a grocery store, graveyard shift, throwing fresh fruit at my co-workers."
He adds, "My jobs sucked, but at the same time, the thing that drew me back to go to work each day and really got me through were also my co-workers. The same people you have fights and disagreements with are the same people you rely on and you count on to say sane."
After the release of the low-budget "Adventureland," Reynolds has a smaller turn in a far larger movie, playing Wade Wilson in the stand-alone "Wolverine" feature.
"That character is something that I've been mentioned about for a long, long time," he says. "The character in the comic book, Deadpool, even mentioned me playing him, so I think in some weird way it was a little bit destined. I love that character. I love that franchise. I love that whole vibe, so I was happy to to jump in there and do it."
It's only a supporting role, but that added to the experience for Reynolds.
"They're intense. Movies like this, you have a lot of big personalities in one room and you think that's gonna be combustible, but it was just the opposite. I look at it like an ensemble," he says. "Really, there was a whole schwack of people in there with heavy, heavy storylines that they're trying to pack into this one movie. It was a shockingly chummy set. Everybody was really into what they were doing and because of that, it was like this bonding experience."
It's an unusual position to have three movies this different coming out over a few months.
"I have no control over release dates," he explains. "I've been shooting for 15 months straight and maybe I should have known that I'd be stacked up like this, but it's a pretty interesting position to be in."
"Adventureland" opens on Friday, April 3.
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" opens on May 1.
"The Proposal" opens on June 19.