If you’ve managed to continue circulating air in and out of your lungs for the past year or so, you’re aware that Ryan Reynolds is starring in a humble film adaptation of a superhero comic book called Deadpool.
The film finally opens in theaters tomorrow, meaning that we’re just weeks away from never having to see another fucking Deadpool billboard or tweet or commercial or bus sign or radio ad or blimp or smoke signal.
A lot is riding on Deadpool to finally prove that Ryan Reynolds is the movie star that Hollywood has been trying to convince us he is. In a gesture of goodwill, the Washington Post is helping with the, “No Seriously, You Really Do Want to Pay Money to See This Ryan Reynolds Movie” Campaign with a piece titled “Why we root for Ryan Reynolds to succeed — despite his many failures.”
This rather presumptuous headline necessarily begs the question: Do we even root for Ryan Reynolds?
The article sites a short list of reasons why anyone should invest their personal energy in Ryan Reynolds’ success.
His TV-to-movie trajectory.
Nah. George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner—they all started out in television. This is neither noteworthy nor a reason to like someone. And perhaps you haven’t heard, but the cool thing these days is for movie stars to go back to television.
He seems like such a nice, normal guy.
Sure, fine but again, that’s not a reason to spend $20 on a ticket for a movie about something called the Rest In Peace Department. He’s certainly affable, but no more so than a Chris Pratt or a Channing Tatum. He does seem more normal than Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise, so I’ll give you that.
I would argue that more than nice and normal, Reynolds is boring and inoffensive. He’s the guy who thought it would be really edgy to give his daughter a boy’s name. He is married to a beautiful actress yes, but a beautiful actress who is unfathomably boring and cannot act. Is it that Ryan Reynolds seems like a really great guy or that he simply hasn’t shown that he isn’t?
I mean, whatever. You don’t get to be a major star in Hollywood and receive brownie points for being attractive. That is quite literally part of the job.
At this point, he’s kind of an underdog.
And here is the lie that I cannot allow anyone to swallow. In the post, the author notes that Ryan Reynolds “should be on his way to Hollywood obscurity right now,” and if there was any fairness in the world he would be.
Nothing about this man’s career makes him an underdog. He continues to land huge roles in expensive movies despite the fact that he has yet to prove that he’s truly a bankable movie star people want to see. Ryan Reynolds is a perfect illustration of the sham that is the Hollywood casting system.
Ryan Reynolds cannot open a movie; that is, putting Ryan Reynolds in the lead role of a movie does not guarantee that said movie will have a successful opening weekend and go on to be profitable.
Early in his film career, Reynolds did have some big films including National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and The Amityville Horror. As his career continued, he scored other hits, but I would argue that those successes were largely due to the fact that he starred alongside some of the biggest movie stars in the world like Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington.
His turn as the Green Lantern resulted in the film barely breaking even at the box office. (Which is to say nothing of the massive advertising dollars spent promoting the film.) There was something called R.I.P.D. which had a budget of $130 million and grossed just $78.3 million. The 2015 thriller Self/less was another flop grossing less than half of its $26 million budget.
There are some actors who are given multiple chances, but generally they have a track record that makes those gambles sensible. Will Smith hasn’t had a hit movie in years, but he’s also Will fucking Smith. In leading roles, his films have grossed nearly $6 billion at the global box office and have an average gross of $123 million. While his choices have been confusing as of late, put him in a decently written action movie where he gets to shoot a gun and crack jokes and it’s probably going to make an enormous amount of money.
One of the justifications for the lack of diversity in Hollywood is presented as an economics issue. Studios spend a lot of money to make movies with the hopes that those movies will make even more money. There are certain actors, writers and directors who have proven track records of being able to make movies that make money.
For as much as I’d like to see other actors get opportunities, it’s easy to understand why Hollywood keeps putting Robert Downey Jr. in movies—because a Robert Downey Jr movie is going to make the studio money. The same can be said for Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts or Leonardo DiCaprio.
You know who else can open a movie? Kevin Hart, but I bet you won’t see him starring in a huge superhero film anytime soon. Hart, who has starred in fewer films than Reynolds, has a box office average that sits around $50 million—Reynolds is at about $43 million.
Deadpool will likely do well. It’s getting good reviews, the competition looks weak and audiences are hungry for a new superhero blockbuster. Still, with the what had to be an ungodly amount of money spent on marketing, it’s hard to separate Reynolds’ natural draw from 20th Century Fox’s herculean push for a film that probably would have succeeded with any number of actors in the role.
Ryan Reynolds illustrates that it’s not about being a truly great actor or a solid financial gamble, it’s about a group of studio executives and agents deciding that they want you to be a movie star.
So don’t root for Ryan Reynolds—or do, I don’t care. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what any of us does because the fact that he’s even starring in Deadpool proves that your opinion and (lack of) financial support doesn’t really matter in the first place.
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Image via Astrid Stawiarz/Getty.