Ryan Reynolds at "The Change-Up" World Premiere, Village Theater, Westwood, CA.
Childhood and Family
The son of a police officer father and a retail salesperson mother, Reynolds grew up the youngest of four brothers in an Irish Catholic family in Vancouver. Two of his brothers are also police officers and one is with the RCMP. His grandfather, Chester Reynolds, was a politician with the Social Credit Party and a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Stettler, Alberta, from 1940 to 1944.
Ryan Reynolds began acting at age 13 after attending an open casting call and landing a lead role in Nickelodeon’s Florida-shot teen soap opera Hillside (aka Fifteen, 1991–93). After returning to Vancouver, he appeared in several TV movies and played a recurring role in the CBC fantasy series The Odyssey (1993–94) before graduating from Kitsilano Secondary School in 1994.
Following graduation, he started his own improv group, Yellow Snow. He also appeared in BC-shot TV series such as Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (1995), The Outer Limits (1995) and The X-Files (1996). He worked nights as a grocery store clerk to help make ends meet. In hopes of finding more reliable and steady work, he dropped out of Kwantlen College (now Kwantlen Polytechnic University) after only a few months and moved with a friend to Los Angeles when he was 19.
After moving to Hollywood, Reynolds played a few supporting roles in TV series and movies. He was offered the role of Xander in Joss Whedon’s WB TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) but turned it down because he didn’t want to play a teenager anymore. Instead, he landed the role of medical school student Berg in the ABC sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (aka Two Guys and a Girl, 1998–2001). The series helped Reynolds develop his gifts for mimicry and imbecilic bumbling, qualities that were also showcased in his lead role in National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002). The screwball college comedy became a cult hit, earning Reynolds an MTV Movie Award nomination for breakthrough male performance and cementing his persona as a charismatic, quirky and quick-witted smart aleck.
That role brought Reynolds work in a variety of genres. He starred in the Canadian heist flick Foolproof (2003), which received a big promotional push in Canada but bombed at the box office, and voiced the sidekick of Leslie Nielsen’s bumbling crime fighter in the Teletoon animated comedy series Zeroman (2004–05). He made the jump to big budget Hollywood fare with a supporting role opposite Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks in the comedy The In-Laws (2003) and co-starred with Wesley Snipes in the action movie Blade: Trinity (2004), for which he trained for three months and gained 25 pounds.
His status as a Hollywood star firmly established, Reynolds starred or co-starred in the comedies Waiting (2005), Just Friends (2005), Adventureland (2009) and The Change-Up (2011); the romantic comedies Definitely, Maybe (2008) with Rachel Weisz and The Proposal (2009) opposite Sandra Bullock; the action movies Smokin’ Aces (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Green Lantern (2011), R.I.P.D. (2013), The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017); and the thrillers Buried (2010), playing an American contractor entombed in a coffin in Iraq, and Safe House (2012), as a CIA agent opposite Denzel Washington. He was recognized as Male Star of the Year at the CinemaCon trade show in 2011 and named Favorite Movie Superhero for his role in the widely-panned Green Lantern at the People’s Choice Awards in 2012.
Reynolds also lent his voice to the animated family films The Croods (2013), Turbo (2013) and Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019). Exhibiting his skill for self-mockery, he played himself in an episode of Seth McFarlane’s FOX TV series Family Guy (2011) and made memorable cameo appearances in McFarlane’s feature comedies Ted (2012) and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).
Reynolds’s more serious movies have been among his least successful. The dramas The Nines (2007), Fireflies in the Garden (2008), Chaos Theory (2008), Woman in Gold (2015) and the sci-fi film Life (2017) were all poorly received both critically and commercially. Atom Egoyan’s thriller The Captive (2014), in which Reynolds stars as the father of a kidnapped girl, was booed by audiences and panned by critics upon its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.
However, Reynolds found the perfect match for his star persona with the Marvel superhero Deadpool, a thoroughly ironic, wise-cracking, foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking comic book character. The comedic action movie Deadpool (2016), shot in Vancouver, became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time with a global box office take of more than US$783 million. It also earned Reynolds his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, as well as the award for Best Actor in a Comedy at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards. He reprised the role in the equally successful Deadpool 2 (2018), for which he also received a writing credit.
Career as Producer
In May 2012, Reynolds and screenwriter Allan Loeb (Rock of Ages, Here Comes the Boom) founded DarkFire, a production company based at 20th Century Fox TV, which specializes in developing comedy series for television. Reynolds was also a producer on Deadpool and Deadpool 2. In January 2018, it was announced that he would be producing and starring in a big-screen adaptation of the board game Clue.
Endorsements and Entrepreneurship
Reynolds began appearing in advertisements for Hugo Boss fragrances in 2010. In 2014, he became an ambassador for L’Oreal’s Men Expert. He also partnered with Nissan in 2013 in a campaign promoting both personal fitness and Nissan’s electric car, the LEAF.
In 2018, Reynolds bought a significant ownership stake in the Portland, Oregon-based Aviation Gin, and subsequently became the brand’s chief spokesperson and marketing face.
Charity and Advocacy Work
A committed environmentalist and activist, Reynolds has been involved over the years with a number of charities. In 2008, he ran the New York City marathon to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and in honour of his father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around 1994. Following his father's death in October 2015, Reynolds, who has also served on the foundation’s board of directors, asked fans to donate to the foundation to support Parkinson's research.
In 2009, Reynolds wrote a sarcastic opinion piece for the Huffington Post vilifying the Canadian seal hunt. He also executive produced and narrated the environmentally conscious Canadian documentary The Whale (2011). Reynolds has worked with the environmental organization Natural Resources Defence Group to advocate for renewable energy and bring attention to the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also appeared in the televised benefit concert Canada for Haiti (2010), to help fundraise for relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Reynolds has supported Vancouver’s Covenant House, which provides shelter to runaways and the homeless, and Hope North, a high school in Uganda that educates former child soldiers. He has frequently visited children’s hospitals, and in 2007 travelled to Malawi with the Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO).
Reynolds was named one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive in 2008 and 2009 and was deemed the publication’s sexiest man alive in 2010. He was engaged to singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette from June 2004 to February 2007, when they called off their engagement. Shortly thereafter, Reynolds began dating actor Scarlett Johansson, whom he married on 27 September 2008 at a resort in Clayoquot Sound, near Ucluelet, British Columbia. They separated and filed for divorce in December 2010. He and his Green Lantern co-star Blake Lively began dating in 2011 and were married on 9 September 2012. They have two children together.
Reynolds was named to Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2011, but his induction was postponed when he was unable to attend the ceremony; he was officially inducted on 18 October 2014. A proud Vancouverite, he has a tattoo on his left forearm of the Nine O’Clock Gun — a naval cannon in Stanley Park that is fired every day at 9:00 p.m. He has long struggled with anxiety, “both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.” He was officially diagnosed in 2016 after having “a little bit of a nervous breakdown.” He became a naturalized American citizen in 2018.
- Next Generation – Male, Young Hollywood Awards (2003)
- Choice Movie Scary Scene (The Amityville Horror), Teen Choice Awards (2005)
- Male Star of the Year, CinemaCon Awards (2011)
- Favorite Movie Superhero (Green Lantern), People’s Choice Awards (2012)
- Inductee, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2014)
- Best Actor in a Comedy, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (2016)
- Best Comedic Performance, MTV Movie Awards (2016)
- Choice Movie Hissy Fit, Teen Choice Awards (2016)
- Best Fight (shared with Ed Skrein), MTV Movie Awards (2016)
- Best Actor, Saturn Awards (2016)
- Inductee, Hollywood Walk of Fame (2016)
- Favourite Movie Actor, People’s Choice Awards (2017)