THE HEART OF AN ICON
“I guess I finally tested positive for icon,” Ryan Reynolds joked when accepting the People’s Choice Icon Award in December 2022. It’s a status the Canadian actor fully deserves, as he has steadily built a remarkable career over the past three decades.
Add this latest award to a host of other accolades, including, GQ Man of the Year, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man (and Sexiest Dad) Alive, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The American Cinematheque Award, a Golden Globe nomination and numerous People’s Choice wins.
Performing at the Icon ceremony honoring Reynolds was Shania Twain, who name-checked him in her song “Don’t Impress Me Much,” instead of Brad Pitt as she did in the original version, thus marking a cultural paradigm shift in Hollywood hotness.
Self-deprecating, irresistibly charming and endlessly versatile, Reynolds is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, starring in films that have brought in more than $5 billion, and counting.
Reynolds steps into 2023 as a multi-hyphenate Renaissance man, an actor, producer, writer, comedian, entrepreneur, husband and father with multi-platform success and a blindingly bright future.
Yet Reynolds’ acting career initially was fraught with struggle and anxiety, he fully admits. Reynolds, the son of a former police officer, was the youngest of four siblings born to a middle-class family.
He first graced television screens as a teenager in a 1990 Nickelodeon series, filmed a movie in Sri Lanka, then went on to bit parts andfrustration as his career, then based in Vancouver, failed to take off.
Reynolds quit acting at 19 and briefly enrolled in a polytechnic university, but he had clearly been bitten by the acting, not academic bug. Soon after enrolling, he dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles on a whim with a friend to try his luck in Hollywood, much to his family’s chagrin.
Even then it was not smooth sailing for Reynolds. The jeep they drove to Los Angeles was stolen and stripped of its doors, but Reynolds got the vehicle back and drove it to auditions anyway, too broke to replace the stolen parts.
He started meeting people, like close friend Jason Bateman, and persistence paid off. In 1998, Reynolds was cast in the television series Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, a run that lasted four seasons and got him noticed in tinsel town.
This led to his first major screen role in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, cast as a seventh-year senior with a penchant for partying. Reynolds jokes that the 2002 role got him recognized, and free shots from fans at just about every bar he frequented.
Yet Reynolds would be known for even greater exploits as his career progressed, bulking up for the role of Hannibal King in 2004’s Blade: Trinity, his first entry into the superhero genre, and a role that required him to add 25 pounds of muscle to his 6’2” frame.
And from there, Reynolds’ career quickly snowballed, with turns in 2005’s Just Friends, alongside Ray Liotta in 2006’s Smokin’ Aces, as well as a variety of romantic comedies where his good looks coupled with quick wit and dry humor solidified his star power.
He ventured into the thriller genre with his role in 2010’s Buried, and dipped back into superheroes with his titular role in 2011’s Green Lantern, where he unwittingly met his future wife, Blake Lively, whom he married in 2012.
And then came Deadpool. The snarky, foulmouthed blockbuster 2016 film shattered box office records and paved the way for a sequel in 2018, with a third Deadpool film in production and set for release in 2024.
Reynolds’ interests span beyond the silver screen. He has made sizeable donations to Ukrainian refugees and clean water for indigenous people in Canada, and is an ardent supporter of the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s work on Parkinson’s disease.
His business acumen is also substantial. Reynolds created Maximum Effort marketing and production companies, and famously bought a stak in Aviation American Gin as well as the Wrexham AFC soccer club in Wales, a move he also documented in Welcome to Wrexham, which Reynolds co-produced.
He has also co-produced three daughters, and another baby on the way, with Lively over the course of their 10-year marriage, which he clearly considers his greatest achievement.
And as he accepted his Icon award, with his daughters’ handmade bracelets on his wrists, Reynolds acknowledged their importance in his every endeavor.
“Blake and my girls, you are quite literally my heart. You are my hope, you are my happiness,” he proclaimed. “I joke that my family exhausts me, but in reality, you give me more strength than any man could possibly deserve.”