TORONTO – When the Canadian psychological thriller The Captive debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, director Atom Egoyan said star Ryan Reynolds was going to “completely redefine” himself with his performance as a father who’s guilt-stricken over the kidnapping of his daughter.
When told about the declaration in a recent phone interview to promote this Friday’s theatrical release of the film, a humble Reynolds laughed and said he would “never say anything as hyperbolic as that.”
But he added that he likes to think he’s reinventing aspects of himself, and pushing and exceeding expectations, with each role.
“I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily looking to completely reinvent myself,” the Vancouver-born star said from New York. “I guess if I reinvented myself, I would now be a panda or a unicorn flying through the apocalypse.
“But I love challenges. I love being a part of a great crew like this. And Atom Egoyan is a guy that, as a 14- or 15-year-old kid growing up in Canada, you look at as one of our premiere filmmakers and somebody that you wish and hope one day looks over your way and calls you up to the majors. And this was one of those times where it was the perfect fit and he called.”
Reynolds recalled his first introduction to Egoyan’s work being 1994’s Exotica.
“I was very lucky to have an older brother that exposed me to a lot of really cool things, and Atom Egoyan and Simon and Garfunkel are just two examples of that,” he said. “My brother Terry was kind of obsessed with Atom Egoyan, and what’s funny is that Atom Egoyan is kind of obsessed with my brother Terry now.”
That’s because his brother works for the Serious Crimes Unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “and Atom has done stuff in that sort of world,” said Reynolds.
“They’ve struck a friendship, which is sort of interesting.”
Reynolds said he was “flattered and amazed” when Egoyan “cold-called” him about The Captive, in which his character blames himself after his daughter is abducted from the back of his truck during a pit stop. Years later, he and his wife (Mireille Enos) are separated, but he still clings to hope that his daughter can be found.
Co-stars include Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson as detectives, Kevin Durand as the abductor and Alexia Fast as the older version of the daughter. Egoyan co-wrote the script with David Fraser.
“I agreed to do the film before even reading the script,” said Reynolds. “It was just Atom. It was something like an itch that I’d been dying to scratch.”
Reynolds shows a remarkable ability to portray extreme frustration in the film, a skill he also displayed in 2010’s Buried, in which his character is put six feet under inside a coffin while still alive.
He said he prepares for such intense scenes by thinking of a certain relative.
“I sort of can channel my father, who was a very frustrated man throughout my childhood and beyond, so I can get a bit of that,” said Reynolds, who’s played everything from a superhero in Green Lantern to a romantic lead in The Proposal and a CIA agent in Safe House.
“My dad was a cop and he was a guy that worked really hard all his life for not very much. He was a boxer and he was sort of that kind of character, and I can channel that because he’s my blood, but I can’t really rehearse that.”
As he did with 2008’s Adoration, Egoyan explores how the Internet and social media are changing our world. Reynolds said he thinks social media is “fantastic,” but it’s never been for him.
“I’m also not one of those finger-waggers who’s ‘Oh, social media, I don’t like that.’ I think it actually has a really wonderful place in society, and it certainly has great benefits for interconnectivity and how people communicate with one another.
“But for me, as somebody who is in the public eye so to speak — however I can phrase that without sounding like a complete (jerk) — I don’t need that validation at home, too, and I feel like that’s just going to become an extension of something that is not really necessarily me in my quiet moments.”
The Captive received boos when it debuted at a press screening at Cannes.
Reynolds, who attended the fest with his actress-wife Blake Lively, said he wasn’t at that screening so he can’t speak to that reception. But the evening gala screening “was so amazing” and got a standing ovation, he added.
“For me, it was really about being in Cannes and just having one of those moments where you’re walking along the Palais and standing up on those stairs,” he said. “I got to bring my brother along with me as well and I got to have that moment where I just said, ‘Wow, I’m standing here right now at the premiere of a movie I did with Atom Egoyan at the Cannes Film Festival. This is a really beautiful moment.'”
So beautiful that Reynolds hopes to work with Egoyan again.
“I was just talking to Atom yesterday … because he has another movie that I wish I could do, but I literally don’t feel that I am — and this isn’t false humility — I don’t feel that I am a capable enough actor to pull off, and it’s just a role that’s so difficult and so complicated,” he said.
“But I do feel really fortunate that he looked at me for it and he called on me to do this, and we’re already looking for something else that we can do together.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014