LONG READ: Ryan Reynolds on his hot new sci-fi flick!

2017-03-10 06:02
Ryan Reynolds

Cape Town - As a huge fan of the science fiction genre, Ryan Reynolds knows exactly what he wants from a movie experience that takes its audience on a journey that is out of this world.

The very best sci-fi films, he says, have the ability to provide thought provoking entertainment and, at the same time, scare its audience with the unexpected. Life, he promises, will deliver – and then some.

“I think the audience is going to be terrified and intrigued with Life. It’s one of those things that for a great film to work really well, and to fire on all cylinders, I think you have to have both of those things,” he says.

“It’s one thing to make an audience terrified but you also need to make them really lean into the screen because they are so intrigued by what’s going on - and we get to do both of those things with Life.”


Life is an epic, terrifying thriller set in space and most of the action takes place on the International Space Station (ISS) where a six man crew – all drawn from different nations – are tasked with examining a single cell life form that has been discovered on Mars and brought back to the ISS by an unmanned space craft, modelled on the Curiosity Rover, the NASA vehicle that has explored the surface of the Red Planet.

Reynolds joined a stellar cast to play Rory Adams, a space walker and engineer. “We’ve managed to pick this thing up,” he explains. “My character, Rory, catches the Rover in space using what you might call a space arm and brings it in and they are able to bring it in through the various firewalls and study the lifeform in a very controlled environment to really see what they have.

“And part of the spike and exhilaration in the film comes with just that – the fact that this is the first time we have ever had the opportunity to investigate life beyond our own planet.

“It’s just a single cell organism when they find it and it’s incredibly thought provoking and obviously the movie takes an incredible tonal shift shortly after that.”

It does indeed. The life form is far more complex – and intelligent - than the crew realised. “I would say it’s a story about survival in the truest context,” says Reynolds.

“And most stories about survival pit two opposing forces against each other and typically there’s a light cast on each, one is good, one is bad, but I think what I loved about Life is that there’s an interesting shade of grey cast on everything.

Ryan Reynolds

“Half way through the film I don’t think we have any idea about who is good and who is bad, including the life form we have discovered. That life form is simply utilising every aspect of its being in order to survive.

“And you know, what’s more dangerous on this planet than a bunch of human beings. So there’s an interesting moral complexity that imbues itself into the story quite quickly and I think that’s what makes for an interesting film.

“I don’t want to just see a bunch of intermittently jaw clenching astronauts who are heroic trying to fight this bad, evil thing from another planet. It’s much more complex than that and I think the audience is really going to have a chance to decide how they feel about it and how they would attack this situation or how they would react. It’s very cool.”


Reynolds joined Jake Gyllenhaal who plays Dr. David Jordan, an American doctor and Rebecca Ferguson is British scientist Dr. Miranda North, a specialist in controlled diseases.

Ariyon Bakare is Hugh Derry, a British microbiologist who is the first to examine the ‘specimen.’ Hiroyuki Sanada is Japanese flight engineer Sho Murakami and the team is led by the Russian Commander, Ekaterina Golovkina, played by Olga Dihovichnaya.

“When circumstances turn somewhat tragic and intense you get to see that huge paradigm shift with this entire group. It pivots on a dime and that’s pretty amazing to see,” says Reynolds.

“There’s a psychological shift within the group. It’s one thing to be on the ISS doing your job, everybody getting along, and then it’s another thing when you tap into something, or discover something, that is revolutionary and it’s about how everybody interprets that information and how everybody sees it in a different way and how everybody feels about it.

“And it’s under those stressful circumstances that all of that comes out and you start to see the push/ pull dynamic between each cast member and you start to see each person have a very clear and different idea and take on what’s important and how they can handle the situation.”

Life was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Daniel Espinosa and Reynolds has a successful professional history with both screenwriters and filmmaker.

Wernick and Reese are the writing team behind the hit Deadpool, which starred Reynolds and the actor worked with director Espinosa on Safe House.

“Chemistry with a director is not unlike chemistry with a great actor, you click and understand each other and Daniel and I can convey ideas using very few words and that to me speaks of chemistry,” he says.

“And you know, Rhett and Paul, I’ve been working with and writing with and playing with in the Hollywood sandbox for close to nine years now and that just felt like a great fit.

“I remember when they were writing it there was no idea that I would be in it. But I remember them telling me about it and I was fascinated and I thought it was fantastic and then when Daniel signed on everything just aligned perfectly with my schedule and theirs and we got to do it.”


Life was filmed at Shepperton Studios on the outskirts of London where production designer Nigel Phelps and his team created detailed replicas of the interiors of the real ISS.

“You know the detail on those sets was incredible. The production designer (Nigel Phelps) really spent painstaking hours – he probably never slept – and recreated the ISS on that set.

“So the ISS isn’t this futuristic perfectly groomed ship; there are elements of it that are a little junky. The crew is very international but so is the ISS because different parts of it have been built by different countries at different times so you will go through one capsule and you’ll feel like you are in the early 90s and you’ll zip into another one and you’ll feel like it’s 2030.

“It was really interesting to move around that environment and see how those different environments affected mood and all the different things you want your cast to experience when you are up there.”

As much of the action is set in the ISS, the actors had to mimic the zero gravity that the astronauts who work there experience.

“For me it was a bit of an athletic event. The movie takes place on the ISS and they recreated the ISS in mind-boggling detail on this gigantic sound stage in London,” says Reynolds.

“My character is very active, the guy is racing to and from and trying to deal with so many different elements all at once, so there was a real physical aspect, which I wasn’t expecting.

“They had all these guys there to help us, you know, chiropractors and guys like that. At first I was like ‘why are all these people here?’ And I quickly realised why because we are at zero gravity for the entire film so there was a lot of wirework. It was almost like doing an entire film while holding a plank position so you are kind of beat up at the end of the day.”


As we mentioned, Reynolds the moviegoer is a big fan of sci-fi. “I am when it feels authentic and it feels kind of messy, as life often is. I like it when it draws you in and all the characters aren’t typical and you really get to experience and invest in this family up there, which is what they are in our movie, and that pulls you in.

“I love science fiction all the way back to Alien and I just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey again and that is such a mind fuck. So yeah, this is a genre that I’m a huge fan of. I can’t think of many movies in this genre that I don’t end up going to the movies to see.”

And making Life was a memorable experience. “I can’t think of a time when I had more fun shooting a film than Life. It was a built in family for me – I had a director that I knew already and worked with in the past and writers that are like my brothers and then Jake, who has become one of my closest friends since shooting. And getting to be there with those guys was a complete pleasure through and through.”

Reynolds was born in Vancouver, Canada, and began his professional career at 15 appearing in the TV show Fifteen (titled Hillside in Canada). He made his feature debut in 1993 with Ordinary Magic.

His films include Coming Soon, Big Monster on Campus, Buying the Cow, The In-Laws, Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror, Smokin’ Aces, The Nines, Chaos Theory, Adventureland, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Paper Man, Green Lantern, The Change-Up, Safe House, The Croods, The Captive, Mississippi Grind, Self/less, Deadpool and Criminal.

Life opens in SA cinemas on Friday, 24 March.

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