NEW YORK >> Ryan Reynolds once envisioned himself, best-case scenario, as Wilson on “Home Improvement” or Mr. Furley on “Three’s Company.”
“When I started in this business, my highest goal was to be the wacky neighbor on a sitcom,” Reynolds says. “It took a much different path.”
Against his own expectations, Reynolds has emerged as one of Hollywood’s top movie stars, thanks in large part to the runaway success of his two “Deadpool” movies, R-rated wise-cracking films that seemed to unlock Reynolds’ own powers of motor-mouthed sarcasm.
In “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” in theaters Friday, Reynolds uses his sharp-tongued talents for good — or at least, for a more cuddly, family-friendly movie. Reynolds voices the title character, a Pokemon who helps a 21-year-old man (Justice Smith) search for his missing father, Pikachu’s former partner.
In an interview, Reynolds discussed his Pokemon transformation.
AP: You’ve voiced characters in a number of films, including “The Croods” and “Turbo,” but on “Detective Pikachu,” you also crafted the character through facial motion capture.
Reynolds: I did about an hour of motion capture and performance capture on “Deadpool 2” as Juggernaut. But this is the first time I’ve really been in that world in this immersive way where I’m shaping a character’s arc from beginning to end with motion capture. You’re wearing a tracking suit, head to toe. There are multiple cameras fixed to your head, which is completely insane. I’m sure that in our Instagram world there are people wondering where they can buy that for their personal use.
AP: You must have had considerable free rein considering this was a Pokemon character rather than, say, an ape.
Reynolds: It’s a mythical pocket monster. There’s no tether to reality whatsoever with this character. It’s pretty free rein, which is its own weird burden. Once possibilities become limitless, you can get a little locked up. It took me a couple sessions to realize everything’s possible and just to embrace that. It’s really just a matter of accessing that 6-year-old part of your brain that’s fueled exclusively on imagination, and just let that run wild. I wish I could do every movie like this.
AP: Is there less PG-friendly B-roll of you in that environment?
Reynolds: Dear god, yes. There’s probably an entirely different film that they could cut together that wouldn’t make the PG cut at all. When you’re feeling that kind of freedom, you don’t really govern yourself by ratings systems or that sort of thing.
AP: Your career seemed to really come alive when you carved out a path of less traditional leading men.
Reynolds: Some of the stuff that I’ve done in the past that you would categorize as maybe didn’t work were moments where I was stepping into the role of the archetypal leading-man role. It’s just not something I’ve ever been really that great at, to be totally blunt. I have immense respect for those who are great at it. But I also think our idea of a traditional, leading man, archetypal male is changing wildly day to day, over the last five years in particular. And I think that’s great. I think that’s evolution, to put it in Pikachu terms.
AP: When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, the culture clash was often represented by drawings of Mickey Mouse and Deadpool together. Do you have any concerns that future “Deadpool” films will be toned down under Disney?
Reynolds: I don’t, no. I don’t have any reason to be concerned based on everything I’ve heard Disney say publicly and privately. So at this point, I have nothing to be particularly worried about.
AP: You’ve become so connected to “Deadpool.” Was making “Detective Pikachu” a conscious pivot to something more family-friendly? People are already oozing over the cuteness.
Reynolds: I’ve never really looked at things from the 30,000-foot view of: How will this shape public perception of me? That stuff honestly makes me nauseous to even think about. Really it just came organically. They had animated a test example of Pikachu and they had obviously tried out a whole bunch of actors’ voices to it. And they tried out mine and for whatever reason, it worked, according to them. I think that juxtaposition between his visuals and me being kind of acerbic and grumpy as his voice is a match made in heaven.
AP: You’ve kind of carried over the tongue-in-cheek marketing of “Deadpool” to “Detective Pikachu.” You made a video extolling your immersive, Method-acting to get into character as Pikachu. You seem to enjoy a side of the business that most disdain.
Reynolds: I love marketing. I have a company, Maximum Effort Productions, and that’s what we do. We’re a film production company but we’re also a marketing company. We do the marketing for Aviation Gin, a lot of stuff for “Deadpool,” a lot of stuff for “Pikachu” and a few other companies. It’s a blast. I think marketing is most interesting when you’re acknowledging and playing with the cultural landscape.
AP: Part of that has been an ongoing mock social-media feud with Hugh Jackman. Do you have any message for him?
Reynolds: (Laughs) I’ll save my catalog of insults for Hugh Jackman for our next interview.