If time travel were real, Vancouver-native Ryan Reynolds would like to check out a world vastly different from the one we inhabit today.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing some real-life Jurassic Park. That would be fun. Anything that predates humans,” said Reynolds during a recent video call. “I think that would be great.”
As it stands, aside from maybe some billionaire’s brainstorming sessions, time travel is still relegated to the world of fiction, including the new Reynolds film The Adam Project.
Streaming on Netflix, the Vancouver-shot movie tells the story of a time-travelling renegade pilot (Reynolds) who leaves 2050 and returns to 2022, teaming up with his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell) and his late genius father (Mark Ruffalo) to try to save the world.
And, while they’re at it, maybe sort out some family issues.
“The story, for all of its extroverted elements — like science fiction, time travel and all that stuff — at its core it’s a pretty personal story and it’s one that kind of echoes my own relationship with my own father, and to a certain, degree my own mother,” said Vancouver-born Reynolds, whose home base now is New York, where he lives with his wife, Blake Lively, and their daughters. “It’s kind of like a Trojan horse in a way. We kind of smuggled in this love letter to parents in this big action-comedy movie.”
In The Adam Project, time travel is needed to save the world from, well, time travel, as a nasty rich person — in this case a super-mean Catherine Keener — has been using it for evil, not for good.
While the film, which also stars Jennifer Garner and Zoe Saldana, is solidly family fare, it keeps well away from schmaltzy sentiments thanks to a smart script and dialogue dedicated to serving Reynolds’s deft timing and wicked wit.
“No, I was stabbed with a bullet, you moron,” says pilot Adam when inquisitive kid Adam questions the bloody hole in his grown-up self’s side.
It’s the banter between the grown-up Adam and the kid Adam that makes the movie work, so the hunt for the perfect junior Reynolds was paramount. Newcomer Scobell stood out from the hundreds of other kids thanks to a little something extra he brought to the table.
“Walker kind of walked in and lived at this intersection of amazing actor but incredible mimic. He had watched Deadpool 2 — I’m not making this up — maybe 60 times. He could recite any line from Deadpool with the perfect inflection — which is great, because he is playing a young me,” said Reynolds. “I could just feed him a line and he knew exactly how to deliver it.
“It was pretty wild to see him in this early stage,” Reynolds said about his Californian castmate, who had no prior on-camera experience before this film. “That guy is going places.”
A place Reynolds was happy to go to for this movie was back home to Vancouver. Of the four films he has produced, both Deadpool movies and The Adam Project have been made in that city.
“I always try and drive my movies that I produce to Canada, particularly to Vancouver, not just because being close to home or close to my family but because they are job generators, said Reynolds. “I think that is also important — and if I can have some say in it, why not bring it home?”
As a producer on the movie, Reynolds also had further say in the film’s hiring practices. And he used that input to roll out the Group Effort Initiative (GEI), a program fully funded by Reynolds that prioritizes opportunities for members of the BIPOC community. The initiative saw 10 participants during this project, many of whom Reynolds reports have gone on to continue working in the industry. Other productions have adopted the initiative and Reynolds said since The Adam Project he has heard that 1,000 people have benefited from GEI programs.
“(It) has been incredible, but not just because it is putting some good in the world, but because it is actually telling better stories. We tell better stories in the film business, in any business, when you diversify your perspectives,” Reynolds said. “So really, the big part, the big mission of this, is to make show business better and to tell better stories from different points of view.
“We do that by increasing access and opportunity behind the scenes in big ways.”
This new movie once again sees Reynolds teaming up with Montreal producer/director Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum series and Stranger Things).
Last year, the producing partners delivered the inventive hit comedy Free Guy. And now, with The Adam Project, the Canadian pair have cemented their reputation as top-notch purveyors of entertaining, original movies that stand out in a sea of super-hero sequels and movies based on previous material (IP in Hollywood parlance, for existing intellectual property).
“When we made Free Guy, we really wanted to create an experience that was unbridled audience delight,” said Reynolds. “It just felt like we were ready for something like that. We’d been in a period of news cycle after news cycle that was just absolute doom and gloom.
“We wanted that to be an expression of unadulterated joy, and this movie is not too dissimilar.”
Both Free Guy and The Adam Project are strong entrants into the wonderful world of the spectacle-driven, wish-fulfilment, emotional films like ET, Goonies and Back to the Future.
“I just love that kind of filmmaking,” said Reynolds.
It’s a shared love that Reynolds says is a big part of what made the partnership with Levy click.
He grew up in Montreal and I grew up in Vancouver — and there’s obviously a big chunk of land that separated us as kids, but he and I share sensibilities that range wildly from acerbic to subversive to mushy, emotional and sensitive. And I like that. Life is all of those things, so I like the idea that we can put these ideas on the screen in the same movie,” said Reynolds, who lives right next door to Levy in New York. “I like that we can hold a really funny moment and a really emotionally poignant moment in the same scene. There’s no reason why you can’t do that. And that’s what Free Guy does and that’s what The Adam Project does. And that’s what hopefully every movie Shawn and I make together — which we’re hoping will be every movie he and I make from this moment forward together — will have aspects of.”
Would one of those movies happen to be the much-rumoured Deadpool 3?
“I will have a batch of updates sooner rather than later,” said Reynolds, offering up a laugh. “I promise.”
— Dana Gee