Ryan Reynolds admits his knowledge of comics can be spotty. “I would never profess to be as well-versed or as literate in that comic book world as [the fans],” he told reporters Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. He, along with fellow actors Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard took questions following their Hall H appearance. Also joining them were director Martin Campbell and producer Donald De Line. If asked a particularly obscure question by a fan, Reynolds will go with honesty. “I do know a bit about certain comic books and I’ll be the first to tell them when I don’t know about that particular issue.”
In the case of “Green Lantern,” one storyline in particular stood out for the film. “For the most part this is an origin story, so I was able to focus a little onÂ ‘Secret Origins,'” Reynolds said. “This guy has a very distinct starting point. He’s a bit of a fractured human being. He’s seen some difficult stuff in his life. He’s watched his father die. We move on to find him a little bit later in life and he’s kind of arrogant, cocky and aimless. It’s this extraordinary power that is bestowed on him that sort of sets him on a bit of a humbler path. It’s pretty cool.”
While the premise seems simple, it is layered with aliens, a completely unearthly environment and the concept of an intergalactic police force. Asked if it might be a hard sell to the audience, director Martin Campbell replied the fantastical aspects are also very clear. “I think that the fact that he is taken up to Oa and he’s inducted and he becomes a Green Lantern and the way in which the ring works through will power – the stronger your will power, the stronger your construct; a construct being whatever your imagination cares to create – is very simple,” he explained. “I know there are many complex characters and all the characters from the origin story go on to the dark side in later comics and things, but I think it’s very straightforward.”
With many of those alien characters being realized in the computer, there is an interest to learn who might lend their voice to certain characters such as Salaak or Tomar-Re. Unfortunately, Campbell could only relay that the production has “some ideas we can’t disclose at the moment.” With shooting still underway, the final voices will not be chosen until the film is much closer to completion. “I’m sure there will be three or four voices tried for each character to see how they fit. You’re never quite sure until you cut the film of precisely how the characters turned out. Rather like screen tests for actors, we try voices to see what suits,” the director said of the eventual voice casting process.
One alien being realized in the flesh is Mark Strong’s Sinestro. “He is an incredibly organized, fearless, exponent of the Green Lantern Corps who believes that he knows best. In this movie, he becomes mentor to the newly minted human Green Lantern and basically guides him through his first steps,” Strong explained. Though the character will eventually leave the Corps and become an antagonist, he will not be portrayed as a villain in the film. “I don’t think of him as a villain or even in a bad sense. He’s just an incredibly powerful presence who knows what he believes and what he wants to be right. If there is anything that causes him later on to spill over to the dark side, it’s his unquestioning belief in his own rightness,” Strong said. Even if the team gets the opportunity to show Sinestro wielding a yellow ring, the actor would still be hard-pressed to call him evil. “Usually something happens to their time on the planet or in space that causes them to become the way they are. You have to look at who he is and what he stands for and what he believes in.”
Taking a cue from “Secret Origins,” Hector Hammond will be menacing the Green Lantern on Earth. Peter Sarsgaard offered some insight into the character. “He is a biologist. He teaches at the university but in his private he’s time is quite interested in extremophiles, animals that live in extreme environments on Earth, as a way to understand creatures that live on other planets. There’s a fine line there between science and wishful thinking,” the actor said. “I thought about a lot of people who have sort of stretched our ideas [and] added a little bit of creativity to science like Carl Sagan or Isaac Asimov. When I was young, [I] read more things like that than I did straight comics; a sense of wonder about the world where you start filling in gaps, which is what most scientists try not to do. So I really thought of [Hammond] as kind of a dreamer in a lot of ways.”
In “Secret Origins,” Hammond hopes to win the attentions of Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively in the film. The actress talked about her brush with stunt work, the so-called Matrix Rig. “I think it goes about twenty feet high, but I like to say fifty, so please spread that rumor because it makes me feel cooler,” Lively joked. “I’m on this gyroscopic waist belt. It works towards your weight and makes you very nauseous. You’re just spinning in every direction.” â€¨â€¨
“You’re not training on an aesthetic level; you’re training for more of a functional ability,” Reynolds said of preparing for the stunt work. “You want to be able to stay out of the hospital for as long as you possibly can. But it is a Martin Campbell movie, so you’re bound to be there once or twice,” he joked, referring to reports he had been injured on set the previous week. “He pushes you so hard and I think that’s why the action is so real and so visceral. You really feel what Martin once described as a ‘knife fight in a phone booth.’ I think that’s a really apt description of how his action feels: it’s rough, it’s dirty, it’s fast [and] you’ve got to be ready for it.”
Reynolds reflected on taking roles based on DC and Marvel characters. “I’ve never really had that thought or issue about thinking, ‘I was in a Marvel film so I can’t be in a DC film,'” he said.
“The casting process for me was the same as it would have been for anyone else. I met with Martin. I fell in love with the concept and the idea. He showed me the art department, which was incredible. It was an experience,” Reynolds remembered. “To see the world they were creating for this character and this film was unlike anything I’d ever seen captured on film ever. That was an amazing moment for me. That’s what really made me want to do it. Then I screen tested for it not once, but twice. I got up there and Martin put me through the paces. But the great thing about a screen test is that it’s just another day of work. You’re there on set and there’s another actor with you. There’s a set and a cameraman. You just go to work and it was a nice, pleasant experience.”
“We found out [the studio] always want to see the guy in the mask as part of the test. Ryan looks really good in a mask,” added producer Donald De Line.
This prompted Reynolds to relay one more anecdote about the audition process. “There was a Cinderella element to it. The FX house has this thing in our industry called ‘life casts;’ it’s a mold of an actor’s head and you can build a mold of a prosthetic around that,” Reynolds explained. “The FX house that was asked to make the Green Lantern mask had no idea who was auditioning, but they arbitrarily chose my head from their vast catalogs of actors’ heads with which to build this mask around. So when I showed up to set, my mask fit a little better than maybe Regis Philbin’s or Richard Chamberlain’s or whoever else might have been auditioning that day.”
Of course, this led to the uncomfortable fit of the unseen production unitard his Green Lantern uniform will be painted onto later. “Because it’s not seen on camera, they’ve managed to find a material that I think most would agree is the most aggravating substance on earth,” Reynolds joked.
“Green Lantern” opens June 17th, 2011