Whan Ryan Reynolds was announced as the star of Warner Bros.’ “Green Lantern” film, he was also mentioned in the same breath as the perfect choice for any number of other comic book super heroes. When CBR News spoke with Reynolds during our visit to the set last August, the actor explained why he chose to become Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, instead of holding out for a different costumed character.
Reynolds’ journey to becoming the Emerald Warrior began with an invitation to meet with the film’s director, Martin Campbell. “At the time that I met him, I wasn’t super interested in playing Green Lantern,” Reynolds admitted, “but I was really interested in Martin Campbell.” The opportunity to speak with the director of “Goldeneye” and “Casino Royale” was too good for the actor pass up. “I was anxious to sit down with him and hear what he had to say.”
Over the course of three meetings, Campbell invited Reynolds into the world of “Green Lantern,” eventually taking the actor on a tour of the art department. “It was pretty compelling stuff,” he recalled. “For me, what I fell in love with was the scope.” While the film begins with Hal as a cocky test pilot on Earth, it will transport moviegoers to Oa, the planet at the center of the universe where Jordan trains to become part of the 3600-member intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Impressed with the concept, Reynolds was also swayed by Campbell’s dedication to the material.
“Martin is a great director. He can do small movies, he can do big movies,” Reynolds explained. “Martin is a very smart, very shrewd guy. He knows how to staff a movie like [“Green Lantern”]. I saw the people that he hired and that had as much to do with my decision as Martin Campbell [in the director’s chair].”
Of course, Campbell’s vision meant one aspect of the film would never be real for the actor: the costume. Instead of a real Green Lantern uniform, Reynolds wore a grey motion-tracking suit. “You feel about as threatening as Betty White,” he joked about the outfit. Once he saw effects tests with the suit painted onto him, the actor felt more secure with the process. “The technology is such that you can do amazing things,” he said, though he was quick to point out that he was also aided by wearing an actual Green Lantern ring. “I’m excited about that,” he said, flashing it at the assembled journalists. “This is the one I’ll be leaving with.”
Mentioning his previous — and future — turn as “Deadpool,” Reynolds said he had no problem playing both Green Lantern and the Merc with the Mouth. In fact, it would have been more of a conflict if that project or “The Flash” went into production first. “I always thought if I did a ‘Deadpool’ film, I wouldn’t do a ‘Flash’ movie,” he said, referring to both characters being decked out in red costumes and always prepared with a clever quip. “The [Deadpool] movie we’re working on is more of a deconstruction of superhero movies,” he explained, citing the difference in the tone and scope of “Green Lantern” as making him more comfortable with tackling characters from the cross-town comic company rivals.
Comparing Hal to the quick-witted Wally West version of the Flash and Deadpool, Reynolds explained that his Hal Jordan has a certain tendency towards humor, but it is steeped in the character’s personal tragedies. “Anything he does do in that realm is more of a defense mechanism than anything else,” he said. “He just uses it as a way to push aside any issues or emotions that may address something real and close to his heart.” That “artful deflection” underlies Hal’s tendency towards a pilot persona in the mold of Chuck Yeager. “He’s a guy who’ll throw a punch, tell a joke, or kiss a girl.”
Reynolds went deep into researching Hal, looking at the various interpretations of the character over his 60-plus year history and finding continuity between his earliest appearances in “Showcase” and the present Geoff Johns-penned “Green Lantern” series. Despite all his reading, Reynolds considered the movie’s script the main source of inspiration for his performance. “My job is to come in and have a very distinct take on this guy [as he is written]. If I haven’t got that, then I haven’t done the job at all.”
One aspect of the script Reynolds found special was the differences between Earth and space. The Earth of “Green Lantern” is familiar to the audience, not at all used to the intergalactic menaces and intrigue of the Corps. Borrowing from Johns’ “Secret Origins” storyline, Hal is something of a pariah amongst his family and a bit of a screw-up on the job. “The scenes on Earth, [give us] perspective,” he said, with Hal’s situation on his home planet affecting how he deals with the aliens he meets as part of his Green Lantern Corps training.
Luckily, the shooting schedule put much of the Earth-bound material in front of the cameras first, with the space scenes set for later, a shcedule Reynolds found immensely helpful to his performance. “Had we started the movie [on the green screen] … that would’ve been difficult,” he said. “I get to take Hal, the Earthling version, into that world.”
One truly difficult aspect of the world was dealing with the green energy constructs. They make intuitive sense on the comic book page, but conveying the existence of a sword made of light or a giant boxing glove became a challenge on set. “A lot of times, we build [models of the constructs] and I can get a muscle memory of everything that I’m doing. We’ll just do it over and over again, and then we’ll just eliminate the solid objects and I’ll just continue to do [the scene] without them, ” he explained.
Since the designs of the constructs would continue to be fluid through post production, Reynolds and Campbell discussed various options, shooting the scenes in different ways to accommodate the effects crew. “The way Martin shoots action is kind of helpful too,” the actor added. “There’s no moment where Hal creates a construct and then we stop as an audience to observe it while we [the filmmakers] are secretly patting ourselves the back.”
The director also employed actors to stand in for the alien members of the Green Lantern Corps, like Kilowog. “He’s this big, scary, intimidating looking guy,” Reynolds said of the unnamed British actor who assumed the role of the Corps’ drill instructor on set. “His biceps are bigger than my entire life.” While the fan-favorite Lantern is completely realized in the computer and voiced by actor Michael Clarke Duncan in the finished film, Reynolds felt the presence of another performer was vital to making the scenes work. “Kilowog and I are incredibly interactive,” he said. “It would be impossible to do that with just a voice [reading the lines]; I need the movement.”
Briefly discussing about an actor that does appear in the film, he said Mark Strong brought a “weight and dignity” to the part of Sinestro, the de facto GL captain. “When I work with him, I felt like I was in the ring with a bull-fighter,” he said. “He’s using my energy against me all the time.” Like Sinestro, he said Strong exerts “minimal effort for maximum gain.”
When the topic of potential sequels was raised, Reynolds referenced the great amount of stories and characters available in the “Green Lantern” canon. “I see it going so far beyond Hal Jordan. He’s a key story, but there’s so much more to tell. You could go beyond him or [show] the fall of Hal [in ‘Emerald Twilight’].” Of course, the actor was quick to add the disclaimer that “the first one has to work in order for there to be others.” While Reynolds is eager to continue the story, it will be up to moviegoers to decide if he gets to don the gray tracking suit again.
“Green Lantern” lands in theaters on June 17