I’m not going to pull any punches here: I never categorized Ryan Reynolds as a topnotch talent. I’ve enjoyed him in films and thought he has always been very charismatic, but even in his attempts to break a certain mould, he constantly slingshot back into the charming guy that the ladies fawn over. Well, I take it all back.
In his new film The Voices, Reynolds uses that golden boy aura to craft out a highly complex and riveting performance as Jerry Hickfang, an unstable young man whose cat and dog talk to him. Directed by Marjane Satrapi from a script by Michael Perry, The Voices is the first must see movie of 2015. Hitting theaters and VOD this Friday, Feb. 6th, The Voices should already be saved in your moviefone app, so you can find out when the first showing is ASAP. We sat down for a small roundtable discussion with Reynolds and Satrapi on a snowy morning in New York to talk about cats, dogs, murder, Green Lantern, Deadpool, and the problem with rehearsal.
I have to ask about the cat, because I actually was surprised that you were doing all the voices. I swore on my life that that was Peter Mullen doing the voice for [the cat] Mr. Whiskers.
Ryan Reynolds: You’re the second person who said that!
Was that something you guys worked out specifically. Was it scripted ahead, that it had to be that type of accent?
Marjane Satrapi: No, [Ryan] came up with the accent. I was there [when he came up with it] because I had to make some animatronics for the animal scenes. I had an idea it would be like Joe Pesci, like a high-pitched voice. And then Ryan, he just made something on his iPhone, and he sent it. It made me think right away, too—I used to play darts a lot, and all the Scottish men I know who are redheads [Mr. Whiskers is an orange cat] have been a little bit nasty in attitude. And that was his proposition, and I loved it!
RR: For the record, that was Marjane’s attack on Scottish men, not Ryan Reynolds’.
What about French men?
RR: French men are refined and cultured, and wonderful, come on!
RR: And Swedes.
MS: Yes, they are truly the French men.
What about Canadian men?
RR: Lumber sexual.
Was the film based on any truth, because in this society we live in, there are so many bipolar cases now, and all this other stuff? Was there anything touching on facts, on reality, or authenticity?
MS: No. As Ryan said one time, if we wanted to make a film about schizophrenia, and we made this one, we would be very irresponsible people. We are [irresponsible], but not this much.
RR: We’re very irresponsible people. We didn’t pretend to make a documentary. This has no basis in reality whatsoever.
Yet, I think it did shine a good light on how someone with this type of mental affliction perceives the world; how he sees things one way, when they really are another.
RR: What I thought was interesting was when we read about some murder in the world, we sort of filled in the blanks ourselves. I found it interesting to read this wonderful script by Michael Perry, which took us on this journey with this guy, who’s probably the nicest, kindest serial killer you’ve ever met, and forces us to question where we place our empathy.
I don’t know; I always empathized with him. That was sort of the challenge with the character: to create this scenario or this world where you feel for him, and maybe you root for him. Not necessarily for him to get away with it, or anything like that, but just to find some sense of level ground. And it’s strange with a movie with this subject matter that an audience is laughing for a good 90 percent of the movie.
But it’s said that any character – even cast as the iconic villain – when you’re playing that character, you, as an actor, find the good to pursue.
RR: I completely agree with that. I’ve always had strong opinions on villains and I never get to play them. I would love to play more of them. Villains don’t think they’re evil. No one gets up in the morning and says, “I’m going to hurt everyone today.” I mean, you do, everyone knows about you. We’ve all seen the wanted posters. But you just have opposing convictions and you have a different set of moral principles that you govern yourself by.
I think, it’s always interesting—I always get frustrated when I see villains played for straight up villainy. It just doesn’t ever smack as true. I always love it—I can’t think of any great villainous performances to mention right now, but when they really, genuinely believe in what they’re doing, and they don’t see themselves as we do, I always think that’s really interesting.
The Joker is a very good one.
RR: Yeah, there you go! That’s a great one! That’s a great, iconic one. I don’t know about all the Jokers though…
Do you hear voices?
RR: Doesn’t everyone? I do. I only hear Martin Sheen in these old Toyota commercials, though. Just because it’s soothing.
That’s a good one to have!
RR: I know, right! I always wanted that to be my inner monologue.
Were you inspired to do this film because it was a villainous role? I saw it as a little different of a character for you.
RR: Honestly, I did this movie exclusively to work with Marjane. I’m not saying that because you’re sitting there. I’ve said that in every interview you weren’t in. I’ve had a career with major ups and enormous lows, ups and downs all over the place, and I’ve noticed that the ups usually coincide with a filmmaker that I’ve admired, or a filmmaker who’s truly gifted at what they do. Film is a filmmaker’s medium; it’s a director’s medium, through and through. Theatre is an actor’s medium; television’s a writer’s medium. That’s just the way it is. You can fight that all you want, but they’re the architects. They put the whole thing together, and they create everything we see on the screen.
That’s why I wanted to do it. I really didn’t care if I was playing Office Worker Number Five. I’ve had that same mindset with my team that I work with, agents and all those guys. I don’t care what it is; I don’t care how big it is; it’s just got to be a good role.
Marjane, Persepolis and Chicken with Plums are both based on books that you wrote. So what attracted you to Michael’s screenplay that made you want to direct it?
MS: My work is only my work; it’s limited to myself. So, it’s a very comfortable place, because I know each corner of it. But at the same time, it cannot expand forever, because I am always me. So every once in a while, you have a script that comes to you and you cannot put it down, and you start seeing images.
Normally, when I read something, I don’t see anything. Basically, most of the time, it’s great. I go, “Okay, that was nice.” I will never be able to make a film that I don’t want to go out and watch myself. Like Maleficent, it’s okay, it’s nice, you have Angelina Jolie, and all that. But all these thing with the forces of darkness, and the dwarves, the dragons…for me, it’s really boring. I’m never going to watch it, so why would I put three years of my life into doing it?
MS: …So, I read this script, and I go, “Oh, what is this?” And then I’m like, “Why do I like him so much?” And then I’m like, “I love this cat!” It wasn’t a movie I had seen 20 times. I don’t have any movie of reference for that. I cannot say, “Oh, you know, like other movies, like Bonnie and Clyde in Norway. Now this in the South Pole.” It’s the same thing, over and over. And then my biggest luck was to meet him. They told me Ryan Reynolds wanted the role, so I was like, “Let’s meet.” And really the moment I met him, I knew it was him.
First of all, you can have the best director in the world, and the best actor in the world, but if each of them wants to make a separate movie, you don’t have a good movie. So we all have to make the same movie. And then we might make a good movie. So we had the same point of view about the thing. But he was much more advanced than me. He was the character. He knew who he was. So you know, at that moment, I had doubts, but he knew what his hand movement would be, etc. And then, I hate to rehearse; he hates to rehearse. He’s on time; I’m on time. We just needed to talk about it, and then we just needed to trust each other. And look at this face! He doesn’t have so much white of the eye. His eyes are very dark, very deep. I was like, “He really looks creepy!”
RR: I knew that was coming.
MS: It’s true! But at the same time, the second he smiles, I’m like, “Come on, Jerry! Kill me too.” You forgive him for everything because of his juvenile, boyish smile, and the talent that goes with it. Before I met Ryan, I saw lots of films of him. I saw Buried and that’s obviously a great film. It’s very difficult to perform that. But really what struck me, where he was really good, was the Green Lantern. That movie is really bad! [Ryan’s head slowly lowers to the table] You know that! But he is really good in it.
In a bad movie like that, to do what he does, you have to be a fucking genius! This is the truth. I was like, “This is a good actor.” To get out well from this movie, you have to have a really big talent. It’s true!
RR: I don’t know why [but] it feels so good when you say that!
MS: I really mean it! A good actor is that. A movie can be not good, but still the actor is good.
RR: With friends like these!
What did you do to prepare? Can you take us through a couple of the steps that you went through to prepare?
RR: I don’t know. I didn’t do much. We didn’t do much. We tried to do one half-assed rehearsal for…they schedule us for hours to go through this… and we quit after 10 minutes.
MS: I hate to rehearse.
RR: I do, too. Because it just feels like you’re wasting it. Like if you’re committed to your character and you’re doing it, you’re doing it! You don’t need to rehearse, trying to feel it in a weird room with fluorescent lights.
MS: It really hurts me, bad actors. Like they don’t know what to do, so you have to tell them what to do. If I want to say, “And then you come in, and then you do that, and then that,” I would make an animation movie. Why do I use a great actor? It’s an abuse of his talents. This is it.
RR: I wish you would tell that to other directors.
MS: You use a human being, because he will give you something. If I wanted to control every gesture, animation is a very good medium for that. But it’s very nice to be surprised by the actor. And no matter what I would think, if the actor, when he’s a good actor, he’s always right with what he gives me. Why? Because he is that person I have an intellectual approach with.
In the script, I have Jerry, and he swears all the time. And [Ryan] comes to me and says, “Jerry doesn’t swear. He’s an innocent.” And of course, he’s right. The cat swears for him enough, that is his side that swears. If we want him to be this innocent guy that we love, he cannot swear. He’s right! There is no discussion about it. Of course, he will always be more right about Jerry than I will be, because he is Jerry. I know Jerry. It’s two different approaches.
RR: Jerry is a nice boy.
Did you notice the parallels between your character and another character you’re set to play, Wade Wilson [aka Deadpool]?
RR: No. I should hope not. I don’t think so. No, Wade Wilson has some psychiatric issues, yes, but I don’t think they manifest in a similar way, at all.
But does doing something like this make you look at a character like that differently? Does it make you want to delve into his back story more, and think about what may be going on in that head?
RR: Yeah, but that’s for me, not for anyone else. It’s sort of irrelevant. I think like that sometimes, but it doesn’t inform what you see on the screen.
But you can see The Voices on screen Feb. 6th.
***The top photo was provided by Matthew Schuchman.