The hallways of the San Francisco Moscone Center were still reverberating with excitement and anticipation following the Warner Bros. (WB) presentation for the Green Lantern movie adaptation when Green Lantern himself, Ryan Reynolds, sat down to discuss the movie with [me] and other members of the press during the set of roundtable interviews that followed. Despite having just flown in from Cape Town, South Africa – where his new movie, Safe House, is currently in production – Reynolds was enthusiastic and eager to talk about the latest DC Comics character to come to life on the big screen.
Reynolds started off by saying how much he enjoyed seeing the new Green Lantern footage “with the fans of this genre,” with “its audience,” rather than with “industry stiffs.” The more than nine minutes of footage shown during the presentation offered far more of Hal Jordan (Reynolds) using his power ring and of the alien world of Oa that is home of the Green Lantern Corps than had been previously seen.
Early criticism of the first trailer for the movie was often pointed at the lack of effects-heavy action footage and the comedic tone of it, but Reynolds said that had to do with the fact that the effects takes a long time to complete and that they only had “15 minutes of useable footage” to “harvest the trailer out of.” As for the comedic tone, he said that arose naturally from his own personality and from the needs of the story, rather than simply from the desire to insert jokes.
You have to inject some of your own, you know, being into the character to make it work. But, at the same time, you have to be deeply reverent and respectful of the character’s origins, so we were very careful we never pushed that too far. But, you know, you’re dealing with a pretty inexplicable universe. I mean, you’re dealing with a guy who was transported to another galaxy. There has got to be some moments of levity there. Because the movie isn’t ‘The Dark Knight,’ you know. And, it’s not a comedy, at the same time. But, it is somewhere in between.
Whereas some actors have a hard time acclimating to working on a blue or green screen stage in movies that require a lot of special effects, Reynolds said that it’s just a matter of tapping into your childhood and using your imagination.
I think that’s our job. I mean, yeah, you wanna use your imagination. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. Part of it is that make believe, that pretend. When you’re working on a movie like this, you have to embrace that thing from when you were a child, when you were a kid, that yearning to pretend. When you’re working on a drama, you’re not pretending – you’re believing. On this, it’s a bit of both. You have to use those muscles that have long since atrophied.
Reynolds went on to say that he did worry about how the finished effects would look and whether they would support his performance or detract from it, but that he had faith in the team assembled by WB.
I only think about [the effects] twice every second while I’m shooting. Movies like this are such a leap of faith because I spend 6 months just staring at a big blank wall. So I’m doing my part of the job. I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain, and you’re hoping that these guys will take care of that. But, you know, you never get in a plane without checking out the pilot. I had [director] Martin Campbell there, I have Warner Bros., which needs to be acknowledged because they do this stuff right. They spend the money, they don’t cheap out on it on it. You know, they hire all of the right people–[production designer] Grant Major – I mean, all of these ‘Lord of the Rings’ minds that were involved in this process. And, you just have to know that these guys are going to take good care of you.
The Green Lantern movie will not only introduce the audience to Hal Jordan, a cock-sure test pilot who inherits one of the most powerful weapons in the universe, but also to several of the more than 7200 Green Lantern Corps members who also wield power rings. With so many Lanterns with the same incredible power, what separates Hal from the rest? Well, besides the fact that he is the first and only human to ever wear a Green Lantern ring, Reynolds said that “fear” is the key to what makes Hal different and special.
What distinguishes Hal from the other Lanterns is that he has the ability to overcome fear. Because he experiences it. And [the other Lanterns] see that as a weakness, that he experiences fear. And overcoming fear is the very definition of courage, you know? It’s moving on in spite of it, not because of it. It’s what makes him the greatest Green Lantern of them all. He harnesses that fear that he is feeling and he converts it into pure will and that’s how he defeats the enemy. So, it was exciting to play that. But, it’s also easier to tell that story when you have its opposite next to you. I mean, when you’re standing next to Mark Strong who plays Sinestro, who feels no fear – and in his performance you feel no fear, you hear no fear – it makes my job easier to show that contrast.
When we first meet Hal in the movie, “reckless” certainly could be used to describe him. So, how does a test pilot with little regard for his own safety, let alone the multi-million dollar jets he tests for Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), turn into a selfless hero? According to Reynolds, with the help of a few mentors in the Green Lantern Corps.
[Hal] needs mentors. I mean, this is a guy who is out of control at the beginning of our film…. He’s out of control in kind of a real-world sort of way. He’s kind of this rudderless guy who is reckless and he’s arrogant, and he’s misguided, and he doesn’t really know where he’s going. And, you know, this ring chooses him and it’s an extraordinary gift and it’s humbling for him and I think it gives him purpose in his life. And it draws him from rest to effort. And, in doing so, he’s shepherded by these guys. And you have Mark Strong, who is such an immense talent and an immense presence – and no better person for that role than Mark Strong – he serves as a bit of a mentor, as well. And you have Kilowog, who is, you know, a mentor certainly in trying to figure out how to use this ring. And then you have Tomar-Re, who is inducting Hal and really showing him, you know, what this world is. And, you know, without those guys, it’s also hard to explain the story to the audience so it really allows us dispense with some of those conventions at the beginning of the film that are necessary evils, as well. In an interesting way.
Reynolds also said that fans who have become accustomed to super hero origin movies lacking in action because of the need to set up who the character is and what his powers are, etc., are going to be in for a treat in Green Lantern because the action gets underway almost from the get-go.
In an origin story, and you’re introducing a new character, you have to establish all of the rules. If we’re ever fortunate enough to be in a position to where we’re shooting another one of these, it’s kind of exciting for that director because he doesn’t inherit any of that, he’s just ready to go. We get to shoot. All of the problems that you have in the pre-production trying to figure out, “How do we get this on the screen in the right way,” all of those months spent answering all of those little questions – they’re answered. And, I think, in our movie – in an origin story – I think it’s important not to start your story in the third act, like a lot of these types of films do. So we actually managed to actually get our story going in the first act and that’s no small feat, I think. That’s Martin Campbell, though. He’s a smart guy.
Green Lantern was written by Michael Green, Greg Berlanti, and Marc Guggenheim. Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, and Angela Bassett also star.
Originally published April 4, 2011.