LOS ANGELES—It was Greg Mottola’s story, but Ryan Reynolds could relate to the screenplay for the movie Adventureland. The Kitsilano secondary school graduate says that when he read Mottola’s somewhat autobiographical screenplay about a summer that had seem him running games in a small carnival to put himself through university, it reminded him of some of the bad jobs he had taken when he was going through high school.
Watch the trailer for Adventureland.
“I worked in a restaurant in Kits,” he says in an L.A. hotel room. “I was a busboy but no one ever ate there. I think I was actually working for a Peruvian drug lord. I had this abusive boss who had a fuse that was minimal at best. I worked there during the day, and then at night I would work graveyard shift at a grocery store throwing fresh fruit at my coworkers.”
Reynolds has done pretty well since leaving the local restaurants and grocery stores behind. He got his first big break playing the title role in the 2002 comedy Van Wilder and followed it up with more than a dozen feature films. In Adventureland, he plays Mike Connell, a married carnival employee who is a little older and a lot cooler than most of the kids who work there. Among his fans are James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), a student whose father has backed away from a promise to pay for postgraduate tuition, and Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), who would rather pay her own way than take money from her wealthy father and his new wife. The movie opens Friday (April 3).
Reynolds says that although the character is considered to be the most popular man at the park, he saw him as being rather pathetic. “For me, the key to Mike is this unabashed fantasy life that he is leading—with people believing he is so much more than he actually is—and his inability to accept where he is in his life. That is something that was heartbreaking to me. I found it touching, in a strange way, that this guy is so disappointed in how life turned out that he aspires to be the biggest fish in the smallest pond he can find. It was the main reason to take the job.”
Mottola had been trying to make a movie about his summer job at an amusement park for several years. He had made an independent movie called The Daytrippers in 1996 but had moved on to television work, taking episodic directing jobs on shows like Undeclared and Arrested Development. Judd Apatow, who liked his work in Undeclared, hired him to direct Superbad, which led directly to his being given the opportunity to direct his Adventureland screenplay. Reynolds admits that he had some trepidation about making a movie for a director who was best known for a hit teen comedy.
“I didn’t know much about him other than having seen Superbad,” he says. “So I had to ask myself, ”˜Is this guy going to be a stereotypical douche, or will he be a guy who has another side to him?’ Then when you hang out with him for a while, you realize that this is a guy who wrote this script because he lived this life, and that is what I liked about Adventureland. It’s that he has created a world where there are such specific incidents and characters that you can see that there was no way that someone just made this up. You understood that it actually happened to Greg, so it was a great experience. I also liked that there were no heroes or villains in this movie. It’s like real life. People are complex and they have their hero moments and their villain moments. I think Greg really poured his heart and soul into it.”
Reynolds was also interested in taking his own experience from working at those crappy Kitsilano jobs to the movie. He says that he recalls that although there were a lot of difficult days, he took good memories from the experiences. And he learned a lot about working with others on jobs that you don’t like, something that may have been helpful on the sets of movies that were not much fun.
“You would be hard-pressed to find more drama on Days of Our Lives than in the average job,” he says. “Everyone is trying to get ahead or create a job or mould it into their own needs and wants. But even though my jobs sucked, the thing that drove me to go to work each day and got me through it were my coworkers. You had fights with them and disagreements, but they were the same people you relied on and counted on to stay sane at these crazy jobs.”