Ryan Reynolds’ Work To Break Down Mental Health Stigmas Proves He’s A Real Life Superhero

by : Tim Horner on : 22 Oct 2018 22:02
ryan reynolds superhero deadpoolryan reynolds superhero deadpoolvancityreynolds/Instagram

Even the most casual reader of UNILAD will know we’re big fans of Ryan Reynolds. There are good reason why: he’s a bloody good actor, he’s open about his problems, he’s seriously funny IRL and online, he gives back to society, and he’s pretty good looking. In short, he’s one of us…


Would I ever have imagined when Reynolds graced my TV first as slacker turned med school student Berg in the 90s sitcom Two Guys and a Girl and then as student slacker party animal Van Wilder in National Lampoon’s 2002 college sex-comedy that one day he’d turn into a Hollywood hero worth more than his credits on IMDb? Probably not, although at the time I thought Limp Bizkit were a credible musical act. Time changes people. Usually for the better.

In the case of Ryan Reynolds, so much of this is true, and to celebrate his 42nd birthday UNILAD takes a look at why exactly we’ve got such a raging mancrush on Canada’s best export since – you know what, I can’t think of anything we import from Canada that rocks my world as well. Raise a glass to Ryan Reynolds…

From his fresh-faced roles in the awkward yet appealing Two Guys and the probably not quite dated very well Van Wilder (Party Liasion as it was released in the UK), Reynolds found himself as vampire hunter Hannibal King in Blade Trinity (2004) and the hero FBI Agent Richard Messner in 2007’s seriously under-rated crime action thriller Smokin’ Aces. At the same time as busting bad guys of the criminal and supernatural nature, he found his feet in the Superbad coming-of-age sequel Adventureland and romcoms Just Friends and Definitely, Maybe.

It would be the action side of Hollywood where he would make his mark, and what all good Ryan Reynolds fans should know is he was involved in Deadpool all the way back to his Blade days. Though Trinity wasn’t a hit it proved Reynolds action-comedy chops, he was already in talks with the film’s director about a DP project.


It wasn’t until 2008 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine that anyone would see Deadpool finally reach the screen. Even then, it wasn’t as the sharp-tongued rouge we know and love today. The film and incarnation of Wade Wilson was poorly received yet Reynolds took ultimately the only option to take things forward. A decision that in the long run would pay off.

Reynolds told GQ in 2016:

At the beginning of that movie, that’s pretty close to *Deadpool’*s Wade Wilson—we’re in the ballpark with that guy. But it completely departed all canon and reason and he wound up being this abomination of Deadpool that was like Barakapool, with his mouth sewn shut and weird blades that came out of his hands and these strange tattoos and stuff like that.

The conversation at the time was “If you want to play Deadpool, this is your chance to introduce him. And if you don’t want to introduce him in this fashion, we’ll have someone else play him.”

Reynolds still had Deadpool on the mind when he signed up for Green Lantern. He wrote to his executive at Fox explaining he was about to say ‘I do’ to somebody else, but if they wanted him, he was theirs. Their response was a brutal decline. Reynolds moved on with his life. He starred in the widely panned Green Lantern and set to work on writing the film that would define his career.

He said:

…in the end, we got to make the exact movie we wanted to make all along. There were drafts of the script that were sort of masked versions where we thought, Okay, if they let us do this,* we’ll actually shoot* this,* and hopefully they won’t notice.* And once the test footage leaked on the Internet, that created kind of a groundswell of support, which was the most invaluable tool we had to get the movie made. And the studio responded to that groundswell by saying, ‘Okay, here’s the absolute bare minimum amount of money that we will consider giving this character. Go make your movie, f*ck off, and let us know when it’s done.’

The result was a box office hit. From a final production budget of $58 million, Deadpool smashed $363 million in the US and made a global gross of $783 million making it the highest grossing R-rated film in history. Not only that, but it was laugh out loud comic book romp in a market saturated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s dominance.

While promoting the original, Reynolds opened up about how the 11-year journey caused him to have ‘a little bit of a nervous breakdown’, on promoting the sequel, he went into more detail about the condition that has affected him.


In a New York Times profile he explained:

I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety.

Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.


He even went as far as appearing on ITV’s Lorraine where he explained:

It destigmatises it when you talk about it.

You look at people who are maybe in a profession that looks glamorous and amazing and you think they have everything but it doesn’t discriminate it affects everyone.

It’s not just mental illness that Reynolds is facing up to in such a public manner. He donated a pink Deadpool suit to the F**k Cancer campaign. During the filming of Deadpool 2 he invited some kids from the Make a Wish foundation to the set and then kicked the asses of some trolls who tried to be assholes about a perfectly good gesture. And then there’s the balls thing.


And through the hard work, creative and charitable, and anxiety that has dogged his life, Reynolds has explained that he couldn’t have got through it without his wife. He explained to Variety, ‘Blake helped me through that. I’m lucky to have her around just to keep me sane.’

Sweet sentiments to your better half are all well and good, but what we really love between Ryan and Blake is their ongoing online battle to outwit and upstage each other in the most public of places.

Like remember that time when Ryan sent Blake a birthday message:


And then she got him right back with this:

And that just only feels like the beginning. There was this one Blake did for her film A Simple Favor and what’s that, we’ve got a video of Ryan Reynolds best tweets? Yeah, sure, let’s do that, writing about viral stuff is the worst.

So what we have is a guy who achieved an impossible goal through many a setback (and not just some miserable Hollywood executives), and found someone to share the most heartwarming bants #couplegoals, all the while making us feel like anything is possible.

Ryan, if I can call you that, we salute you. You’re a true superhero.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Tim Horner

Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.

Topics: Featured, Sex and Relationships


GQ and 2 others
  1. GQ

    Ryan Reynolds Explains Why Deadpool Nearly Gave Him a Nervous Breakdown

  2. New York Times

    This Story Has Already Stressed Ryan Reynolds Out

  3. Variety

    How ‘Deadpool’ Saved Ryan Reynolds