Community service… how Ryan Reynolds fell in love with Wrexham

Ryan Reynolds films comedy sketch with Wrexham FC

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He has been shot, stabbed, incinerated and mutilated on screen. He has been drugged, drowned, and run over by a car. He has been in countless fight scenes, flipped vehicles and fireball explosions. Even with movie magic, each stunt carried an element of risk. He even stuck his neck out and bought struggling Welsh football club Wrexham last year – which he describes as the “great privilege” of his life – in one of Hollywood’s most unlikely real-life gambles.

But Ryan Reynolds confesses that his latest movie, Spirited, out today, left him petrified – because he had to dance and sing.

“Singing and dancing is so much harder than anything that I’ve ever, ever tackled in my life,” admits the 46-year-old Canadian-American heartthrob who is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, his films having earned more than £5billion.

He has performed perilous stunts for action films from Deadpool to Blade: Trinity and Green Lantern to The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but found the demands of a musical “more challenging”.

Even though fight scenes are often choreographed like a dance, Reynolds admits he struggled turning from flying fists to twinkle toes. “I understand the music and dance of fight sequences,” he says.

“I’ve done that my entire career… but a dance number is just starting from ground zero. For me it was really challenging.

“I moved very slowly at the beginning, and I’m not totally certain I got much faster by the end, but thankfully it’s not a live show so we get multiple cracks at each moment.”

Spirited is a radically updated musical revision of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Every year a soul desperately in need of saving is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Having chosen Reynolds’ heartless media consultant for a Scrooging, everyone keeps bursting into song and tripping the light fantastic. For Reynolds, it is about as profound a departure as was his multi-million pound acquisition of lowly National League side Wrexham FC with American actor-producer Rob McElhenney in November 2020.

Initially written off as a publicity stunt, the pair won hearts and minds and their Disney documentary Welcome To Wrexham has been critically acclaimed and commercially successful since its August release.

Today Reynolds considers Wrexham – one of the world’s oldest football clubs – to be part of his extended family. “Not just the football club, but the community of Wrexham,” he says. “Putting community first… we didn’t necessarily come in with that ethos; they taught us that just by looking at the community. It’s been a really beautiful experience, top to bottom. Win or lose, we just adore every aspect of this community and this club.”

If ever visited by his own Ghost of Christmas Past, Reynolds says that he would have no regrets about his plunge into British soccer. “Look, this isn’t hyperbole: this has been the great privilege of my life, to be a part of this incredible project, and something that I’m quite sure I’ll be a part of until the day I finally close my eyes to this weird, dumb show.”

He’s referring to life itself, of course, not his TV series or new movie.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

If only the same could be said for his singing and dancing in Spirited.

“It’s terrifying,” he continues. “It’s not something I would ever have done, I think, if I were alone.”

But he was persuaded to take the role for the chance to perform opposite comedy star Will Ferrell, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present. “It had kind of been a life-long dream of mine to work with him,” explains Reynolds.

“Doing it with Will – he’s probably done just a little more singing and dancing on camera – having him as a partner and somebody that I could sort of learn from and be in this muck and mire with, to get ready for the movie, was great.

“One of the primary reasons to do the movie for me was to be next to Will Ferrell. He’s somebody I’ve watched my entire career, admired and loved.

“Watching him up close is like being in the ultimate clinic. Fifteen years ago if I could have learned that I’d be shooting a movie this intimately with Will I would have pinched myself. I wouldn’t have believed it.”

But having successfully put one musical behind him, Reynolds is in no hurry to slip back into his dancing shoes. “I can’t imagine that I would,” he says. “This isn’t something that I was thinking: This will be the new thing I’m doing! I was so excited to get it, and I did it under the stewardship of many experts. But no, right now it’s just all Deadpool, Deadpool, Deadpool.”

After two blockbuster hit films playing the sarcastic, deeply-flawed and genre-parodying superhero X-Men reject, preparations are underway for a third outing as Deadpool: the crimefighter burned to a crisp.

“That’s what I’m working on and that’s all I’ve been working on,” he says. “Deadpool’s staring at me right now, right there. That’s kind of the full-time job right now, and it will probably be for the next year-and-a-half to two years.”

Unlike many of his violence-filled films, Spirited is a movie that can be enjoyed by his daughters James, seven, Inez, six, and Betty, aged three.

“I do like doing movies that they can see,” says Reynolds, who has been married to actress Blake Lively since 2012, having met a year earlier co-starring in Green Lantern. Lively, 35, the star of films including The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants, is expecting their fourth child next year.

His recent family-friendly fare includes Free Guy, The Adam Project and Pikachu: “These kind of things that they get to watch, which I love, because they’re certainly never going to see Deadpool – at least, not for another dozen years or so.”

Reynolds and Lively plan their work schedules to ensure that the family remains united on film sets and locations. “These days it’s more of a holistic experience for my whole family,” he says.

“When we do movies, if Blake’s shooting a movie I’m not shooting a movie, so we all travel together to her set. And vice versa. So we’re all together the whole time, so it’s pretty immersive for them.

“They get to be on the sets and see how it’s all coming together. I’ve got to say it’s pretty awesome for them to be exposed to that kind of stuff. I never take it for granted, and I know that they don’t either.”

Spirited is an over-the-top big-budget Christmas movie, but Reynolds’ childhood memories of Yuletide are hardly grandiose. “I’m the youngest of four boys, so my Christmas presents were generally hand-me-downs,” he recalls.

“My brother’s jacket or his pants or something like that. It was pretty anticlimactic, to be honest. But we were all together, always… which is something that I’ve carried forth with my own family.”

If the Ghost of Christmas Past paid a visit to Reynolds, he admits there might be some moments from his life that would make him cringe.

“Oh, God,” he says. “The crap a teenage boy gets up to in their bedroom would probably be enough to throw me in jail for life! I don’t have that sordid a past, although I am grateful that the front half of my career was before camera phones. I do work in showbusiness: aren’t we all kind of moderately corrupt and awful?”

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