Ryan Reynolds still starstruck working with his friends on Red Notice
Actor says he 'geeked out' while working with co-stars Johnson and Gadot
It is very early for Ryan Reynolds. It is the morning after the Nov 3 Los Angeles premiere of his new Netflix art heist romp Red Notice, which premieres here on Nov 12.
The Canadian actor may be looking a little bleary-eyed during our Zoom press conference, but he is gamely putting on that trademark wit he has infused into so many of his films.
But that sense of humour has come from a difficult place.
Said Reynolds, 45: "As a kid and an adult, I've struggled with anxiety, and that fast-talking, hyper-verbal personality I've manufactured for film really started as a defence mechanism."
He added: "When I was younger, if I felt ill-equipped to handle a situation, I'd have that side of my personality run the show for me. While I'm grateful for it, I wish I didn't need it."
While it may seem like being funny is the easy option, Reynolds, who often writes a number of his lines, sees comedy as a challenge and underappreciated in the film industry.
"I have a great deal of reverence for it," he said. "I think you can't really understand the dynamics of comedy unless you understand its opposite."
Not that Red Notice has many dark moments.
In the action-comedy written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence, Dodgeball), Reynolds plays Nolan Booth, a wisecracking art thief who enters an uneasy partnership with FBI profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) to steal three bejewelled eggs before a rival thief, Gal Gadot's The Bishop, gets to the prize first.
His reason for taking on the US$200 million (S$270 million) project, said to be Netflix's most expensive film to date?
He said: "I loved the fact that I got to work with my pals. You can forget that this job is meant to be fun - and I never forgot it for a second on Red Notice."
Despite being friends with his co-stars for years (over 20 with Johnson), Reynolds can still get starstruck.
"It's always interesting working with larger-than-life personalities. I'm a fan of film and movie stars. I still get excited and geek out.
"When they walk in the room, my first instinct isn't 'There's my buddy', it's 'My god! That's Dwayne The Rock Johnson' or 'There's Gal Gadot'."
Aside from their innate star power, Reynolds was also stunned by his co-stars' abilities.
"Gal is so athletic and so gifted at fight scenes. And she did a lot of them herself. I was really blown away by that."
He added with a touch of awe: "I've known Dwayne a long time but just his sheer strength... He's so strong. He could pick me up and throw me across the room as if I were a toothpick. These are amazing to see first-hand."
For Reynolds, the closeness pays off on-screen.
"Weirdly, Dwayne and I have a lot in common - well, certainly not body mass," he quipped.
"We each have three daughters, we have extra-curricular business and we both feel that we are in service of an audience and that they're the boss.
"So the camaraderie you see on-screen is a very natural by-product."
Reynolds - who is married to US actress Blake Lively and whose kids are aged seven, five and two - recently announced that he would be taking a hiatus from films, telling The Hollywood Reporter: "I'm just trying to create a little bit more space for my family and time with them."
During his sabbatical, should Reynolds ever want to switch profession, the owners of one particular artwork should watch out.
He said: "If I had to steal an artwork - I wouldn't, but if I had to - it would be the Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt. I always found that to be the most beautiful, and I did a movie about that exact painting years ago (2015's Woman In Gold) with Helen Mirren."