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Ryan Reynolds' movie 'The Adam Project' is inspired by his childhood imagination

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Actor Ryan Reynolds stars in a new film inspired by his childhood imagination. It's called "The Adam Project." And Reynolds plays a time-traveling pilot on a mission to save the future. Thing is, he can't do it alone. So he's teamed up with an unexpected sidekick, himself.

RYAN REYNOLDS: He crash lands in the year 2022. And that is an accident. And he also is part of the accident. He comes face to face with his 12-year-old self.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ADAM PROJECT")

WALKER SCOBELL: (As Young Adam) So by being here and telling me this, you may have just changed my whole future?

REYNOLDS: (As Big Adam) Honestly, your future is pretty tragic either way. (Laughter) I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. I'm kidding. Let's go. Come on. Here we go.

MARTINEZ: That younger version of yourself, that's played by a young actor named Walker Scobell. And he really seemed - if I could imagine you, Ryan, as a 12-year-old, that would be him. (Laughter). How - did you have to prepare him to be you?

REYNOLDS: No. He came, basically, batteries not included, I mean, out of the box. It was one of those unique situations. We saw this audition tape of this kid named Walker Scobell. And this kid had watched "Deadpool" 1 and 2 probably four or 500 times. He knew every syllable of those movies. I can't even quote those movies the way he can. So - and it was just love at first sight. We just knew right away this was our guy and hired him instantly.

MARTINEZ: The young version of Adam covers up a lot of his insecurities with humor, sometimes self-deprecating humor. Can you relate to that growing up? I mean, is that a little window or mirror to you as a 12-year-old?

REYNOLDS: Yes. Hugely. I mean, that was my - a lot of this movie is personal. I mean, the movie is - obviously, it's a large-scale, spectacle-driven, wish-fulfillment movie, you know, that is an adventure action comedy. But its spine is something quite personal, intimate and emotional. And, yeah, as a kid, I really did. I sort of hid behind self-deprecating humor. And I used it as a way to stay safe. I mean, I grew up with three older brothers. So I was less a brother and more of a moving target in our house. And, you know, I wasn't going to win with muscle. So I developed a bit of a silver tongue as a kid. But I was a lot shyer than Walker Scobell was in our movie. I mean, he was - he's a little bit more extroverted than I was.

MARTINEZ: And that shyness, though, because, see; I was a shy kid, too. And I used to try and just make people laugh as much as I could so that they wouldn't get to know me. Or I wouldn't have to reveal that much about me. And I think a lot of it maybe had to do with anxiety, something that I know you've dealt with and been very open about your whole life.

REYNOLDS: Yeah. I mean, it's - I would much rather have a kind of persona take over than, you know, have to sort of suffer through any sort of social interaction alone, in the naked light of day. So yeah, that is something I've had pretty much my whole life. But it's also - you know, it's really kind of kept me safe, (laughter) you know, kept me somewhat sane at times, even though it is certainly its own distinct challenge. But, yeah, it's something I'm grateful for as well.

MARTINEZ: Now in the film, you're fighting futuristic-looking assassins, dodging explosions from spaceships. And you've talked about how much you love being physical in your movies, your action movies specifically. I understand you used to do a lot of your own stunts - now, used to. Do you still do a lot of them or most of them or all of them?

REYNOLDS: No, I still do tons of them. You have to. I mean, we shoot with high-definition cameras. There's no, you know - even 10 years ago, you could kind of get away with having somebody double you more than you would today just because of the inherent diffusion that film creates. But now that we're shooting on digital, everything's kind of high definition. You can see everything. So you do as much as you can. But I'm not a complete moron. I mean, I'm, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

REYNOLDS: There are certain things I'm just not going to do. So my priority is being able to throw my kids around and have them - walk around with them on my shoulders and that kind of stuff. So I'm never going to do something that's out of my depth. But no, I have incredible stunt people that I work with. And "The Adam Project" is one of four movies I've produced. I produced "Deadpool 1," "Deadpool 2," "Free Guy" and "The Adam Project." So with that is a luxury to able to work with the people that you really, truly trust in the foxhole, so to speak.

MARTINEZ: Was there a turning point for you, Ryan, specifically when you thought, OK, I mean, I have to dial back some of these stunts? I can't do all of them as much anymore?

REYNOLDS: Oh, yeah. Years ago, I did a movie called "Safe House" with Denzel Washington. And there's all these crazy fight sequences. And at one point, I get thrown out a window. And I'm really - I know I really hurt my neck when I did it. My fingers were kind of numb. And I was having some trouble. And I - you know, at that time, I was, you know, I put off going to the doctor. Whereas now, I probably wouldn't put it off as long. But I waited a couple of years, went and got an X-ray. And I found out I'd broken a couple of vertebrae in my neck.

MARTINEZ: Because I heard about a story where you had suffered a neck injury and you were in a doctor's office.

REYNOLDS: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: And the doctor threw some cold water on you.

REYNOLDS: Oh, God. That is true. Yes.

MARTINEZ: (Laughter).

REYNOLDS: She - that was a separate doctor.

MARTINEZ: OK (laughter).

REYNOLDS: That was my main doctor, who (laughter), after a physical I had after that diagnosis, yeah, wrote on the prescription pad, stuntman. And, yeah, I still actually have it. I still have it just because I thought it was so funny. I got to figure out where it is, but yeah.

MARTINEZ: I'd keep it, too. That is a wake-up call if I've ever seen one.

REYNOLDS: Oh, 100%, 100%. Yeah. And I still love it, though. I still love doing the physical stuff. I mean, movies like "The Adam Project," I feel like the real stunt is the emotional work. I mean, the hard-hitting emotional stuff of the movie to me is much more difficult than, you know, jumping off a balcony or getting hit by a car.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. Now, you know, you once told the Toronto Star - and I kind of always wanted to hear you explain this - that you don't think your career has really had a design, but more a design flaw. What did you mean by that?

REYNOLDS: I don't know if I would characterize it as necessarily a design flaw. But I've never really had that kind of vision board for a career or something, you know? I just - I moved to Los Angeles to join an improv comedy group. And I, you know, some - ran out of money and ended up getting an agent, thank God. And, you know, I had zero expectations. So there wasn't a lot of letdown ever, you know? And at this stage in my life and my career, I also just recognized the importance of doing what I love as well.

And also, truly, I mean, that's also where "Adam Project" comes from is those movies as a kid that I loved and worshiped at the altar of, the same ones that Shawn Levy, my director and co-producer, loved - "E.T.," "Stand By Me," you know, "Flight Of The Navigator." I mean, I remember watching "Back To The Future" with my dad and really feeling like we both thought that was the coolest movie we'd ever seen. And I just - and it was - you know, it was also oddly emotional at times. And it was oddly personal and intimate at times. And I think that not shying away from that, and with that sort of backdrop of spectacle, is, like, my ultimate goal in making a movie like "The Adam Project." It just - it was spectacular in that context.

MARTINEZ: That's Ryan Reynolds. He stars in the new film "The Adam Project." Ryan, thank you very much.

REYNOLDS: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROB SIMONSEN'S "THE ADAM PROJECT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.