Man in the Mirror: In His New Movie the Nines, the Queer Writer Behind Go and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Cast One of the Hottest Straight Movie Stars in Hollywood to Play Himself. Then Last Month They Ran off Together to Malawi. So What Exactly Is Going on between These Two? John August Talks to Ryan Reynolds

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BEFORE HE WAS CAST AS THE LEAD of my movie The Nines, here's--what I knew about Ryan Reynolds: He was handsome, he was Canadian and he was consistently better than the movies he starred m.

I also knew he was versatile. He could handle both comedy (Van Wilder) and action roles (Blade: Trinity, Smokin' Aces), and he'd even fully committed to potential schlock like The Amityville Horror. So there was every reason to believe he would be the perfect person to star in the first movie I ever directed.

And he is. When the movie premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Variety wrote, "He's sensational. Since it's long been clear he can do comedy, and it seems his dramatic range is broad as well, the question now isn't when he'll become an A-list star but rather what kind he'll turn out to be."

In The Nines, Ryan plays three characters: a troubled TV star, an acclaimed video game designer, and a writer facing a nervous breakdown.

That last Character is me. His name might be Gavin, but he is living my life, with my house, my friends, and my inner turmoil. That section is both hugely autobiographical and largely unscripted, so Ryan had to sort of move into my head. Which would seem uncomfortable, except that he's one of the best people I've ever met. And that's what I wasn't expecting: that Ryan would become one of my best friends.

The Advocate asked Ryan and me to interview each other about the movie and the challenge of being mental roommates. We had already planned a trip to Africa, and we found time at the SaN SaN game reserve in South Africa, where we were shaking off jet lag on the way to visit Malawi. What follows is that conversation.

Let me set the scene: We're sitting in Ryan's room in front of a giant window, which looks out on the savanna. It's late afternoon and gray. Soup weather. We're drinking some really strong coffee. And I say ...

John August: So what animals have we, seen so far?

Ryan Reynolds: We've seen giraffes, rhinos, impalas, lions, leopards--well, leopard singular. Elephants, of course.

Pretty much everything but Bai Ling.

Yeah. And she shows up everywhere.

Do you prefer telephone interviews or face-to-face?

Probably face-to-face, because you forget you're being interviewed. You?

Telephone, definitely.

Because you don't like wearing pants.

We should probably get started with the interview.

By all means.

What is your background? You were not quite a child star, but ...

I started when I was 13 years old. I did a really horrible soap opera called Fifteen for Nickelodeon that stoned college kids kept on the air for throe years. And then the first movie I did was in Sri Lanka when I was 14. I spent three months there. I was there without my parents working on a movie in a country that was in the midst of a civil war. It was pretty wild.

The first thing I remember seeing you in was Two Guys and a Girl. I had a crash on Richard Ruccolo.

You'd said that.

How gay was that show?

Not very, honestly. I remember once I did this improv where I grabbed one of the actors and gave him this kind of Looney Tunes kiss. The audience loved it, and I thought it was a really funny moment. I'll never forget--this other actor came up afterwards and said, "What are you doing'? People are going to think that you're gay." And I remember just thinking that's just the most profoundly idiotic thing I'd ever heard.

So where were you when you were seat the script for The Nines? What was the situation?

I was in Los Angeles, but I was on my way to Mexico for a vacatior. I was a little burned out because I had just finished two movies in a row. I was just sitting out there by the pool with all the other lazy North Americans. I opened up the script and started reading it. And I just couldn't put it down. I say this

not because you're you and you're sitting next to me. …