Why Ryan Reynolds Was a Hollywood Failure Before ‘Deadpool’

Ryan Reynolds is the man behind Deadpool’s mask. He is the funny father and husband to Blake Lively on social media. He’s the interviewee who knows how to turn any question into an opportunity for a deadpanned remark. Ryan Reynolds: the handsome and charming man who is more sarcastic than anyone would have initially expected (upon first glance).

Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds | Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Today, when fans think of Ryan Reynolds, they immediately think of Deadpool, and now, many likely picture a cute, little Detective Pikachu when Reynolds’ iconic, comedic voice makes its way from our television screens to our ears.

Ryan Reynolds has established himself as a comedic, action-oriented actor. While struggling to establish his footing for many years, Ryan Reynolds has, at last, come into his stride. So, the question is: what was Ryan Reynolds’ problem before Deadpool? Why so little notoriety?

Before ‘Deadpool,’ and eons before ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,’ what did you think of when you heard the name, Ryan Reynolds?

If you’re being completely honest with yourself – unless you were a Reynolds superfan before his superhero days (let’s dismiss Green Lantern for his sake and our own) – you likely didn’t have a clear picture of who Ryan Reynolds was prior to Deadpool. What was his shtick? What kind of movies did he tend towards?

To take this idea one step further, you may have even conjured up a few blurry memories of movies starring Ryan Gosling. While this may sound blasphemous now – as your mind recoils at the thought of confusing these two vastly disparate handsome devils – Ryan Reynolds didn’t always boast the level of recognition he holds today. And this is because of one simple reason, as the New York Post puts it, he didn’t yet have a “brand.”

If someone screams out “Julia Roberts,” you will immediately jump to Pretty Woman, Mona Lisa Smile, and Eat, Pray Love. This is because Julia Roberts has established a firm identity in Hollywood. Through all the films she has starred in, fans have come to draw conclusions about the “type” of actress that she is. Whether or not fans are correct is of less importance; what matters is that her name is tied to a mental image. Her name conjures a unified idea. The same thing goes for stars Like Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Sandra Bullock, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

For a very long time, Ryan Reynolds lacked a brand. He jumped from project to project, all ranging in genre and approach; thus, he left audiences to wonder where his niche was, and the kind of actor he aspired to be. If audiences are left to wonder who someone is, they can’t assign them to a box, and if an individual lacks a box, they slip through the cracks of our minds.

Ryan Reynolds’ earlier films: drastically different and often critically condemned

From a romantic comedy like 2009’s The Proposal to the remake of a horror classic with 2005’s The Amityville Horror and 2014’s oddball thriller The Voices, Ryan Reynolds, to put it simply, was all over the place with his film choices.

While it’s important to avoid typecasting and flex your artistic muscles in various directions, Ryan Reynolds did not allow fans to assign him to a category, which would have helped him develop that quintessential “brand name” before venturing into diverse projects.

Not to mention, his films were often critically panned; meaning, without the recognition that comes with rave reviews, he lacked both the hype needed to build a reputation and the identifying factor needed to cement a place in viewers’ minds.

With Deadpool – a movie that was not only a major box office hit but also one that opened to rave reviews – we found Ryan Reynolds. His brand came into formation, for the funny guy on Twitter went perfect with the man behind the mask. And, with each piece of his identity slowly coming into a formation at once, fans discovered Ryan Reynolds. Fans created their box.