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Image: Ryan Reynolds
Carlo Allegri  /  AP
Ryan Reynolds got his start on television in the 1990s before breaking out with a starring role in the 2002 campus comedy "Van Wilder."
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updated 9/23/2010 12:47:08 PM ET 2010-09-23T16:47:08

After spending an entire film shoot in a box, Ryan Reynolds was overjoyed to go off and play a comic-book hero.

Reynolds was tucked in a coffin on set for two and a half weeks on the one-man show "Buried," a thriller opening Friday in which he plays a contract driver in Iraq who has been buried alive by terrorists.

He went from that shoot into "Green Lantern," playing the title role as the DC Comics test pilot who gains extraterrestrial powers after he receives a mystical ring from a dying alien.

On "Buried," Reynolds could barely move, often stuck inside his box for full days, since getting in and out between scenes was too time consuming. He was claustrophobic, his heart would race and he lost weight from the anxiety and sense of confinement.

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"There's just a humility that you gain from an experience like this," Reynolds, 33, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Buried" played. "I just felt like I would never, ever, as long as I live, complain on a film set again after living through 'Buried.'

"I'm not a fan of actors overly romanticizing their process, because it's generally just self-aggrandizement for the most part. But it was tough, 'Buried' was really, really tough, emotionally and physically. I left there changed. And then to go on a great wide open set like 'Green Lantern,' run around for six or seven months playing a superhero was pretty great."

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Reynolds got his start on television in the 1990s before breaking out with a starring role in the 2002 campus comedy "Van Wilder." He landed a role in the comic-book adaptation "Blade: Trinity," starred in the horror remake "The Amityville Horror" and costarred in the crime thriller "Smokin' Aces."

His career has defied categorization as Reynolds moved from action to comedy to romance with such love stories as "Definitely, Maybe" and last year's Sandra Bullock hit "The Proposal."

Reynolds also took on a role in last year's Marvel Comics superhero adventure "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Though it was a small part, he got to play the mutant mercenary Deadpool, a comic-book character he particularly loved growing up.

Story: Getting 'Buried' actually a pretty good time

"It was one of those situations where it may not have been the most ideal situation for that character, but I'll be damned if someone else was going to play it," said Reynolds, who hopes a script in development for a "Deadpool" spinoff will come to pass.

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That could put Reynolds in a rare position in Hollywood, where more and more actors sign on for superhero franchises. If things go his way, Reynolds would have two.

"I don't want to put the cart before the horse. I don't have two superhero franchises," Reynolds said. "If the pieces fit together in the right way, then I'm there. It's certainly something I'm passionate about, because I've known it for so long, and I know the mythology so well. It's a great character. He's a true anti-hero, and that's why I like him."

Video: Ryan Reynolds terrified by ‘Buried’ (on this page)

Reynolds' character in "Buried" is anything but a superhero. He plays an ordinary guy who wakes up in a nightmare situation, stuck underground with a dying cell phone, running up against a cold and distant bureaucracy as he desperately calls for help.

"I loved some of the themes of it. I mean, this hidden enemy being bureaucracy. Not terrorists and not a coffin and not a limited oxygen supply, but bureaucracy's going to kill this guy," Reynolds said. "This guy is calling everybody he can to get some help, and he's being asked ridiculous questions like his Social Security number, and people don't really necessarily believe him. They don't say it so much as you just hear it in the tone of their voice."

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Reynolds is shooting the romantic comedy "The Change-Up" this fall. And with "Green Lantern," he'll be part of Hollywood's superhero summer next year, playing an adventurer he describes as "Han Solo crossed with Chuck Yeager."

Given all the dark, brooding superheroes running around on screen, Reynolds hopes "Green Lantern" can lighten things up a bit.

"It's a real classic kind of guy. It's the guy who can throw a punch, kiss the girl and tell a joke. That's something I'd love to see on screen again, and I hoped it's embraced for that kind of spirit," Reynolds said. "You can't be intermittently clenching your jaw muscles in place of emotion. You've got to be having a little fun with it, too."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Ryan Reynolds terrified by ‘Buried’

  1. Closed captioning of: Ryan Reynolds terrified by ‘Buried’

    >>> ryan miller had a fast ride to a-list fame in the hit movie "the proposal." in his new movie "buried" he plays a contractor in iraq who wakes up buried with just a flashlight and cell phone to try and save his life.

    >> my name is paul, i'm an american citizen from michigan. i'm a civilian truck driver. i have been taken hostage anywhere in iraq. i need $1 million by 9:00 tonight or i'll be left to die here in this coffin that i'm buried in.

    >> ryan reynolds , why. we're going to stick you in a coffin for 90 minutes ?

    >> yeah, i read the script and it was probably the most terrifying script i ever read not because people were chasing me and there were any special effects . it's just one guy in a coffin , you never leave the coffin and you can't help but think what would i do? it's just an incredible story.

    >> it's very disturbing emotionally. here you are in this coffin , you say you have the lighter, you have the flashlight and you have the phone and that's about it. and there's a snake in there?

    >> that does happen at one point. it was incredible director rodrigo cortez, it was sort of a modern day hitchcock film.

    >> there's a fire in the coffin as well?

    >> yeah, this guy goes through the full gamut of emotions and challenges you could ever imagine in this very, very small space. but this director found a way to marry this incredible narrative challenge to this incredible technical challenge.

    >> you suffered cuts bruises.

    >> you burned your fingers on a lighter?

    >> yeah, i emerged skinless from the coffin by the end. but that stuff was really all before the war. to sit there with an audience and watch them at a perfect 45-degree angle?

    >> do a lot of people want to watch the film?

    >> the next thing we knew the movie created sundance to an incredible reaction and it's just been like a snowball since. it's just been building and building.

    >> have you had any residual feelings from this? i'm very klaaserphobic so this would mess me up for a while.

    >> even elevators, elevators are starting to feel more like large glass sweaters to me.

    >> it's very, very exciting, were you a fan of that comic book as a kid.

    >> i knew the log line . i kind of knew the basics of it. but i won't pretend that i was always a fan of it at all. but when i dove into that universe, it's basically kind of the star wars of the d.c. universe. it was just a huge world to jump in.

    >> i want you to explain what you said, you said filming in new orleans in the summer in that outfit was like shooting an entire movie inside alec baldwin . what did that mean? i have been trying to imagine what that means.

    >> i can't believe somebody pulled that quote out of the interview.

    >> you said that.

    >> i did say that, but i just watched the departed and it was the most intense portrayal of anything i had ever seen. i thought this is what new orleans feels like, it's like shooting in his aorta.

    >> are you shooting another film with sandra bullock ? "most wanted"?

    >> there's not even a script yet, but we both would love to do it.

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