Make no mistake, the new holiday comedy Spirited is a complete musical. That means its stars, Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer — not actors typically associated (or even experienced) with the genre — are in full song-and-dance mode.
And it was scary at times for Reynolds, the 46-year-old Deadpool actor and father of three daughters.
“It was super exciting to tackle something that was obscenely challenging and scary,” Reynolds tells Yahoo Entertainment. “And I don’t think I would have done this 10 or 15 years ago, or even five years ago, necessarily. I think I’m at a place in my life where I’m a lot more forgiving of myself with not being good at something right away It’s very hard to become adequate at something unless you’re willing to be terrible first.
“That’s something I always tell my kids: Never waste your mistakes because your mistakes are what teach you how to get better at something. So yeah, I was kind of at a place in my life where I was willing to go into a situation where I just felt completely out of my depth in almost every way. I mean, you give me a fight sequence and I’ll learn it back and forth in near record time. But a dance number is just such a completely different animal and beast. And I was excited to try something that was kind of scary and out of my league.”
The latest film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ seminal 1843 novel A Christmas carol Reynolds stars as Clint Briggs, a manipulative PR shark whose “irredeemable” status does nothing but excite Ferrell’s challenge-loving Ghost of Christmas Present. However, Briggs manages to turn his sights on the Present, forcing the ghost to examine his own existence in the afterlife in the Sean Anders-directed film, which features original music from La La Land and The greatest showman hitmakers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Speaking of The greatest showmanReynolds rejects Spirited is his attempt to try to keep up with the Music Man himself, longtime friend/fake nemesis Hugh Jackman, whom Reynolds has recently enlisted Deadpool 3 to much fanfare.
“Not even remotely,” laughs Reynolds. “Song and dance are in that man’s DNA. It’s not in mine.”
Reynolds says he was comforted by his partnership with Ferrell, however, as both delved into a new genre together. (While the pair both appeared briefly in the 1999 comedy Dick, Spirited marking their first time sharing the screen together.)
“He and I got to do this together in a way that neither of us had ever gone into a full-on musical before,” says Reynolds. “We both had elements in movies where we might sing for a second or do something like that, but not a musical. So for both of us, we were kind of out of our depth. So I had a buddy with me in that process. I had someone by my side that I could spoil [with] together.”
Perhaps it helped that Ferrell already had a bona fide modern Christmas classic under his belt with 2003’s Elf. Maybe it didn’t.
“Those are some big shoes to jump into,” says Reynolds. “It’s a movie my kids and my whole family watch every Christmas.”
Elf is a stone-cold reminder that, ultimately, it seems there are only two types of Christmas movies. The ones that become classics to be watched or streamed every holiday season by the masses. Or those that are simply forgotten.
“You don’t know,” says Reynolds. “I mean, nobody knows. The funny thing is, I think you can’t really judge a great movie or something that people come back to until years later. There are movies that we all know and love and is obsessed with which at the time didn’t necessarily work I mean you can go as far back as The Wizard of Oz to think about it. You can go back as far as It’s a wonderful life. Films that didn’t land theatrically or didn’t kind of puncture the zeitgeist in a way that people might want, but then stood the test of time time and time again.
“One thing I know about the entertainment industry at the age of 46 after doing this for 30 years is that I don’t know anything. You just don’t know anything. And that’s one thing I’m sure of.”
Reynolds is also confident that despite the “obscenely challenging and terrifying” experience of channeling his inner Fred Astaire (or Hugh Jackman) in a musical for the first time, in the end he really, really enjoyed it.
“I don’t pretend to be the best at it on Earth, but God, I loved to sing and dance,” says Reynolds. “I just loved every second of it. It really was so much fun, especially when it went right. It was a feeling like no other.”
Spirited now playing in select theaters and will stream globally on Apple+ from November 18.