If Reynolds "doesn't have many filters," as Egoyan says of him, the credit (or blame) for this probably goes to his being the youngest of four rowdy brothers. He was born in Vancouver to a working mom and a cop-turned-food-wholesaler father. "My brothers and I, we all look and move and sound so different, you'd never guess we exited the same vagina," he says. "I pretty much got pounded the whole time. I don't bruise easily anymore. I can't tell you how many times the cops were called to our house." But wait, I cut in . . . wasn't your dad a police officer then? "Yeah, that's very embarrassing. When your dad's a cop, calling 911 is really just like calling Dad at work."

Despite all the punching, affection did trickle through. "I wanted to get an earring when I was 13," Reynolds recalls. "My brothers said that was a terrible idea and that as soon as Dad—a very, very obsessively strict cop, a tough guy—sees your Wham! starter kit, you're dead. Like, literally dead. He will turn you into a liquid. But I said, 'I don't care. I'm gonna do it.'" And after a trip to Sears the next day after school, he had done it. "I had a long walk home that felt like seven or eight days," he says. "And when I sat down at the dinner table, drips of sweat were just splashing off the table. I knew I was a dead man. I could feel my dad's eyes on me, like a laser beam burning a hole through my head. But then I could feel the gaze shift over to my brothers, and I heard him grumble something under his breath that was immensely offensive and that I won't repeat here. When I looked up, I saw that all three of my brothers had an earring. They did something pretty heroic in that moment. I have some amazing brothers." "I still have a hole in my ear from that, which isn't always great in the police world," says Reynolds' second-oldest brother, Terry, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable.

Reynolds' earliest acting was for the benefit of his family and friends, though not in the standard puppet-show way other actors nostalgically recall. "I'd fantasize that I had tuberculosis," he says. "It was just totally weird. I'd believe it, too. I told everybody I was dying from TB. To this day I can't really explain it, other than it was just an obvious prelude to what I do now, living in make-believe in this hyperdramatized environment."

"Acting allowed Ryan to be ironic about himself," Terry says. "It gave him an opportunity to step outside of himself and lent him even more material for making fun of himself. He enjoyed the outlet, but he was also serious about the outlet."

• • •

Ryan Reynolds is arguably better known than most of the movies he's acted in. He's never savored a "breakthrough" role; his career trajectory, he once said, can be measured in inches. He started acting professionally at the age of 13, in a Canadian series for Nickelodeon called Fifteen, and in his later teens "played every ex–Dynasty star's son in every crappy movie of the week that came to town." After briefly souring on show business and switching to a midnight-shift job at a Safeway supermarket ("How many times can you sob with Donna Mills before you just go on and try something else?"), he ventured south, at 19, to Los Angeles, where he scored a lead on ABC's Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place—and the rest, as Reynolds quips, "is history." More seriously, he says, "I didn't starve to death in Echo Park for 10 years before I managed to get my foot in the door. I was pretty lucky."

Lucky to a point. His first feature-film starring role, as a campus party hog in National Lampoon's Van Wilder (which did poorly in theaters before becoming a frat-house classic), led him into a string of lackluster movies, such as the remake of The Amityville Horror and Blade: Trinity (the best moment of which comes when Reynolds spits an insult he improvised: "You cock-juggling thundercunt"). With 2009's The Proposal, a romantic comedy in which he starred opposite Sandra Bullock, Reynolds proved he could hold his own in Matthew McConaughey territory, shirted or shirtless. That same year, Reynolds gained further box-office traction and fanboy cred with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But the following year's art-house thriller Buried, in which Reynolds acted inside a coffin for the movie's entire duration, was itself buried at the box office. Then came Green Lantern, which looked to signal Reynolds' ascension into the summer-blockbuster stratosphere; he reportedly beat out Justin Timberlake and Bradley Cooper for the iconic role of DC Comics' emerald-suited ring bearer. But despite what the New York Times critic Manohla Dargis called "Reynolds's dazzling dentistry, hard-body physique and earnest efforts," the movie belly flopped; some reports pin its financial losses at more than $100 million.