Ryan Reynolds has made a career out of repeatedly playing a wise-ass class clown who just happens to have the body of an Olympian. It all started with 2002's "Van Wilder," a rude college comedy whose titular party boy has been evoked in so many of Reynolds' subsequent films ("Blade: Trinity," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Waiting..."). However, newly determined to transcend that persona (and, presumably, to avoid more fowl projects like "Definitely, Maybe" or "The Amityville Horror), Mr. Scarlett Johannson is thinking big...and small.
Reynolds, 33, followed up his surprisingly thoughtful turn in last year's mega-hit "The Proposal" with a small role as a studly superhero in "Paper Man," a little-seen, but well-received, indie. The performance was a precursor to what's undoubtedly the biggest role of Reynolds's career: the lead in next summer's comic-book blockbuster "Green Lantern." (He'll also revive the comic book character he played in "Wolverine" in the spin-off "Deadpool," slated for 2012.)
In the meantime, Reynolds also has his eye on the arthouse, appearing this month in the low-budget Sundance selection "Buried." An experimental piece about a U.S. truck driver who winds up trapped in a coffin in Iraq with only a lighter and a cellphone, the film takes place almost entirely in a single tight space, and will test Reynolds's acting chops like nothing he's done before. If he nails the performance, it will introduce a whole new facet of ability, and may finally allow him to leave Van Wilder in his rearview.