Ryan Reynolds has enjoyed a nice career playing That Cute Guy You Had a Crush on in College, his wry eyebrows and disdain for authority making him a fixture on the sophomoric-humor circuit. But as dryly hilarious vampire slayer Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, the first thing you notice about him is... he doesn't look like Ryan Reynolds. The 6-foot-2 actor, who used to resemble what Blade: Trinity writer-director David Goyer calls ''a single chopstick,'' is suddenly very bearded and very, very buff. And it's really hard not to notice.
Now back to mortal size, with a comparatively fresh-faced stubble although the beard did stay for his role in April's Amityville Horror remake and after a week of endless press junketing, Reynolds is ready to talk about something, anything, other than (1) his pre-Blade training regimen or (2) rumors of a tense relationship with Wesley Snipes. (For the record: Yes, he had to work out a whole lot to get those 12-pack abs, and as he puts it, ''I've never met Wesley Snipes. I've only met Blade.'')
So it seems polite to ask the 28-year-old Vancouver native something light yet personal, like, um, how he's surviving the current NHL strike. ''I love that those are pleasantries you say to a Canadian,'' Reynolds laughs. ''I'm not a hockey fan, which is probably why I had to leave Canada in the first place.''
Plucked from obscurity as a high schooler to star in Nickelodeon's Fifteen, Reynolds found life as a teen actor a bit awkward. ''You're trying to stand up for yourself against bullies at school, and yet they go home and watch you in the midst of a soft weep on the ABC Family Movie of the Week. These are difficult things for a young man to overcome.'' After Fifteen expired, he moved to L.A. and ended up on the weirdly long-lived sitcom Two Guys and a Girl before becoming an idol to a certain mostly intoxicated segment of the population with his titular role in National Lampoon's Van Wilder. According to actor Justin Long, who spent some long hours with Reynolds in New Orleans while shooting the upcoming comedy Waiting: ''When we were on Bourbon Street, he was like the frat guys' Jesus Christ.''
''It wasn't until I met him in person that I realized how funny and clever he is in real life,'' says Goyer. Actually, the two seem to have quite the burgeoning bromance, spending drunken evenings ''embellishing'' Hannibal's one-liners for use on set the next day and quasi-affectionately slamming each other on the Trinity message boards. And though it remains to be seen whether the movie's uncharacteristic yuks work for die-hard Blade scholars, the more casual filmgoer will find the snarky but genuine King to be something of an antidote to Blade's oppressive darkness. ''Blade takes himself so seriously,'' says Reynolds, ''so [it's good to] have this guy who's willing to say anything that pops to mind.''
That's not so far from Reynolds himself. For example, he says he'd go back to TV, but it would have to be on HBO. ''It's so hard to work with the f---ing FCC. It should be called the FFCC.... I have a potty mouth. I can't help it.'' But get him before he's too hot, kids. ''This isn't hyperbole,'' says Goyer. ''I think in a couple of years he's going to be one of the biggest stars in America.''
The Blade promotional nightmare almost behind him, Reynolds couldn't seem less concerned about the future. He's currently fiancéd to fellow Canadian child TV star Alanis Morissette speaking of irony, when Reynolds was on Nickelodeon 13 years ago, guess who was filming You Can't Do That on Television right next door? but the two have no immediate plans to make it official. ''Nobody lives in the present,'' Reynolds sighs. ''Everyone's like, 'So when are you gonna get married? When are you having kids? When are you gonna get your prostate checked?' I don't really subscribe to that philosophy. I'd like to just enjoy the moment now.''