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January 2007
SMOKINŐ ACES: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds and Alicia Keys

SMOKINŐ ACES: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds and Alicia Keys

By Tara Harris

January 15, 2007

After many musical accolades and awards, singer-songwriter is stepping into the film industry with a role that so unlike her, which to her, is a blessing. Rather than take a role similar to what she does, Keys is playing Georgia Sykes, part of an assassination team, out to do a job and collect $1 million if successful in “Smokin’ Aces”. Also featured in the film is Ryan Reynolds, who hasn’t played in a dramatic film the horror remake, Amityville House. Reynolds plays Richard Messner, part of the FBI unit assigned to protect Jeremy Piven’s character from death. For both Keys and Reynolds, it’s a chance to reinvent themselves in the eyes of their fans and explore new opportunities in the highly octane, combustible, explosive film. In speaking to blackfilm.com, both Keys and Reynolds talk about the reasons they chose this film and Keys talks about jumping into the film business. 

Was the energy level high on the set as it was on screen?

Ryan Reynolds: That really did translate on to the screen. With all those personalities, it felt like a shit storm. It took time to find the kindest face and roll my face and just dig in. It’s on the screen, that’s for sure.

Was this more than your other films?

RR: Yes, I was definitely tapping the darker side. I think it’s beleieving in the material and believing in this guy who caught in this bureaucratic crossfire and how upsetting this can be to him. I like the fact that my character is a young guy and how he lost his partner and mentor, played by Ray Liotta. How unbelievably sadden he is by the loss and that was thing that I held unto. Working with (Andy) Garcia at the end and confronting him was fun.

They are great guys. Ray (Liotta) will go down the annals as one of my favorite people I have worked with. He’s the meanest man you will ever love. He is one of those individual you can’t get enough of. He’s a real character.

How did this role come about for you?

RR: I came in and talked to Joe (Carnahan) about playing one of the Tremor brothers and he saw me as the character Messner and that’s how it took from there. We just had a great meeting. It was an unusual role for me and it was great to step up and do something like that. With so many characters involved, you want to make sure you do justice with your part.

Alicia, did you see yourself as a pistol packing lady?

Alicia Keys: I surely did. It was truly something that the minute I read the script it was so out of character and so out of what people expected of me that I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I wanted to break away totally from anyone’s expectation. I wanted to dive into myself in a way that I never done before, and to be surrounded by incredible actors was truly inspiring. The entire cast, and Joe were so motivating, I think I’m spoiled because I do following this would probably not compare.

Did that come easily to you to give up your comfort zone?

AK: Well, anything that is worth it doesn’t come easy but to work for that was completely worth it and I knew that with everything I do I have to give up my comfort zone. I don’t want to stay in the same place. I like to get out of that area and challenge myself.

Did Taraji (Henson) give you any suggestions since this was your first acting experience?

AK: Taraji and I hit it off immediately. She’s a wonderful lady, an incredible actress. Joe actually brought us in early before we even thought about shooting shot scene 1. We met and went to the movies and she fell asleep. We definitely hung out. We wanted the relationship to be authentic and it was. Naturally, you know if you connect with people and she was one of them. I did learn a lot from her from watching her and listening to her. We developed our characters’s backstories together. We spoke about we came from and where we were going, so she definitely was an inspiration to me.

Did you have to fight for the role?

AK: I have to say that it was something that was mutual between me and Joe. I think from the beginning, he had a clear vision that he wanted to use fresh people and that’s one thing he spoke to me about a lot. He came to see my show in Anaheim and he came backstage and asked me if I read the script and I hadn’t yet, and he told me that the role was not small or a love story and just that alone made me intrigued about it. Naturally, as anyone in this planet tells you, if it’s something that you shouldn’t do, you want to do it.

What kind of backstory did you develop for your character and can you talk about the relationship between the two women?

AK: I think my character Georgia and Taraji are so close and they obviously had gone through a lot of situations together, which would normally bring you into a place with another person that you probably wouldn’t experienced. In our backstory we definitely knew each other for years. I was uprooted from where I grew up and came to live near her, so she showed me a lot from the beginning. She was like the sister that I never had; someone that would care for me and show me the ropes. It’s always been a close relationship that we had and I think as friends and people that have been around each other like that, I, probably as Georgia was aware that there were things that were out of place that there may have been feelings developed on her side toward me but I wasn’t paying any attention because we were busy doing other things. Plus, not wanting to make it a big deal. I love her as a sister. We have a deep relationship, so what’s the big deal. When you come into the movie, you’re witnessing, just like my character is seeing it as well, she’s becoming a bit more uncomfortable and crass about it all and I’m starting to wonder, “What’s really going on?” and that part that was taken out of the film is where I confronted her about it. You didn’t see that.

How do you define success?

RR: I think everything is relative. As artists in this business, you always have to have something to push against and when you don’t have that, complacentcy sets in. I don’t know what that term – success – means. To an outsider, yes, I could be successful, but for me, it’s about stretching and moving forward. It sounds cliché but it’s important, because if you don’t, you’re dead.

AK: I define success as happiness, and personally I feel I’m happiest when I’m able to express myself and I’m able to do things that are my choices, whatever it may be. It’s especially rewarding when people enjoy it as much as I do and I call that success.

Who nurtured you as a child for you to believe in yourself?

AK: As a young kid, I had two wonderful women in my life that helped to raise me. On is my mother. She was a single mother, a very strong woman who taught me everything about being a woman, and the second woman was my grandmother, a very compassionate, giving woman who showed me everything about being intelligent. I would say the two of them combined were my greatest inspirations.

What did they say to you?

AK: What did they say to me, “Go get ‘em girl!”

How would you like to be thought of in the future, as a singer who acts or as an actor who sings?

AK: As an artist.

On your upcoming movie The Nanny Diaries, what type of character do you play?

AK: Well basically, her name is Lynette and she is tremendously, in every possible crevice, different from Georgia, which is another reason why I chose to do that film.  She's way more Bohemian. She is the one person that has sense. I'm trying to say in regards to when the world, that I described, around her is chaotic.  So it's a very, very great film.  I love it very much.  Working with Scarlett was fantastic.  And being able to, once again, take another character that, again, wasn't precisely like me...but still, so different from where I just came from was a tremendous experience.

What’s going on with the film, Compositions in Black and White?

AK: That film is a film that is being produced by Halle Berry. It’s about a woman, Philippa Schuyler. She’s incredible in the 40’s. She was biracial and she was an amazing classical pianist and the challenges at that time, in order to play classical music as a woman of mix race was by far more than anything I could ever imagine. That’s what intrigued me about that role; because she wasn’t a singer and pianist and exactly who I was. It’s going to be a timepiece and her story is very deep and even when her relationship with her mother is strained and she chooses to go to Europe and pass as a Spanish woman in order to play and live a normal life. It’s very interesting the places we need to go and do what we love and that’s what’s the story’s about and that’s why I love it so much. I knew that would never be my first film. I had been involved with that so early but I knew I would do something different. As of right now, we are in the first and second draft of the script. It will be a year before we get rolling.

How’s the new album coming along?

AK: The new album is amazing. I’m so excited. I’m stretching in a way I haven’t before. I’m working with people that our combination of writing the songs that are so excited about the record. That’s looking a June or summer release. I can’t wait for you to hear it.



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