Canadian screen stars Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy say their powerhouse partnership has only just begun, with their latest collaboration on Netflix’s “The Adam Project” just one more step in what they hope can be a lifelong alliance.
Levy says the friends — who also happen to be neighbours in New York — have four other projects in the works together, including a sequel to last year’s “Free Guy.”
“It is very much the bromance that you see,” says Levy, the Montreal-born producer-director behind “Free Guy” as well as the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
In their second collaboration, premièring Friday on Netflix, the duo commit yet again to an adventure comedy, but this time with a little nostalgia.
Reynolds stars as a time-travelling pilot named Adam who joins forces with his 12-year-old self to confront his late father, played by Mark Ruffalo, and save the future.
Both Reynolds and Levy say they were drawn to the family-driven and fantastical plot, with each pointing to creative impulses forged by ’80s-era Steven Spielberg fare including “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”
It’s one of the many ways Reynolds says he and Levy connect.
“We feel really lucky that we found each other. Creatively and spiritually, we’re so aligned,” Reynolds adds in a separate video call from Toronto.
“We’ve never even had a fight. We’ve disagreed on a million things, but it’s never muddied with a weird emotional experience, which can happen in the arts.
“We have one of those partnerships that you wish you’d made in a computer. If we could make every movie for the rest of our lives together we would.”
The Vancouver-born Reynolds says he’d been looking for a project with a “father-son dynamic” for a couple of years.
“We ended up finding ‘The Adam Project,’ which is the perfect fit with that Amblin tone and the feeling of those movies that we grew up with,” he says, referring to the Spielberg-led production company Amblin Partners.
But having to call Ruffalo “dad” onscreen was “delightfully weird,” chuckles Reynolds, going on to credit his co-star with adding complexity and humanity to the role.
The film is anchored by a debut performance from 13-year-old Walker Scobell, a “Deadpool” uberfan who watched the sequel at least 60 times, says Reynolds, set to play the foul-mouthed anti-hero for a third instalment.
“He’s a unicorn,” he says. “He’s one of those kids that is deeply feeling, which is what you want as an actor.
“But you also want to be very careful, because a deeply feeling kid on a film set can be very precarious … but he has his head screwed on so well.”
“The Adam Project” also had Reynolds thinking of his three daughters, whom he shares with wife and actress Blake Lively, and the film’s core theme of learning from our parents’ mistakes.
“I’m shocked at how many learning moments I’ve had as a parent,” he says.
“As somebody who works in the public eye, it might look like I’m winning all the time but that’s not at all the case.
“The best experiences I’ve had have come from failures, and I want my kids to be able to have a bit of that but also to truly know me.”
Levy’s directing credits include the youth-driven late ’90s TV series “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” “Animorphs” and “So Weird,” a period of time he dubs “the early Shawn Levy sweet spot.”
Along with the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” Levy points to a clear connective thread “even as I bounce around genres and tones.”
“Whether it’s a comedy or a sci-fi adventure, I want there to be humanism. I want a big, warm, beating heart at the centre of everything that I do,” he says from New York.
“I try to live that way and I try to work that way. ‘E.T.’ is about an alien landing but also the power of friendship. Thinking about that just gave me goosebumps.
“That’s the Amblin ethos: take high concepts and root them in relatable human themes.”
As for what his own 12-year-old self would say to him now, Levy says he’s sure that boy would approve of where he ended up as an adult.
“Twelve-year-old me was sitting in Montreal, dreaming of a life like the one I ended up living,” Levy says.
“I was fiercely ambitious then, too, and I probably missed a lot of opportunities for fun but I wanted to get into this life and career of storytelling so badly.
“Hollywood felt like another planet. So I worked my tail off and I think younger me would be happy to see that it worked out the way damn near what he dreamed.”
—Sadaf Ahsan, The Canadian Press