In his youth, he says, his dad was "the stress dispensary in our house." To keep the peace, "I became this young skin-covered micro manager. When you stress out kids, there's a weird paradox that happens because they're suddenly taking on things that aren't theirs to take on."
Reynolds' anxiety followed him into his 20s, where he got into a "real unhinged phase."
"I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way," he says. Reynolds explains that he would wake up in the middle of the night, paralyzed by anxiety. He self-medicated, but after a few friends died of overdoses, he eased up on the partying. As the years went on, he began working more steadily in Hollywood and was cast as the leading man in a few films. But for all his successes, there were even bigger failures...like 2011's Green Lantern, the critically reviled flop in which he met his future wife, Blake Lively. "I feel like a dink saying the word 'hit,'" he admits. "But some of the biggest hits I've had are not critically received. That's just a bonus when that happens." Reynolds says that movie, in particular, is "the hair shirt I'll wear."
The experience humbled Reynolds, which was ultimately a blessing. "Offstage, he's not bigger than life. He's not like the Rock. When the Rock walks in the room, I'm sure it's like, 'Oh, my God, the Rock.' But that's not Ryan," actress Leslie Uggams explains. "He's not Mr. Hollywood."
The New York Times' feature on Reynolds, by Cara Buckley, will appear in print Sunday, May 6.