Reynolds’ dad, James, died on Oct. 28 at the age of 74 after battling Parkinson’s disease. And while the actor has always been known for his humor, it was his recent turn as the comical, maniacal superhero that helped him transform the pain of losing a parent into something constructive.
“I understand the idea of filtering pain through a prism of comedy,” Reynolds tells Men’s Health in this month’s cover story. “I think this character does that quite well. He obviously takes it too far. He wakes up in the morning exclusively to annoy everyone around him. But for your average civilian like me, I think there’s something really relatable about that idea, that there’s something to be learned by taking life a little less seriously.”
For the uninitiated, Deadpool is a loudmouthed superhero who goes borderline psychotic after he’s brought back from the dead and endowed with immortality. It’s a role Reynolds has waited years to play in a standalone feature (he first played a version of Deadpool in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and he tells the magazine, “It’s something I needed to do. Because I really identified with this character.”
As someone already quick to make a joke, Reynolds says he understands Deadpool’s need to make wisecracks. “Laughing can serve you in those dark moments,” he explains, “and even help you crawl your way back out.
“In my dad’s dying moments, we were making him laugh,” Reynolds remembers. “We were all in there together, me and my brothers, just joking with him. And of course we end up busting each other’s chops. I recommended that the doctor raise Dad’s dose of Dilaudid in order to make my other brother more tolerable.”
Speaking on his father’s condition in an interview on the Today show in November, Reynolds said, “It kind of galvanized everybody else, to sort of seek resources. And for us, in a strange way, it’s really kind of brought us together.”
Reflecting on the ordeal, he tells Men’s Health, “It wasn’t a bad way to go. If I could have the same death as my father, I would do it right now.”
Reynolds became involved in the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2008, and has since joined the board of directors.