Ryan Phillippe Flags of Our Fathers Interview, By Tim Nasson
Los Angeles – He is jokingly referred to, (or is it a joke?), as Mr. Reese Witherspoon!
For the past seven years, Reese Witherspoon, the Oscar winning wife (“Walk the Line”) of Ryan Phillippe, has been the main bread winner of the Phillippe-Witherspoon household.
Phillippe, thirty-two, portrayed the first gay teenager, Billy Douglas, on American television’s daytime soap, “One Life To Live.”
“That seems like such a long time ago,” remarks Phillippe of the 1992-1993 stint. “But, at the time, it was such a monumental television event. It was almost scandal-like. I was eighteen when I played the role, the first time I ever was on screen. I hadn’t yet made a movie.”
Ryan Phillippe’s first big screen appearance was a small role in the Denzel Washington/Gene Hackman thriller “Crimson Tide.”
His sophomore appearance, as a piece of eye-candy in “White Squall,” in 1996 got Hollywood studio heads talking – about casting Phillippe as a leading actor, in the hopes of making a sex symbol out of him, thereby attracting both the teen girls and the gays to the movie theaters en masse.
And it worked – for a while!
“54” the biographical film about Studio 54 owner Steve Rubel, (played by Mike Myers), most likely wouldn’t have made a dime, (let alone the $17 million it took in theatrically), without Phillippe’s large role as Shane O’Shea. In “54” Phillippe played the boy from New Jersey who dreams of getting into Studio 54, something almost impossible to do, unless you were a New York City VIP. Rather than getting in, he attracts the eyes of Rubel, (who was gay), and was hired instantly as a bus boy and then promoted to bartender – of course in each position, required to be shirtless, flaunting his flawless body.
“Is it a prerequisite that in every movie you show your naked hindquarters?” Jay Leno jokingly asked Phillippe during an interview after his movie “Cruel Intentions” made its debut – in 1999.
Phillippe’s perfectly sculpted buttocks were shown for more than thirty seconds in “Cruel Intentions,” in one of the most graphic heterosexual, intentionally erotic scenes in movie history.
Remarkably, “Cruel Intentions” earned less than $40 million at the box office – and is the only movie in which he co-starred with his wife, (whom he met at her 21st birthday party), prior to filming.
With the exception of “Crimson Tide,” Phillippe’s first film, (in which he is listed fiftieth in the credits), Phillippe has not appeared in a movie that earned more than $90 million. (“Crimson Tide” took in $91 million.)
“I Know What You Did Last Summer,” a 1997 popular teen thriller in which Phillippe co-starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt took in $72 million.
“Crash,” last year’s surprise Best Picture winner, made most of its money on DVD. At theaters, “Crash” accumulated less than $55 million.
Which begs the question: Just how much money has Mr. Reese Witherspoon taken home for each of his movies – and how much money has Mrs. Ryan Phillippe earned for the family, since their marriage in 1999?
For the record, the most money Phillippe has ever earned: $2.5 million, for “Antitrust.” Yes, a movie you have never heard of, that was released in 2001, which took in a paltry $11 million.
The second largest check Phillippe has received is $2 million for “The I Inside,” an independent film released almost in secrecy in 2003.
His take for “I Know What You Did Last Summer:” $250,000. Yes, you read that correctly.
And for “Crash:” $350,000.
“I love playing Mr. Mom,” laughs Phillippe, when he is asked how he has spent most of his time during the past seven years. He enjoyed being home for much of the time, being a hands-on dad, to his two kids, seven year old daughter, Eva, (who was born three months after the marriage), and three year old son, Deacon.
That’s not to say that Reese was not and/or is not a hands-on mom. “She just can’t help being a Hollywood darling,” laughs Phillippe. “And I told her from the get go that I would support her in every decision she makes.”
The decisions Witherspoon have made include earning no less than $12 million for each of her last five movies. She actually earned $15 million for her last four films, “Walk The Line,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Vanity Fair,” and “Legally Blonde 2.” For “Sweet Home Alabama,” the movie that catapulted Witherspoon to superstardom, she earned a modest $12 million.
Phillippe, though, is happy to be back on the big screen, as a lead, after his last two critically hailed, yet supporting performances – “Crash” and “Gosford Park.”
In “Flags of Our Fathers,” which Phillippe does not reveal how much money he earned making, (nor which I could find out after a lot of snooping), Phillippe is back as a major star.
“Working with Clint Eastwood was not a dream come true. The though of Clint picking me to star in one of his films never even crossed my mind,” says Phillippe.
While “Flags of Our Fathers” has earned universal critical acclaim, the film has not been a hit with audiences. After ten days in theaters, “Flags of Our Fathers” has taken in less than $20 million.
“It may not be the right time for a war movie in America,” says a prophetic Phillippe, before the film’s release, “with the current backlash against the war in Iraq, but the film will stand the test of time because it tells such a compelling true story and is directed by a master.”
Next up for Phillippe?
Another war movie.
This time, in Kimberly Peirce’s (“Boys Don’t Cry”) next film, still untitled, he plays the lead; a soldier back home in Texas after fighting in Iraq, a soldier who refuses to return to battle despite the government mandate requiring him to do so.
And after that? “I just signed on to play Picasso [in “Picasso at the Lapine Agile”], which will be directed by ‘A Cry In The Dark’s’ Fred Schepisi, [and which is based on Steve Martin’s smash Broadway play.]