Ryan Phillippe: Cool Intentions

Now flexing his comedy muscles in MacGruber, Phillippe gives us his gayest look — Leno be damned — at his own life and livelihood.

BY Brandon Voss

May 12 2010 5:00 AM ET

Since portraying television’s first gay teen on the daytime soap One Life to Live in 1992, Ryan Phillippe has displayed as much talent as toned torso in movies including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, and Stop-Loss. The single father of two now flexes his comedy muscles as Lt. Dixon Piper in MacGruber, an ’80s action flick spoof based on the popular Saturday Night Live sketch, which explodes into theaters May 21. Phillippe, who played bisexual in Gosford Park and the director’s cut of 54, gives us his gayest look — Leno be damned — at his own life and livelihood.

The Advocate: It blows my mind that you’re 35.
Ryan Phillippe: I know. Me too, dude. It really blows my mind that I have a 10-year-old daughter, because a lot of times I still feel like a child myself.

What’s your secret to eternal youthfulness?
People always ask if I’ve made a deal with the devil, but no, not to my knowledge. I’m health-conscious in a lot of ways, but I do drink and have fun. I guess exercise is a huge part of it, and I do a lot of saunas and steams.

Yes, the paparazzi often catches you jogging or hiking—and usually without a shirt. Do you have an exhibitionist streak?
I don’t think so. That’s really a comfort factor, and I also love getting sun. One of the few situations where no one wants to be photographed is when you’re working out, because you’re not at your most attractive when you’re all red, sweaty, and out of breath. That aspect of celebrity is very strange because I’m just a guy out trying to go for a run.

Maybe you should just let yourself go.
I won’t always be as extreme as I am now, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully let myself go—unless it’s for a part. Feeling strong and healthy is important to me in terms of my relationship with my kids and with myself. Being active and relieving stress in the gym is a very important part of my mindset. I also find that it fights depression.

You frequently appear shirtless in your films. Do you ever feel sexually objectified?
Maybe earlier in my career, like when I did 54 and felt like I was naked the whole time. But I’m at the stage in my career where I have more control. If it doesn’t make sense to me, now I won’t do something that I would’ve just gone along with before.

Your shower scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer was also pretty gratuitous.
Completely, yeah, but I see that for what it is now. You have to get comfortable with it and realize that sexuality and finding actors attractive are a big part of the entertainment industry.

I guess that’s why White Squall looked like The Perfect Storm meets an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. Did you know how homoerotic it was while you were shooting?
[Laughs] Not at all, but I can see that now. I was only 19, so my sense of those things wasn’t that evolved yet. But it’s about a bunch of boys on a boat in the Caribbean, so being half-naked seemed somewhat organic to the story.

It’s no secret that filmmaker Mark Christopher clashed with Miramax over the final editing of 54. At Outfest 2008 he held a secret screening of his director’s cut, which featured 45 minutes of unseen footage that explored your character’s bisexuality and included your kiss with costar Breckin Meyer. Do you wish the studio had honored Mark’s original vision?
I absolutely do. I understand the reasoning from a business standpoint, but artistically I’m against the changes that were made because I feel like there was a better movie there to begin with. We thought we were making something like Boogie Nights because it was about a time of complete sexual abandon, but the studio watered it down. They had Mike Myers from Austin Powers and Neve Campbell from Scream, so they felt they could make a mall movie out of material that was a lot more edgy and honest. I did hear about that secret screening. I don’t know how big of an appetite there is for it, but I would certainly support a DVD release of that version. Breckin and I were a bit sad that nobody got to see us kiss.

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