Twenty years ago when I first interviewed Ryan Phillippe, he made a bold statement.
When asked if he was ready to displace Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as a teenage heartthrob, he shot back: “I would never validate anything said about me that I wouldn’t say about myself. I would never refer to myself as hot, or up and coming. It doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. You might be tempted to buy into it, but believe me I choose not to.”
What does being a movie star mean to him? I asked him then.
“The term movie star doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning in my life. I like actor better.
“I don’t even want to be part of a specific group. Right now, people in the entertainment industry seem to follow trends. I want to stay away from those. I’m not interested in becoming rich and famous. If it happens, I’ll feel fortunate and appreciative, but without sounding corny, acting is all that sustains me,” he said.
Coming from a close knit non-showbiz family – he has three sisters – I wondered, how did he get into acting?
“I was getting a haircut, and someone suggested I go into acting. They recommended this agency. I went there with my mother. Nothing much happened until I moved to New York when I was 17 and started doing some off Broadway theatre.
“Then I got a part on a soap which I did for about six months. I ended up going to LA for a mini-series. I stayed out there, kind of bounced around, and starved a little bit. I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have friends. Two years later, Ridley Scott cast me in Big Squall.”
Apart from acting, it was his marriage to Reese Witherspoon that made headlines as well.
They were married for eight years before calling it quits in 2007. The couple shares custody of their two children – Ava, 17 and Deacon, 13.
How do you share that responsibility?
When you are divorced, it’s interesting. During my time with them, I become both mother and father, and both disciplinarian and playmate. And I think it’s probably the same for her.
Fortunately our kids are socially adjusted. They have lots of friends. They do great in school. They’re happy. They’re healthy, and that’s all that matters.
What is the hardest part of being a dad?
The hardest part for me is not having them with me when I’m away on location. And as I get older and they get older, that’s becoming more and more of a problem, which is why I’ve been acting less these past few years. I just don’t want to miss out on the time I still have with them before they go to college. So there are a lot of jobs I get offered and series and things which I have had to say no to.
You’re 42 this year, yet physically you haven’t changed. What’s your secret?
There’s no great story behind this, other than taking care of myself. I firmly believe if you eat right and exercise, it makes ageing less disturbing and depressing.
I have had mood issues throughout my life, so exercise and meditation have become very important to me.
But mainly it’s just genetics; my mum still looks really young for her age, she doesn’t have any grey hairs and that’s got to be a part of it.
But to be honest, I’ve done a lot of research on anti-ageing, I’m familiar with the use of supplements, it’s been an interest of mine for quite some time. Why not? Who wants to age fast? I still get carded sometimes when I’m in a bar.
I have a daughter in college. And that’s the other weird part; sometimes people think I am her brother, and she hates that, it really creeps her out.
Do you have dating rules for her?
We have strong rules but luckily she hasn’t pushed any of them. I feel we raised really solid kids who are going to make good decisions. Because we have laid the right foundation, I don’t have a lot of fear about them dating. I don’t worry about the choices they will make. I think they are going to be great people.
Do the two of you discuss boyfriends?
She gets a little bashful if we start talking about boys. That’s something that she’s not completely comfortable with. But me having only sisters has prepared me as a father of a daughter. Seeing them mature and go through those changes, the training bra, their first period, I’ve dealt with that stuff before.
Both Reese and I have an incredibly open dialogue with our kids. And you just want to keep that going as they mature. Ava is the most incredible young lady. I know everyone thinks and feels that way about their kids, but she’s got such a moral centre. She’s conscientious. She cares about the world outside. She knows how fortunate she is. She’s not spoiled at all. Neither of them.
I’m amazed that these two incredible little human beings came from at least half of me. It’s shocking to me. I’m so proud and amazed at the cool little people they are.
You want your kids to grow up to be people that you’d want to hang out with, people that make you think. My kids inspire me every day.
Are you on equally good terms with Reese?
Yeah, very much.
Can you talk a bit about the app you’re developing?
It’s called Become, it’s a fitness app, and it allows you to follow the regimen of whichever celebrity or athlete you choose, whose body type you wish to aspire to.
We give you their programme. You get access to their workouts, to their grocery lists, to literally what they’re eating on a daily basis to the point where you can click through to third party apps to get that meal delivered directly to you.
Each month you’ll get a box with the supplements and protein powders and skincare products which that celebrity uses delivered to your house. You’ll see what workouts your celebrity or your athlete is doing on a daily basis. You have access to all that information.