How Ryan Reynolds Still Struggles With The Loss Of His Father

Ryan Reynolds loves being a girl dad. The "Deadpool" star has his childhood to thank for that. Reynolds grew up in Vancouver, Canada, as the youngest of four boys, which made life interesting. "I mean, my brothers — the only way you'd leave a room is through a perfectly good wall," he said on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" in 2021. In many ways, Reynolds felt his house was less a home and more a disputed territory. "Growing up, all four of us were at war under our roof. Alliances were forged and broken daily," he wrote in a 2014 Time essay.

Thankfully, Reynolds's life with Blake Lively is a lot more peaceful. "For me, having three daughters has been such a ride, and I love every second of it. ... I try to be as present as possible," he told Access Hollywood in 2020, before Reynolds and Lively welcomed their fourth child in 2023. But Reynolds' upbringing was stressful in ways that went beyond his and his brothers' rivalry and roughness.

Reynolds grew up suffering from a mental health disorder. "I've had anxiety my whole life really," he told CBS News in 2022. In fact, he developed his sense of humor as a way to keep it under control. "I feel like I have two parts of my personality, that one takes over when that happens," he explained. Reynolds' anxiety was exacerbated by the complicated relationship he had with his father, which he's still trying to come to terms with today. 

Ryan Reynolds both feared and admired his father

Ryan Reynolds' father, James Reynolds, was the definition of a tough guy. "Growing up my father was — at least in our eyes — the toughest man alive: a former cop, former boxer and full-time landmine," Ryan wrote in the Time essay. "He worked tirelessly to provide for his family and in return, you were expected to do what he said, often before he said it." Living with James was akin to walking perpetually on eggshells. 

"My dad was never an easy person to be around ... You just never knew when you were gonna step on the wrong spot, and he was just going to explode," he said on the "SmartLess" podcast in 2021. Though Ryan doesn't think of his childhood as abusive, he believes his father contributed to his lifelong anxiety. "I think predicting the future is a big brick in a wall of anxiety," he described.

But Ryan also admired his old man and wanted to be admired back. "The main place I got validation for my father was I was good at sports," he said in the "Welcome To Wrexham" documentary, according to Hello! "So I played sports long past the point where I was really driven to do sports." James died in 2015, but Ryan still struggles with his need for validation. "My father has been dead for years, but that stuff doesn't really go away," he said. Despite their differences, father and son became closer in James' later years.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Ryan Reynolds named his first-born after his dad

Even though Ryan Reynolds' relationship with his father was strained for years, he rekindled it after James Reynolds was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1995. James was in perpetual denial of his diagnosis. "My father really hasn't ever said he has Parkinson's disease," Ryan told Today in 2014. "He comes from a pretty prideful generation." Despite his refusal to outwardly acknowledge it, James' diagnosis changed the family dynamics.

"It kind of galvanized everybody else, to sort of seek resources," Ryan reflected. "And for us, it's in a strange way, it's really kind of brought us together." In 2008, Ryan took part in the New York City marathon to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. "I've watched my father — a strong and proud person who successfully raised 4 arguably insane children — slowly, cruely stripped of his independence," he wrote in a HuffPost essay. "His golden years robbed without explanation."

While Ryan and James' relationship was on the road to recovery, it truly mended after Ryan married Blake Lively, who encouraged them to heal past wounds and enjoy the time they had left. "She has a gift for foresight," he told Mr. Porter in 2018. Ryan welcomed his first daughter in December 2014, just months before his father's death. He and Lively chose to name her after her grandfather. "It felt right," Ryan said. "All family relationships come with some complications. For better or worse, all roads lead to here."