Sandra Bullock's ''Proposal'' co-star has the looks and charm to keep your summer scorching hot

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated June 19, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ryan Reynolds is simply too smart and self-aware to be so good-looking. The reticent hunk — who kicks off our Must List for 2009, thanks to his big-screen summer double shot of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Proposal — spent his EW cover shoot wielding a giant water gun instead of an ego, and try as he might, he simply cannot muster the arrogance to flaunt what he’s got. When asked if he’s comfortable as a sex symbol, Reynolds sighs. ”If you take any of that seriously, you need to be euthanized, ASAP,” he says. ”There are moments when you can use that to your advantage. But it’s really embarrassing. I think I fear more than anything just sounding like a complete a — hole when I have to answer that question.”

So let’s skip to the work, where the 32-year-old Canadian is more at home. Of late, he’s certainly done enough of it. In a span of 15 months Reynolds shot four consecutive films: April’s teen comedy Adventureland; Wolverine, soon to spawn a spin-off for Reynolds’ sarcastic mercenary-turned-mutant, Deadpool; The Proposal, a romantic comedy (in theaters now) that lets him crack wise opposite old friend Sandra Bullock; and Paper Man, which debuted this month at the L.A. Film Festival, where Reynolds plays Jeff Daniels’ imaginary superhero friend. (He also found time last September to wed actress Scarlett Johansson, a marriage he prefers not to talk about beyond calling it ”fantastic.”)

The more prominent of his two tights-centric roles fit the actor perfectly, and it’s hardly an accident: For the past six years, Reynolds had been trying to develop a Deadpool franchise on his own. ”At its core, this is a movie about a guy in a red spandex suit who’s in the midst of a shame spiral. That cracks me up,” he says, promising the next film will hew closer to the original Marvel mythology than Wolverine allowed. Meanwhile, in The Proposal, Reynolds dials down the bang-bang and dials up the charm, playing the assistant to a hard-driving book editor with an expired visa (Bullock). The two trade a sham marriage for a promotion, and high jinks ensue. A much-discussed naked Bullock scene aside (for more on that, see page 54), the real draw of the movie is a chance to see its charismatic stars go head-to-head. ”We had a kind of Abbott and Costello routine we’d been doing for years anyway,” says Reynolds of the natural partnership. ”When I get someone like Sandy to work with — who’s so good at hitting the gas — it’s perfect for me.”

But even if the cross-gender appeal of this summer’s labor vaults Reynolds into the marquee stratosphere many have long anticipated he’ll reach, the Man Who Was Van Wilder But Has Since Proven He’s Capable of So Much More will still probably pass on the arrogance thing. ”I’ve always just liked working. I like being a working actor,” he says. ”There’s an old saying that you don’t ever finish a movie, you abandon it, and I really believe that. I never walk away from a take and pat myself on the back. You always walk away going, ‘Dammit, I should have tried this!’ It’s that possibility that keeps me coming back for more.” Wait, artistic integrity and hot abs? Did we mention the guy’s a Must?

1. Being There
”I love Peter Sellers, and his performance in that is one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen in my life.”

2. Intervention
”The first season or two is all about alcoholics and heroin addicts, but then as the seasons progress, they feel the need to sensationalize it a bit, to step it up a notch. So by season 5 you get to people who are chemically unable to experience joy unless they’re smoking a cat, or something equally disturbing. I love it. Real schadenfreude stuff.”

3. The Be Good Tanyas
”It’s definitely a little more folksy than I tend to go, typically, but they’re also singing things that relate directly to where I grew up in Vancouver, and I like that.”

4. The Tale of the Unknown Island, by José Saramago
”At the end there’s an I-can’t-believe-it reaction. And maybe you have something in your eye. And perhaps there is a tear coming down your cheek.”

5. N/A
”I don’t really play videogames. Is there a way to waste more f—ing time? The Internet’s enough. The last videogame I played was Ms. Pacman.”

6. The Huffington Post
”There’s a great green section, and they have all these links to my other favorite website, which has an unfortunate name but I do like it: I wish it wasn’t called that. I’m not a tree hugger, but I would like there to be something left besides a black charred vapor for my grandkids.”

7. The Kindle
”It’s sort of sad. I feel like it represents the death of the printed word, in a way. But I travel all the time, so I can carry 10, 12 books on one tiny thing that has the depth of a credit card.”

8. Jon & Kate Plus Eight
”I find that whole situation to be horrible and awful. Every time I see the headlines, I begin an inner hurricane of throwing up. I wanna see Jon & Kate Plus Eight, the Musical. Jon versus Kate. I wanna see four kids on one side, and four kids on the other, snapping menacingly to music as they walk toward one another.”