By Keisha Hatchett
March 23, 2015 at 10:12 PM EDT
Dominique Charriau/WireImage

After years of speculation and the keyboard-smashing test footage that leaked in 2014, the long-awaited Deadpool movie is finally coming to fruition. Production has already begun in Vancouver. But before he steps into the gory shoes of the self-proclaimed “merc with a mouth,” Ryan Reynolds stars as a passionate lawyer in Woman in Gold, which arrives in theaters April 1.

The movie follows the true story of Maria Altmann [Helen Mirren], a Jewish refugee who takes on the Austrian government to reclaim family-owned artwork stolen by Nazis during World War II. Check out the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.

Reynolds spoke to EW Saturday about the legendary Helen Mirren, Randol Schoenberg’s unrelenting strength as Altmann’s attorney, and why he finds today’s generation of Germans so fascinating. (Side note: We also talk a little bit about Deadpool.)

EW: Were you star struck by Helen Mirren?

RYAN REYNOLDS: I still am. Yeah. I mean, she’s a living, breathing, cussing legend. She’s the best. Everyone that orbits her atmosphere is a little breathless. 

You play her attorney, Randol Schoenberg. Did you get to meet him?

Yeah, he’s fantastic. His original book is kind of what kicked this whole thing off. He’s been a great supporter of the film and the story. Everything he benefited from, in terms of the commission, getting this painting back, he’s pumped into the community in such a beautiful, wonderful way. He was really interesting to talk to about how harrowing that whole procedure was and how much of it required faith because he was just—any normal mortal would have walked away from that early early on. Especially when your own law firm tells you just either “get with the program or get out.” Most people would have quit and it’s his tenacity, something that I thought was really interesting because he’s like a quiet lion. He’s an incredible person. 

This film boasts an incredible cast that includes Daniel Brühl and Tatiana Maslany. What were your impressions?

Daniel Brühl, it’s great working with him and also just sort of understanding—it was a different culture, it’s a different culture. I’ve been to Germany so many times in my life, but I’ve never really been that close to another German [like Brühl] who, in some ways, chaperoned me through the culture. That was really cool, to kind of understand what World War II still means in Germany today. And Tatiana [Maslany] is incredible, my fellow Canadian girl. So talented, so smart, so beautiful. And Helen [Mirren] was obviously Helen Mirren—no slouch right there. 

I don’t think a lot of us really understand how much Germany has changed since World War II. From your perspective, coming into that, is there still this cloud looming over?

It’s one of the biggest, most hot-button subjects you can talk about there, still. I mean, it’s still resonant today. So many of the things that were being fought for then are still being fought for now, and I get why we have so many World War II historians still obsessed with it. I’m fascinated by the generation now, today’s generation, and how they are carrying this torch and carrying this burden. So much darkness to it, must be an interesting day-to-day experience.

And then working on a more serious film like this, how do you keep the mood light?

Well there’s a lot of love. The thing with Helen’s character and my character is that there’s a bit of a love story. There was always a lightness and flirtation to it which is was what made it really fun on set. I always find that the mood is much lighter on a drama than it is on a comedy. Comedies are light on the screen, heavier off screen.

In 2005, you talked about your interest in making a Deadpool movie. Now that it’s actually happening, is it like a wish fulfillment?

Yeah, it is a bit of wish fulfillment. I do feel like I flipped a coin in the exact right fountain at some point, but I’m excited. It’s been an incredible year. Actually, we’re just at the beginning of our first week so I’m not even into [it] yet fully. 

What’s the most exciting thing about playing him?

It’s just how unusual he is. You understand why there was trepidation to make the movie early on? Because it’s a really difficult character to put up on the screen for the studio. He’s a character that’s aware he’s in a film, he’s aware that he breaks the fourth wall. I mean, he does certain things that are unlike anything else in the X-Men Universe yet he is a part of the X-Men Universe. So it makes it a little challenging, I think, to find a way. He’s so popular—the comic book alone [is] one of the most popular selling comic books of all time so it’s exiting to be here shooting it. We don’t have the budget that most X-Men movies do. In the super hero world, this would be considered an independent film. 

And there’s the debate on whether it’s gonna be rated PG-13 or R because of how gory it is.

That debate rages on. We’ll see. 

Throughout your career, you’ve done comedy, drama and action. Is there something that you want to explore that you haven’t?

No, not really. I’ve been lucky to have a career where I was able to kind of work in different genres, in different time periods, all sorts of things—so I don’t know. I look at people like Helen Mirren, who are doing it. She’s in her 60s and she’s still nervous on the first day. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things I think I’d ever heard. When I was filming with her and when we started, it was that. That never goes away and I’m glad that never goes away. You always hope you’re gonna feel extremely challenged and stimulated that way. We’re really lucky to do this job. It’s a rare air we breathe because I know that 99 percent of actors out there are out of work, so you just try to be happy about working one day.