Ryan Phillippe on fiancée, raising his kids with Reese Witherspoon
LOS ANGELES—“We haven’t created little monsters,” Ryan Phillippe said with a laugh but with obvious pride about coraising with his ex-wife, Reese Witherspoon, their two kids—Ava and Deacon, 12 and 16, respectively.
In our recent talk, Ryan also talked about his fiancée, Paulina Slagter, a student who plans to be a lawyer for civil and human rights, causes that are close to his heart. The actor, 41, explained that it’s good for their relationship that the Stanford law student, 25, is not in entertainment.
Ryan also sounded enthusiastic about a new development in his career: “Shooter,” a USA Network series which he stars in and coproduces with Mark Wahlberg. Set to debut this month, “Shooter” is based on Stephen Hunter’s novel series centering on a sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, who is framed for murder.
Mark starred as Bob in a 2007 film adaptation, also titled “Shooter,” of one of the books in the series, “Point of Impact.”
Excerpts from out chat:
Is this a cool time in your life? You are engaged to someone who is not in entertainment.
Yeah, it is a great time in my life. What it does is that it makes for a healthier relationship. Sometimes, when you are in the same industry, there’s a feeling of never being able to escape it. I like the fact that my lady doesn’t care too much about film and television, and she has a lot of other interests.
Entertainment is [just] one part of my life—I’m also a parent, and I have multiple businesses.
What Paulina is planning on doing for a living is to be a lawyer for civil and human rights—causes that I’ve always championed and continue to champion.
We will be able to work together in that regard.
What have you learned from your kids? How have they made you grow?
Well, they’re beginning to make me gray. I have a 16-year-old daughter. Everyone knows what that is like. She is awesome, anyway. That is why I wanted to edge into this action hero territory, so I could scare the teenage boys away.
I learn from my kids. I hope that they’re learning from me, as well. There is that give-and- take that happens as you age along with your kids. I was 24 when I had my daughter. I am 41 now. That is a long period of time to develop and evolve.
There have always been challenges for parents with each generation and change in technology. Now, it has gotten even trickier with social media. That’s something that we’re learning to navigate.
You cannot spend all the time thinking about yourself. You have to focus on these two children who depend on you. It keeps me balanced.
How is your interaction with the kids?
If you put the proper work in when they’re young and you’re consistent about that, then you have less to worry about when they get to be teenagers. That is what I’m proud of for both Reese and me—the work we have done as coparents. We have made two great people who aren’t spoiled and have varied interests that aren’t just tied to Hollywood.
Because of the dedication that was required to instill those things in them, I feel like we have less to worry about now as they go into their teenage years. We haven’t created little monsters (laughs). Bad parenting comes back to bite you because you have not given them the tools to handle themselves as they age.
With Ava, our primary connection is through art. We spend a lot of time going to museums and studying art together. She got interested in clay dolls and sculpting.
I was always into drawing and painting, and so is she. So that’s something we can spend time doing together. When you get to be 16 or 17 years old, hanging out with dad isn’t your top priority. Having special activities that we can do together keeps us close.
Are you getting a break from the paparazzi now? You must be enjoying these quieter times.
Yes, I am. They are still around here and there. It has calmed down for everyone to some degree because there isn’t as much money in it anymore, with the proliferation of blogs and with the magazine industry taking a hit. The stakes aren’t as high because the money isn’t as good. I find myself a lot less aggravated and feeling like an animal.
Why did you get into the restaurant business? Do you love to cook at home?
I do cook. My kids do think I’m good at it. But it has less to do with that and more of an interest in the service industry in general.
My interest has to do with my having traveled for work very early on, spending time in hotels and getting to evaluate restaurants all over the world in a way that a lot of young people don’t get to.
That’s what I have already done to an extent as an actor. It’s difficult to succeed as an actor, and it’s also difficult to make a restaurant or an app (he launched Deedle, an app, in 2015) succeed. I like it when the odds are against me and to have something work out.
What is the name of the restaurant?
There’s one that I am involved with called Craig’s that is doing very well. I’m also involved with a restaurant that is being built in New York, but we’re keeping it under wraps at this point. And I’m opening a lounge in Miami in winter.
What do you cook best?
I make this spicy Jamaican chicken with rice that my kids like.
What are the qualities that make a good sniper? Did you have to go through special training?
I did … and over the course of my career. I have had lots of experiences with an assortment of guns but never the sniper rifle. The technique to use that effectively is very specific.
Snipers have a lot of what I don’t, which is patience. The act of firing the sniper rifle at a great distance requires this sort of Zen focus, being able to stay in one spot for days at a time, waiting for the target.
We have a great technical advisor, Steve Seapker, a Marine sniper. I did a lot of my training with him.
What I was most surprised by is how essential rhythmic and consistent breathing is to hitting the target. My proudest moment of training was hitting a steel target at 900 yards on my second try. It’s interesting to discover that I did actually possess that patience and focus.
I’ve never been into guns. I don’t own any myself but I did enjoy that challenge and to see how easy it was to make mistakes.
Are you committed to this series, which may go on for years?
This is the first time I am signed on for multiple seasons. One of the reasons why Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson wanted to resurrect this character (for TV) is that there are several books written about him.
So the movie that Mark did only touched on one book. For brevity’s sake, they couldn’t delve into the intricacies and complexities that we get to explore in this first season.
It’s one of my favorite jobs. It’s awesome for me to be able to shoot it in LA and be a producer so I can help shape the story. Before I get too old, I like doing all this action (laughs). You can’t jump off buildings and roll down mountains forever.
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