Under a nearly mile-long tunnel of ancient oak trees festooned with Spanish moss, filmstars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively exchanged vows at the Boone Hall Plantation, just outside Charleston, South Carolina.
The event, choreographed by their good friend, home decor and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, celebrated Reynolds’s long-time love of Charleston and saw Lively dressed in a ‘cloudlike silk tulle gown’ by Marchesa.
The bride’s friend, British singer Florence Welch, sang three songs as the wedding guests celebrated inside a giant white marquee.
A Martha Stewart minion gushed: ‘From the heartfelt ceremony to the fun-filled carnival hour and elegant reception, it was a truly enchanting celebration.’
It might have seemed so at the time but Reynolds, who’d met Lively two years earlier on the set of the superhero film Green Lantern, would later admit it had been a ‘giant f***ing mistake’.
Power couple: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively could become Hollywood’s next billionaire couple
Newborn: Reynolds was picturing carrying who is believed to be his newborn baby on Wrexham’s turf yesterday
This somewhat unromantic reappraisal of the 2012 nuptials occurred after Reynolds posted a seemingly innocuous tweet praising Black Panther, the first superhero film featuring a largely black cast.
The tweet in 2018 prompted furious accusations of hypocrisy as critics pointed out that he and Lively had married in a cotton plantation that had been built on slavery.
It took the pair months of public grovelling, generous donations to black organisations and a decision to rerun their wedding at their country home in upstate New York before they could claw their way back into favour.
They certainly managed it. Today, it seems, the two can do no wrong.
The actors, whose extraordinary wealth accumulation has astonished observers, look set to become Hollywood’s next billionaire ‘power couple’.
While his darkly comic portrayal of the flawed superhero Deadpool in the eponymous 2016 and 2018 films made him one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, it is his off-screen ventures — not least his £2 million purchase of non-league Welsh football team Wrexham in 2021 — that have attracted increasing attention.
Earlier this month, the investment that Reynolds, 46, had made in Mint Mobile, a budget phone business, earned him £245 million when communications giant T-Mobile announced it was buying the company for more than £1 billion.
Given the couple — who have four young children — were previously estimated to be worth £147 million, this means they almost doubled their fortune overnight from a single investment.
Good deal: In 2020, Reynolds made millions when Aviation American Gin, an artisanal spirits company he co-owned and for which he was the public face, was snapped up by British drinks giant Diageo in a deal that involved an upfront payment of £272 million but could ultimately be worth £495 million
And there are many more of those by the actor-businessman with the golden touch.
While no one is quite expecting Wrexham AFC (currently in the fifth tier of English football) to become a billion-pound Premier League outfit just yet, entrepreneurial Reynolds has an impressive track record in putting his fame to commercial use.
In 2020, he made millions when Aviation American Gin, an artisanal spirits company he co-owned and for which he was the public face, was snapped up by British drinks giant Diageo in a deal that involved an upfront payment of £272 million but could ultimately be worth £495 million.
Reynolds, who was believed to have owned 20 to 25 per cent of the company, remains involved in the business.
The Canadian-born star’s self-deprecating persona — he freely admits he’s the first to laugh at himself — hides a sharp business mind (he says he ‘loves’ marketing) and tireless work ethic that astonishes even close friends. When he took over Wrexham, he learnt to speak some Welsh.
A master of social media, especially when it comes to plugging his films and products, Reynolds boasts 48 million followers on Instagram and 21 million on Twitter. A business magazine credited the actor’s pithy videos with creating a ‘deafening online buzz’.
He also runs a film production company and marketing agency, sits on the board of the Match Group — the company behind dating apps Tinder and Hinge — and has multi-million-dollar investments in companies that produce computer-password software and wealth-management services.
Last year, he bought a stake in sports channel FuboTV, for which he will soon start producing programmes. He’s even interested in buying his own major league ice hockey team, the Ottawa Senators, when he can find a sufficiently deep-pocketed partner.
Family time: Lively, 35, was pictured with Reynolds, 46, James, eight, Betty, six, and Inez, three, at Wrexham’s Racecourse ground. In Ryan’s arms is a baby who is believed to be their fourth child
Off-beat and unpredictable, he insists he invests only in ventures that interest him. And he’s certainly no absentee proprietor at Wrexham (which he bought with fellow actor Rob McElhenney, known in America for his role in comedy series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia).
The star enjoys giving his players pep talks in the dressing room and admits that he’s become so obsessed with the club’s fortunes that, ‘each match, I’m pacing around like a caged lion’.
Last year, even Gossip Girl star Lively donned a Wrexham scarf and cheered on her husband’s team at a match at Wembley.
Hollywood celebrity and branding expert Stacy Jones told the Mail that any venture is lucky to have Reynolds on board. ‘Everyone loves him,’ she says. He’s not only a “massive star” on social media but he produces the sort of edgy, sarcastic, cross-generational and ‘almost British’ humour that American marketing folk find hard to replicate. He also doesn’t take himself very seriously, notes Jones, as opposed to ‘most people in Hollywood’.
He’s found a suitable partner in Blake Lively, who has also shown an entrepreneurial side, launching Betty Buzz, a range of non-alcoholic sparkling drinks (Lively is teetotal). The actress is also a ‘brand ambassador’ for luxury names including Chanel, L’Oreal and Stella McCartney.
The pair ‘are becoming a little bit like American royalty,’ adds Jones. They were both in relationships when they met 13 years ago, Liveley was dating her co-star, Penn Badgley, in the high-school drama series Gossip Girl, while Reynolds was married to actress Scarlett Johansson.
Although Reynolds insisted that they were only ‘friends and buddies’ during filming of Green Lantern, they kept in touch and, 18 months later, were reunited on a ‘double date’ after they’d both become single.
They then found themselves taking the same train to Boston. Their romance progressed ‘like a fairy tale’, said Reynolds. ‘A week later I was like: “We should buy a house together.” And we did.’
Reynolds has credited Lively’s empathy in helping to patch up his fractured relationship with his father, James, before the latter’s death in 2015.
The couple spend most of their time at their 4,753 sq ft, seven-bedroom, £4 million mansion, which they bought in 2012 in the celebrity-packed town of Bedford, New York state, an hour’s drive from Manhattan.
Neighbours include Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis and Matt Damon. Their celebrity pals number singer Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman, Emily Blunt and her husband John Krasinski.
They have three daughters —James, eight, Inez, six, and Betty, three — as well as a baby born in February, and the couple are clearly determined to raise their family far from Hollywood. Lively, who at 35 is 11 years younger than her husband, is a Tinseltown insider, the cheerleader daughter of an LA actor and a talent scout, whose career took off after she starred in the 2005 comedy-drama The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, and then played Manhattan ‘It Girl’ Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl from 2007 to 2012. She reportedly earned about £40,000 for every episode over the six seasons.
Reynolds’s rise to film stardom was slower. The youngest of four boys, he grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his mother was a retail saleswoman and his father a Canadian Mountie. Two of his three elder brothers followed their father into the police and Reynolds jokes that, when he wasn’t handcuffed to the fridge by his boisterous siblings, he used to defuse tension in the testosterone-heavy household by making everyone laugh. (He has admitted that his father could be ‘tough on us’ and that he still suffers from the anxiety that developed during childhood.)
Reynolds got his first break in soap operas in the 1990s but, exploiting an easy charm and sense of humour that classically handsome male actors sometimes lack, moved into comedy.
By 2009, he was starring alongside Sandra Bullock in the hit romantic comedy The Proposal.
However, the dismal box office failure of his 2011 superhero movie Green Lantern (in which he played the title role) convinced him that he shouldn’t just content himself with starring in other people’s movies.
Royal: King Charles III speaking with co-owner of Wrexham AFC Reynolds during a visit to Wrexham Association Football Club (AFC) on December 9, 2022
He’d been working on turning Deadpool, a character from Marvel comics, into a film since 2004 and ended up co-writing it with two colleagues. He has claimed the trio rewrote the script some 600 times over 11 years as they veered between making it child-friendly and adult-only.
Hollywood bosses were reluctant to make a film in which an irreverent anti-hero cruelly mocked their precious comic-book superheroes. But, when a few minutes of Deadpool test footage was leaked online and became an instant smash hit, the movie finally got the go-ahead.
Stunts to promote the film included Reynolds posing as Deadpool on a bearskin rug, copying Burt Reynolds’s famous nude Cosmopolitan centrefold in 1972, and handing out tacos, the character’s favourite food, from a truck at the Superbowl.
The first Deadpool film (released in 2016) was a massive hit, earning more than £640 million worldwide and propelling Reynolds into the category of actors earning at least $20 million (£16 million) per movie.
Deadpool and its 2018 sequel — which may have earned Reynolds even more after he secured a share of the profits — are the most successful R-rated (Restricted) films of all time.
The arrival of online streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon further boosted his earnings as they have other big stars — Reynolds reportedly earned £39.5 million for two Netflix projects — playing a billionaire in the 2019 vigilante action thriller Six Underground and the 2021 action comedy Red Notice.
Spirited, a 2022 musical comedy retelling of A Christmas Carol co-starring Will Ferrell, put another £16 million in the Reynolds piggy bank, confirming him as one of the dozen highest paid actors. (He spent eight months training at a song-and-dance camp in preparation.)
No bump: Blake revealed on Instagram that she had welcomed her fourth child with Ryan as she posed with the actor and his mother no longer having a baby bump
While Tom Cruise, Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt earn more per movie, Reynolds has boosted his film takings by launching his own production company, Maximum Effort, in 2018.
One of its first films, the 2021 action comedy Free Guy, in which he starred alongside British actress Jody Comer, made £270 million at the box office.
Other actors turn their nose up at commerce. Indeed, for years Hollywood stars made adverts only if they weren’t shown outside Asia, but Reynolds has embraced it.
That could have put a lot of fans off him if he wasn’t so clever — and funny. He invariably appears in his company’s cheeky and spoofy advertisements.
He also helps to write them, dreaming up a 2019 ad for Aviation rushed out after exercise-bike maker Peloton was accused of ‘sexism’ for a commercial in which a man gives a bike to his wife.
Reynolds’s Aviation Gin riposte, written, cast and filmed in 48 hours, featured the same woman, this time toasting ‘new beginnings’ with her girlfriends.
In late 2021, however, Reynolds came not to mock Peloton but to rescue it after the Sex And The City sequel And Just Like That featured the character Big dying while exercising on one of the contraptions.
As Peloton shares plunged, Reynolds’s company devised an advert featuring Chris Noth, the actor who played Big.
Reynolds supplied the voiceover, explaining the health benefits of cycling and pointing out that Noth remained very much alive, despite his character’s demise.
Peloton managed to pedal on.
Clearly, many crave association with Reynolds even when he’s sending them up.
After mocking David Beckham’s squeaky voice in the first Deadpool, he still managed to persuade the ex-England footballer to appear in a short but funny film to promote the sequel.
Just as long as he stays away from slave plantations, the Mountie’s son seems to be unstoppable.