Ryan’s third and most recent tattoo by Cartoon, a phoenix on his forearm, signifies a rebirth. It sums up his life of late: He feels optimistic. He’s in a good place. And he’s been trying new things, like sitting front row at Calvin Klein’s recent Fashion Week show, and, well, starring in big-budget comedies. “Now that I’m getting older, I’m a little more open. I used to be like, ‘Fuck going to a fashion show—it’s superficial.’ But now I have a different appreciation for it. Plus, there are business decisions you have to make in my industry. You need to be relevant, because otherwise you will be forgotten. I’m not seen as that guy who opens a movie. So I’m a lot more open to doing types of movies I wouldn’t do in the past. Like, if I’m not known as a commodity, to some extent I won’t get to make the films I want to make.”
Even though he’s made two dozen movies and worked with some of the best directors in the business, including Robert Altman, Kimberly Peirce, and Clint Eastwood?
“It doesn’t matter,” he says. “It’s out the window. It’s a very strange thing, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I used to model my career after a guy like Sean Penn, and those careers don’t exist so much anymore.”
As he gathers more life experiences and his career continues to evolve, Ryan says he will continue to get tattoos to chronicle his journey. He wants to finish the 9/9/99 on his shoulder (it commemorates his daughter’s birthday), and eventually he might turn his left arm into a full sleeve. “Tattoos are like a map to your life,” he says. “Permanence is bravery. So many things in our lives aren’t permanent. Nothing lasts forever.”