Editor’s note: Ryan Phillippe’s cover story ran in the June 2017 issue of Men’s Fitness.
Portraying an elite ex-Marine assassin on USA Network’s Shooter, Ryan Phillippe likes to perform his own stunts whenever possible, training in Muay Thai kickboxing and close-quarters combat, even learning to take out a target sixth-eighths of a mile away with a single-bolt sniper rifle.
But when it came to branching outside the TV and movie realm with Become, a tech startup he’s been developing for the past two years that’s set to launch this summer, the ridiculously ripped 42-year-old actor explains his inspiration—call it his “there should be an app for that” moment—as a consequence of persistent questions about his hardcore commitment to fitness.
“Whether I’m doing a movie or TV show or not, I’ve worked out five days a week, 11⁄2 hours a day, for the past 20 years,” says Phillippe, who received his black belt in taekwondo at age 11. “And I always get asked: How do you look so young? How do you stay in shape? What [supplements] do you take? What do you eat?”
The Delaware native’s mobile-based subscription service aims to arm users with health and workout intel curated by him and a group of similarly fit influencers and athletes, providing unique access not only to their dietary supplements and gym workouts but also to their grocery lists and meal plans, all in an effort to help men become better, fitter, more well-adjusted versions of themselves.
“I and others like me have worked with some of the best trainers, nutritionists, and doctors,” Phillippe explains. “We’re going to take all that work away for our users—men over 40 who want to stay fit and look young. The Become app will cut through and simplify.”
Even with a perennial fitness regimen, Phillippe, who has a “dietary weakness” for fried chicken and french fries, confesses to the downsides of working out. “I’m not a huge fan of lunges,” he says. “And there are days when the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. Maybe I’m a little hungover. Maybe there’s something bad going on. Or bad news. In the end, I find that those workouts, when I do push myself on the days I don’t want to go, are the most effective workouts.”
A showbiz journeyman with more than 30 film roles to his credit, Phillippe cut through in Hollywood at 17 with a role as daytime television’s first openly gay teenager on the soap opera One Life to Live. He went on to deliver star turns in some of the most epochal movies of the late ’90s, like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions, and playing a small but pivotal part in the Oscar-winning ensemble drama Crash.
But his onscreen achievements were at times overshadowed by tabloid scrutiny of his seven-year marriage to Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, with whom he has two children: Ava, 17, and Deacon, 13. The actor, who’s battled long-term depression, admits he was “in a really dark place” after their 2006 divorce. And last fall he split from fiancée Paulina Slagter after five years.
Nonetheless, Phillippe’s three children (he also has a 5-year-old daughter, Kailani, with former girlfriend Alexis Knapp) have largely defined his career by focusing his priorities around dad duties and keeping him close to home. “I can’t tell you the number of jobs I’ve turned down because I didn’t want to go over to Bulgaria or Australia for three months,” he says. “I turned down Shooter a couple of times because they wanted to make it in Vancouver, and I’m like, ‘I’m not going away.’ So they eventually agreed to shoot it right outside of L.A.” The star adds: “Maybe I could’ve been bigger in films at a certain stage. I took the long view that I’m going to dedicate myself to being a dad as much as I possibly can during this period and sacrifice potential paychecks or whatever. Because I can still have a flourishing career over 40.”
With a second season of Shooter set to kick off July 18; the supernatural horror flick Wish Upon, in which he has a supporting role, opening July 14; a kids’ film, Freak of Nature, that he plans to write and direct; and a second app in the offing, Phillippe is busier than ever.
With a multi-hyphenate career that’s picking up new steam comes a certain hard-won self-acceptance. “I’m not nearly as self-serious or concerned with perceptions as I was earlier in my youth—those are things that come with age,” he says. “You’re not trying to be what other people want you to be.
“I’m trying to improve every day—to be a better father, a better man, a better actor, a better human being. But I’m also realizing I can do that on my own terms. I can be defined by what I value rather than by society—or whatever the Internet imposes on you.”