Childhood & Early Life
Matthew Ryan Phillippe was born on September 10, 1974, in New Castle, Delaware, the United States, to Susan, who ran a day care center in their house, and Richard Phillippe, a chemical technician. He has three sisters.
He attended the local Baptist Academy and was a good basketball and soccer player. He also took keen interest in Taekwondo and has a black belt in the martial art. He graduated from New Castle Christian Academy in Wilmington, Delaware.
When he was 15, he became determined to take up acting as a career. Luckily, a casting agent discovered him when he had gone to a barbershop in Delaware. He took Ryan to New York, where he started giving auditions. However, when his luck didn’t favor him, he took up a modeling job.
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After moving to New York, Ryan Phillippe signed with Cathy Parker Management in New Jersey, and in 1992, he got a role in the soap opera ‘One Life to Live.’ He played the role of Billy Douglas, the first gay teenager in a soap opera.
After his stint in the show ended, he moved to Los Angeles and was seen in a number of small roles in different television series like ‘Matlock’, ‘Due South’, and ‘The Secrets of Lake Success’. He was also featured in the film ‘Crimson Tide’ in 1995 and ‘White Squall’ in 1996.
In 1997, he was cast in the horror film ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. The success of the film opened up new opportunities for him and led him to high-profile film offers like the drama film ‘54’ in 1998. He starred opposite Neve Campbell, Salma Hayek, and Mike Myers, and the flick reaffirmed his status as a male sex symbol.
He was cast in ‘Cruel Intentions’ (1999), a modern version of the novel ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ by Choderlos de Laclos. It was the only film in which his future wife Reese Witherspoon was his co-star. The film was a hit among the teenagers.
In 2000, he was featured in the film ‘The Way of the Gun’, a crime thriller written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. He co-starred with Benicio del Toro. However, the film was a commercial disappointment, and critically, it received mixed reviews.
He appeared as a software engineer in the 2001 thriller film ‘Antitrust’, directed by Peter Howitt. The film received negative reviews, but it earned the Golden Goblet for Best Feature Film and Best Director.
Robert Altman's ‘Gosford Park’, starring Ryan Phillippe, was also released in 2001. In the same year, he took a break from doing major roles. In the next few years, he did some supporting roles in movies, such as the 2002 film ‘Igby Goes Down’ and ‘Crash’ in 2004. His 2003 film ‘The I Inside’ did not do well critically or commercially.
He portrayed John Bradley, a real-life Navy corpsman, in the 2006 war film ‘Flags of Our Fathers,’ directed by Clint Eastwood. Critics praised his performance and considered it to be his best performance so far.
In 2010, he was featured in the film ‘The Bang Bang Club’, based on the real-life story of the Bang Bang Club. He portrayed Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Greg Marinovich.
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Ryan Phillippe, along with actor, writer, producer Breckin Meyer, actor and comedian Seth Green, and David E. Siegal, runs a production company called Lucid Films. In 2010, Ryan and Breckin started working on a show for Showtime, in which they served as executive producers.
In 2011, he began working on ten episodes of the final season of the TV show ‘Damages’, a legal thriller. He played the role of Channing McClaren, and it was his second regular TV role, with ‘One Life to Live’ being his first.
In 2012, he started working on his first directorial venture, ‘Catch Hell’ (2014), an indie thriller. He also played the role of a fading film actor, who plans a creative escape after he is kidnapped while making a movie in Louisiana. He co-wrote the script with Joe Gossett and also co-produced it.
He served as the executive producer and narrator of the documentary, ‘Isolated’, which premiered at the 2013 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
In 2015, he was cast in the lead role of Bob Lee Swagger in the thriller drama series ‘Shooter’, which aired on USA Network in 2016.
It is reported that Ryan is involved in a number of future film projects, including ‘Chronicle, to be directed by Jay Alaimo. The film is about two childhood friends who reunite as adults and launch the biggest marijuana dealership in New York City.
The massive success of the 1997 horror film ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ changed Ryan Phillippe’s status in the industry, gaining him widespread recognition. He was cast along with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Directed by Jim Gillespie, the film ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ was a commercial hit, grossing a worldwide total of $126 million. It won a number of awards including the ASCAP Award, the Saturn Award, and the MTV Movie Awards. Ryan bagged a Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination for Favorite Supporting Actor.
Ryan’s role as Greg Marinovich in the Canadian/South African film ‘The Bang Bang Club’, is another one of his significant works. The film is based on the real story of four South African photographers who went to several extremes to capture the pictures of the rampant violence in the days prior to the downfall of apartheid in South Africa.
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The film ‘The Bang Bang Club’ premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Steven Silver, the film also starred Malin Åkerman as Robin Comley, Taylor Kitsch as Kevin Carter, Frank Rautenbach as Ken Oosterbroek and Neels Van Jaarsveld as João Silva.
Ryan Phillippe met actress Reese Witherspoon for the first time at her 21st birthday party in 1997. The actress told him, "You're my best birthday present", and they exchanged letters and phone calls for weeks before they went on their first date. Soon, they moved in together, and became engaged in December 1998.
The couple got married in June 1999, when Reese was six months pregnant with their first child. Their daughter Ava Elizabeth Phillippe was born in September 1999. In that year, they starred together in the film ‘Cruel Intentions’.
In February 2001, Ryan announced that he would take a break from acting to look after their daughter Ava. In the ensuing months, Reese became very successful with ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, while Ryan almost disappeared from the limelight. He could only manage to do a couple of cameos in Robert Altman's ‘Gosford Park’ and ‘Igby Goes Down’.
As Reese became one of the top earners in the industry and won an Oscar, it was reported that Ryan was finding it difficult to cope with her success. By the time their son, Deacon Reese Phillippe, was born in October 2003, the couple had started seeking help from a therapist to save their marriage.
In October 2006, they announced in a statement that they were formally separating. Reese filed for divorce the following month, and asked for joint legal custody and sole physical custody of their children. Ryan, on the other hand, filed for joint physical custody of the children. They were officially divorced in October 2007, and both the parents were granted joint custody of their children.
In 2007, Ryan started dating Australian actress Abbie Cornish. They first met on the set of ‘Stop-Loss’. After they broke up in February 2010, Ryan began dating actress Alexis Knapp. Although the relationship was a brief one, and they broke up the same year, Knapp discovered that she was pregnant after the breakup. Their daughter was born in July 2011.
Later in 2011, he started dating Paulina Slagter, a law student, but their relationship ended in 2016.
In September 2017, he was sued by his ex-girlfriend, model Elsie Hewitt, who accused him of assault and battery. She alleged that the actor threw her down the stairs twice. While Ryan denied the accusations, a police report was filed. Eventually, the criminal investigation against him was closed.