In contrast with his many other incredible, but snappy, advertisements, Ryan Reynolds’ latest spot is seven minutes long. That’s because he’s squeezed a colonoscopy session—his own, and a friend’s—into it.
Reynolds turned 45 this year, which is the ripe age to get tested for colorectal cancer. As the adman behind creative agency Maximum Effort, Reynolds was well aware advertisers had to walk the talk to be believed. So he decided to take one for the team and Lead From Behind, which is the name of the initiative run by US nonprofit Colorectal Cancer Alliance to encourage Americans.
The actor, apparently, had wagered a bet with fellow actor Rob McElhenney that the latter couldn’t learn to speak Welsh. Why Welsh? Well, the two are co-owners of the Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, that’s why.
In the new PSA, McElhenney can be heard speaking a few sentences of Welsh, so it is McElhenney: 1, Reynolds: 0. Reynolds’ forfeit? A colonoscopy that he’d publicly broadcast.
“I lost. But it still paid off,” Reynolds declares in hindsight. As a good sport, McElhenney agreed to record his session too.
It was a good thing they put each other up to this dare, as the doctor, Dr Jonathan LaPook, identified a subtle polyp on the right side of Reynolds’ colon. The procedure lasted about 25 minutes, but that was all it took to possibly turn the actor’s life around.
The patient had no symptoms, and it was only from the colonoscopy that the doctor was able to pick up a sign.
“This was potentially lifesaving for you. I’m not being overly dramatic. This is exactly why you do this,” Dr LaPook told Reynolds.
As for McElhenney, the physician found three polyps from his colon that he promptly removed.
High on sedatives, Reynolds even managed to fit in another advertisement. “Can’t believe you pumped all that Aviation Gin into my IV,” he told Dr LaPook.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance projects that one in 24 Americans will develop colon cancer. It’s also the fourth-leading cancer diagnosis in Canada, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and the second-most common cause of cancer-related deaths for men and third for women.
Speaking of his experience, Reynolds shares: “The procedure and prep were painless, but the discomfort of filming and sharing the process was the hardest part.”
He adds: “Rob and I did it because we want this potentially lifesaving procedure to be less mysterious and stigmatized.”
Luckily, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. That’s why people around the age of 45 are being kicked from the behind to finally get an exam.