After breaking box office records, Ryan Reynolds returns as Deadpool and this time the Merc with the Mouth’s movie is bigger and more badass than ever.
Deadpool debuted in February 2016 with the biggest R-rated opening of all time and went on to be the highest-grossing R-rated film in history with more than $750-million globally. Deadpool was also honored as the first live-action superhero movie to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture in the Comedy or Musical category, and Ryan Reynolds was also nominated as Best Actor.
Ryan Reynolds not only stars in the title role, he also co-wrote and produced Deadpool 2.
“Ryan is an incredible comedic talent,” says director David Leitch (John Wick , Atomic Blonde), “and “Deadpool” works as a perfect ground for things he really excels at. He took that character from the comic books and made it his own brand. There’s a synergistic effect with “Deadpool” and Ryan. He really is Deadpool in real life – in terms of the way he talks and sees the world, sometimes. He’s funny and irreverent but also has a huge heart and compassion, like Deadpool.”
Leitch says, “I’ve had the honor and privilege to help create a couple of different cool universes, but there’s something that’s undeniably fascinating about the “Deadpool” universe – it re-imagined the action-comedy. The original was so special, and the world itself seems to be so expansive that you could have a creative voice and still be true to the original.”
Prior to becoming a director, Leitch spent over a decade in the stunt business and doubled actors including Matt Damon and Brad Pitt on such films as The Bourne Ultimatum, Fight Club and Mr. And Mrs. Smith. He was also a fight choreographer, stunt coordinator, and 2nd unit director on films including the Wachowski’s Ninja Assassin, The Mechanic, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Wolverine, Anchorman 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain America: Civil War, and Jurassic World to name a few. A martial artist by trade, David Leitch and partner Chad Stahleski own action design and production company 87Eleven.
Writing The Screenplay For Deadpool
Writers and executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who also wrote the first film, have been involved with “Deadpool” since 2009.
Rhett Reese And Paul Wernick (Screenwriters, Executive producers) met in high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and have been partners since 2001. They wrote and executive-produced Twentieth Century Fox’s “Deadpool,” starring Ryan Reynolds. The 2016 superhero action-comedy is the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time ($783M).
Reese’s and Wernick’s first feature collaboration was “Zombieland,” which they wrote and executive-produced for Columbia Pictures in 2009.
“It feels like we’ve been living with him our whole lives,” says Wernick. Reynolds approached Reese and Wernick to write the screenplay for the original “Deadpool” and Reese recalls, “It took us five or six years of an uphill climb to get the movie made and it was very much a passion project in a way that is usually reserved for things like independent films or little movies that can’t get financed. “Deadpool” is an apple among oranges, when it comes to superheroes. He is irreverent. He is self-loathing. He is silly, childlike, violent, annoying. He’s a lot of things that other superheroes aren’t and he’s not really even a superhero. He’s kind of an antihero in superhero garb.”
“Deadpool is sort of like the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ says Leitch. “He’s disfigured and incredibly empathetic. He’s got a great backstory. There’s the wish fulfillment of a guy who has these healing powers. He’s kind of invincible. And he’s irreverent. He says dark, funny bold shit that you can’t say, but we like to hear. That mixture is great for a character.”
Wernick adds, “Deadpool is a self-deprecating, self-hating shame-spiral. We just fell in love with it. To have had Ryan’s voice in our heads the whole time, as we were writing, was such a privilege. He is Deadpool. His mind works and thinks and speaks as one character. It really is a treat for us to sit down at the computer and write for him.”
“Ryan is very much Deadpool in the sense that his sense of humor is in line with Deadpool’s,” says Reese. “It’s very raunchy and edgy and silly and immature. He was just the perfect fit for it and he knew that. He was in love with the character before we ever got the first movie going. Among the many things he brings to it is the physicality, making Deadpool funny behind his mask and suit. Ryan is very Chaplinesque. He can do a lot with his body and gestures to convey humor and personality so, despite the fact that you see his face only in about half the movie, he really is able to communicate comedy just through his voice and through his mannerisms.”
Throughout production of “Deadpool 2,” Reynolds, Reese and Wernick never stopped writing. “It didn’t end with the final draft,” says Reese, noting that during postproduction of the first “Deadpool,” “We rewrote a lot of Deadpool’s dialogue. He was behind a mask, so you could place whatever words you wanted into his mouth.”
“We flew under the radar on the first one,” says Wernick. “On this one, it was quite the opposite. The pressure was immense. Every little detail that came out in the press became a massive story. All these little nuggets that leaked out over time made us realize that the expectations are enormous. What Ryan, Rhett and I tried to do is just what we did on the first one. As long as it makes us laugh and there are tears coming from our eyes, and those are tears of happiness, we feel like we’re in good shape.” Reynolds wrote Deadpool 2 with Reese and Wernick. Reese adds, “That’s been a real treat, because he’s such a brilliant mind and talented in so many ways. Ryan is a joke machine.”
Wernick says, “As long as we can stay left of center and subvert what you expect, then we’re doing our job. The beauty of “Deadpool” is, the more obscure the reference, the funnier it is.”
The Ingredients for A Successful Sequel
Leitch adds, “In making a sequel, you have to be true to the material and the script. The script that Ryan, Rhett and Paul came up with has its own heart and soul. As a storyteller, you want to make sure that you’re true to that, and then you have to be true to the DNA of the original franchise that was so successful. There’s the satire and the irreverence of the R-rated comedy, and this over the top action. And then, you have to find a voice as a filmmaker and make it your own. That’s the biggest challenge – you don’t want to alienate an audience. With my background, there may be expectation that the action is going to be bigger, so you have to service those things. It’s the puzzle. In the process of directing, you have to make those bold choices, swing for the fences and be provocative. And what other universe allows you to do that more than “Deadpool”? You can make big choices and apologize for them with one fourth-wall break. That’s what’s cool about the source material. They break the rules.”
“David really gets “Deadpool,” says Reese. “He’s one of the best action directors in the world, and he amps the action like crazy.”
“Action is a huge element of “Deadpool,”” Wernick adds, “and we’ve got one of the best in David Leitch. He makes everybody else’s action look like dated eighties movies. The action in “Deadpool 2” is brilliant. It’s going to be jaw-dropping.”
Rob Liefeld – Comic Creator & Fan!
“I am an artist who wanted to write because I got control of the content of my visuals,” says “Deadpool” creator Rob Liefeld. “That’s where the battle is won – the visuals win the day in terms of cool. I still turn my head at a cool “Deadpool” drawing, whether I drew it or not or if I see him in real life. That red and black looks magnificent.”
Liefeld is a fan of his character’s movies. “Ryan made “Deadpool” a little dirtier. He brings that extra-edgy material that works. He’s perfect for it. They’ve taken great liberties with the R-rating and I think it found its own niche. I’m thrilled that there’s this different muscle that Fox gets to work out.” Leifeld notes that part of the reason he loves it so much is that he was a teenager in the 80s when there was a seminal slate of now classic R-rated action picture franchises, such as “Terminator,” “Alien” and “Predator.” “It was before we got to this PG-13 space where everything’s safe. I’m thrilled that “Deadpool” is on par with those.”
While “Deadpool” spans comic books to actions figures, Liefeld says, “The best version is what they’ve done with these films because they’ve put the utmost care and love into them and they haven’t betrayed the comic. They take some liberties, but they’re sticking true to the sources, and they should, because there is a fan base out there. X-Force is the second best-selling comic of all time. I thought that would not stand. Twenty six years later, now I know it’s never going to fall.”
“”Deadpool” does not take the genre seriously, and it also doesn’t take itself seriously.”
“”Deadpool” does not take the genre seriously, and it also doesn’t take itself seriously,” says Reese. “In this movie, Ryan Reynolds makes fun of himself. He makes fun of the writing. He makes fun of Fox. He makes fun of all the things associated with the franchise, so it softens those jokes about other people when we’re also willing to make jokes about ourselves.”
“Ryan Reynolds is a comic genius,” says Reese. “One of his many facets of comedic genius is his willingness to go places that are just shy of objectionable. When Paul came up with the soap dispenser bit [sorry but no spoilers here if the reader has not yet seen the movie!], I was like ‘oh no’ and then of course ‘oh yes,’ that’s just perfect. Our political phrase isn’t “When they go low, we go high.” Ours is, “when they go low, we go lower.” We’re willing to go all the way, dig all the way down to get a laugh.”
And just to clarify the writers’ individual senses of humor, while Wernick came up with the soap dispenser gag, Reese contributed the ‘toilet paper’ treatise, which happens later in the film. Reese admits, “I have a toilet paper manifesto of my own, about the inadequacy of toilet paper. I do this bit about it, and I did it for Ryan. We all looked at each other and said, “This has to go into the movie somehow.” Then we discussed what caliber actor would we need to do such a scene.”” Finding the right thespian who could deliver that passage was a challenge, to say the least.
The Beating Heart – The Secret Sauce
Wernick says, ““Deadpool” is known as a comedy, but there’s a real beating heart to it. The secret sauce of “Deadpool” is this emotional core. It’s a character that’s been kicked and knocked down, and life’s been really tough on him, as a character with cancer and this terrible scarring on his face. I think kids related to Spider-Man because it was a nerdy little kid, and then he put on the mask and he was this amazing super hero. And I think people tap into Wade Wilson because they see a character whose life has been tough and he somehow overcomes it all, laughs about it and wins in the end. I think people really relate to that.”
Aditya Sood says, “One of the real challenges – and joys – of “Deadpool” is finding that balance between the comedy, the action, and the emotion. What’s wonderful about Ryan is that he can handle all of those things. If he were just a comedic star, he would be the best comedic star. If he were just an action star, he could just do that. If he were just a dramatic actor, he could do that. But the fact that he can do all three, that is what allows “Deadpool” to be “Deadpool.””
“The makeup is such an ordeal,” says Wernick, referring to the prosthetic makeup Reynolds wears as scarred Wade Wilson. “We built schedules around how quickly we could get Ryan out of if because it’s oppressive. It takes hours to put on, and he’s uncomfortable in it, and he’s got to act underneath this pile of plastic. How impossible is it to emote when you’ve got this prosthetic basically stapled to your face? And yet, he does it brilliantly. It’s really a credit to Ryan and his abilities as an actor to act behind that mask. He is the voice of this movie. He is the beating heart that is Deadpool. His instincts are almost always dead-on. When he’s behind that camera and watching and guiding the process, he really has his fingers on the pulse of what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.”
Wernick notes that for some people, “Comics are like the Bible. You better stick to exactly how that character is in the comics. What’s so great about the comics, though, is that because there are different writers that come in and out of a series, a character could die here and then come back to life. We’re allowed a little flexibility in how we treat a character. I think our goal as writers isn’t to mimic any particular writer of the comics, it’s to get the flavor and feel and texture of a character, and his or her voice, and then bring it to the screen in our own original way.”
He adds, “The script is pretty much our Bible. It gives us the launching pad and we get what’s on the page. But there’s always the ad-libs and the improv that all of the actors contribute to. When you have these brilliant comedic minds at your disposal, you use them.”
“I think the best movies are ones where the artists creating them resonate the frequency of the source material,” says Aditya Sood, “and there is something about Ryan and Rhett and Paul’s’ brains that just coalesce perfectly with “Deadpool.” They really speak for the character, and it’s a joy to work with them because you know you’re always going to be surprised with new things, but at the same time, they feel essentially Deadpooly.”
“Deadpool 2” is filled with an assortment of nasty antagonists, but there is no one main villain. Wernick says, “Deadpool’s a character who breaks all the rules, he breaks the fourth wall. We, in turn, do the same. “Deadpool 2” doesn’t have the traditional mustache-twirling villain. It’s an unusual structure. We want to set up the audience to believe that Cable is the actual villain and it’s going to be Cable versus Deadpool. Ultimately, that doesn’t turn out to be the case and they team up.”
Surprise!! Meet the X-Force
To keep storylines and even characters under wraps, code names were created for every key character in the script, and the actual title as well. A code breaker was issued, and for everyone involved in making the film, it was important to keep it handy while reading the screenplay.
It was even challenging for one of the script’s writers: “We couldn’t read a script with code names because it was so confusing,” says Wernick. “Ryan was Chaplin or Keaton, depending on whether he was Deadpool or Wade. It was impossible without a legend or a map to keep us straight and on track. Sometimes it was like working at the CIA – for the goal of keeping the movie fresh and not spoiling it for anybody.”
But if all the secrecy pays off, fans will be more than a little surprised to meet a slate of previously unannounced superheroes that Deadpool recruits to go up against an ultimate foe. As they’re about to embark on their maiden mission, they dub themselves X-Force.
Sood says, “That was something we really tried to keep under wraps as much as possible. It’s always tricky when you’re out in the middle of downtown Vancouver and there’s a lot of people watching! Hopefully, this will confound audience expectations.”