It’s fair to say that Fox’s latest Marvel endeavour Deadpool, is a real writer’s production. Where other films in the MCU rely on big set pieces and remarkable special effects, with this comedic, irreverent picture, it’s all about the screenplay, as a film that ridicules and parodies the archetypal comic book production.
So needless to say it was a pleasure to discuss the film with the screenwriting duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The pair, making their debut within this particular genre, have crafted something extraordinary with Deadpool, as a uniquely meta film. The pair discuss their own history with the Deadpool comics (or lack of), the licence the studio gave them to write whatever they wanted, and whether they think this film could have a negative impact on other superhero films.
They also explain the challenges of balancing comedy and action, and why they opted for Colossus as the X-Men character to feature, as well as their thoughts on a potential sequel, an X-Force ensemble pice, and why the Hulk would make a great counterpart to the new, Ryan Reynolds’ character.
Were you both already pre-established fans of the original comics, or did this involve a lot of research?
Rhett Reese: We hate to admit it, but we had never even heard of Deadpool. But we read comics as children and not as adults and we’re a little older than when Deadpool became popular, so we had to do our research. That said, we did our research and read a bunch of comics and we fell in love, we absolutely fell in love. It became the project we just had to do. We went from having never heard of him, to, ‘I will die if I can’t write this’. I think it was that instant passion we have for the character which came through in our audition, so even though we were pretty new to the game and to the comic, we would get it.
Paul Wernick: They say you write what you know, well Deadpool is a self-loathing, annoying, ego-maniacal guy. So there you go.
Which era of Deadpool comics did you take the bulk of your inspiration from?
RR: Actually we drew from all over. It was important to do that, to get an understanding of the different voices from different writers. We wanted to understand what different people had tried, and then we had to put them down, put the comics back in the draw and develop and cultivate our own slight spin on the character, which we did.
This is staggeringly meta. It doesn’t just break the fourth wall, it smashes through it. My favourite line is when Deadpool asks if the Professor is ‘McAvoy or Stewart?’ – this gets behind the illusion of cinema completely. Having taken it so far, did Marvel take any convincing in that regard?
PW: Deadpool is famous in the comics for breaking that fourth wall, it’s something that we absolutely had to do from the beginning. Really nothing was off-limits for us, which was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because we got to write the script we want, and a curse because it took us six and a half years to get it made, because it was so outrageous, it was an apple among oranges. It took a very bold decision by the studio to make this thing. But it was thrilling to write with absolute abandon.
I loved the movie, but I do have a criticism. Which is that now I worry when I watch other comic book films, they might not have the same impact because you’ve ridiculed the whole genre. Have you watched any comic book movies since, and have you found you’ve got a different relationship to them?
RR: You know, I had the same worry, I honestly have. You just wonder if you can dive back in to the more serious ones and take them seriously, once Deadpool has taken the piss out of them. I think the MCU has a light touch and a silliness, and Guardians of the Galaxy is included in that, certainly. I think those will continue, but the more serious ones, the DC stuff? I honestly wonder if I can ever look at them with a straight face now. Only time will tell. I know Batman V Superman is coming towards us like a train on the tracks so we’re gonna find out, but it will be interesting.
Do you think audiences want something more playful and irreverent? Have we grown tired of the Chris Nolan inspired superhero flick, and we’re actually craving something more jovial?
PW: I don’t think that time has passed on the darker superhero movie, they can co-exist, it’s just a different spin on it and it feels just a little bit fresher as there are fewer of them. But there are a lot of great superhero movies upcoming and we can’t wait for all of them, so I don’t think there’s one genre within the superhero film that has passed its prime. You feel like there is an over-saturation of these films in general, and that’s why people are really embracing Deadpool and this idea of making fun of it, because there are so many of them that it really is ripe for parody.
The film is incredibly comedic, was it a challenge for you to keep this funny, and yet still get a sense of the significance of the narrative, and get a feel for what’s at stake?
RR: Yeah, one of the key facets of Deadpool’s character is the that he deals with the tragedy in his life through comedy. His pathos, his loss and scarring, his cancer, all of those things – not to mention his background as a mercenary where he killed a lot of people – they are all defended against, by him, through a shield of being funny. There are a lot of people like that in real life, I think we can all relate to that sardonic sense of humour that allows us to get through the dark times, so in a way I think the comedy and the serious nature go together better than first imagined.
I loved how intimate it was too. It’s not about saving the world and getting the girl, it’s pretty much just the latter.
RR: Yeah that’s totally true. That was almost more because of the budget than anything else. We really couldn’t have a scene where a thousand aliens come down from the sky and try to take over New York City, we just couldn’t, and necessity sometimes being the mother of invention really forced us to focus on the few key relationships in the movie, and why we should care so much, so we had a lot of dialogue scenes where you’re mostly being entertained by virtue of what’s coming out of his mouth, rather than the pyrotechnics you’re used to seeing in movies like this.
Of all of the X-Men you could have chosen – why did you opt for Colossus?
PW: He provided the perfect straight man to Deadpool’s craziness. The goody-two-shoes, bold, strong superhero archetype, and Deadpool is the anti-hero archetype so it provided us with the perfect contrast to play off Deadpool’s whackiness.
Did you ever consider Wade’s history with Syrin or Cable?
RR: Yes, absolutely. I think those are characters who are near and dear to Deadpool fan’s hearts and characters we would like to explore down the line if we’re so fortunate to have sequels. Cable is one that we will absolutely visit if we’re allowed to keep moving forward with multiple movies. We’ve always wanted to honour the fans first, so the fan’s favourite characters, that mean a lot to them, we will take a long, hard look at moving forward.
You mentioned a sequel, to follow on from that, there have been rumours that it’s to take Fantastic Four’s release date next year and I was wondering if you can shed any light on that and whether it’s a project you’re both involved in?
RR: We hope that it doesn’t take Fantastic Four’s release date because that’s awfully, awfully soon! We like to take our time, we’re lazy screenwriters.
PW: We took six and a half years to make Deadpool, because it actually took us six and a half years to write it.
RR: Look, that’s entirely above our heads, but we’ll write the very best screenplay we can write if we’re fortunate enough to get that sequel, and we’ll write it as quickly as they tell us we need to write it. When they say jump, we say how high.
Ryan Reynolds have been speaking about X-Force as well as something he wants to get off the ground – is that another aspect of the Deadpool franchise you’d also be up for getting on board with?
PW: Absolutely. Getting in to more of an ensemble piece is something we would cherish. X-Force is beloved and we love it, and Deadpool is centric to that world, and we’d love to bring an X-Force movie into the X Universe.
Finally, if you could choose any character, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a character for Deadpool to team-up with – who would it be?
RR: We can’t, but that’s a rights issue because Fox only have the rights to Fantastic Four and X-Men, but I would love to see the Hulk against Deadpool, because it would be really fun to see Deadpool having to use his agility and his silliness and skills to overcome just brute force. Maybe we can figure out another way to do that with another character in the X-Men universe, but I would love to see him square up against the Hulk, it would be hilarious.
PW: I’m saying Cable.
Deadpool is released on February 10th, and you can read our review here.