In the comic books, Deadpool is an equal-opportunity smart aleck — and flirt. That’s a sensibility that the producers of the new 20th Century Fox superhero movie, starring Ryan Reynolds, tried to re-create for the upcoming tentpole.
But while the big-screen version of Deadpool earns an R rating with graphic violence, profanity and sexual content, you won’t see this masked hero sharing a bed with another man.
That could change, particularly if the film — which is expected to dominate the box office this weekend — spawns sequels. On the red carpet at a New York screening for “Deadpool” on Monday, alongside hundreds of fans decked in red tights and masks, Reynolds said he’s aware that Deadpool identifies as pansexual.
“I love that about Deadpool,” said Reynolds. “I love that he can break any boundary. In the future, I hope we get to do that more,” he said, alluding to his character’s monogamous relationship with a woman (“Gotham” star Morena Baccarin).
Reynolds added that he thought it would be “nice” for Deadpool to have a boyfriend at some point. “I certainly wouldn’t be the guy standing in the way of that,” Reynolds said. “That would be great.”
There are clues in “Deadpool” that its hero is just as interested in men as he is in women, but they are often handled with a wink rather than occupying a major plot line. Early in the movie, Deadpool suggests a mock fling with Wolverine and seems open to sexual experimentation during a sex montage (although the only partner in the scene is his girlfriend). “We knew that was part of the comics,” said one of the film’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese. “We wanted to honor that in the movie. But we did it in subtle ways.” Added producer Simon Kinberg: “There’s veiled references to it in this film. It’s in the DNA of the character.” Kinberg said he wouldn’t rule out showing Deadpool with a male companion in future installments.
But that would still be considered a major risk. Even though gay marriage is legal in the United States, the movie industry has been slow to develop projects anchored by queer characters. The first — and, so far, last — gay breakthrough romance is still 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.” A recent study from GLAAD found that only 17.5% of studio releases in 2014 featured LGBT characters, and they usually appear in supporting roles.
One reason for the resistance to gay characters is that Hollywood is heavily reliant on box office from China, where attitudes about homosexuality are less tolerant. And Hollywood executives are generally slow to change, especially when it comes to diversity, as evidenced by the discussion over this year’s Oscars ceremony with all-white acting nominees. When Andrew Garfield suggested in a 2013 interview that Spider-Man could be gay, the creative team at Sony didn’t exactly endorse that idea for the upcoming reboot.
Deadpool could represent progress if future installments allow the character more freedom to be who he is. Ed Skrein, who plays the villain Ajax in the movie, said he wasn’t aware of the term “pansexual” until he got the part. “You know? This is 2016,” he said. “We all need to grow up. I’m going to be a spokesperson for pansexuality from here on out.”