When “Deadpool” opens in movie theaters this week, the film’s writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick plan on being part of the paid audience. “It’s like Christmas to watch it with people,” says Wernick. “It’s been a difficult journey, one filled with a ton of heartache, so to see it come to fruition is a career highlight.”
Based on the irreverent comic created by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist-writer Rob Liefeld, “Deadpool” offers a different take on your traditional comic lead, a foul-mouthed, fourth-wall breaking smart ass who balks at the label of superhero. Ryan Reynolds played the character in the 2009 film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and since then has been trying to spin off the character into his own franchise. As the screenwriters of the hit “Zombieland,” Reese and Wernick are a perfect match for the material and have been working on drafts since 2009. They have also penned an adaptation of the Image comic “Cowboy Ninja Viking” for Universal, set to star Chris Pratt.
The movie really seemed to pick up steam after test footage was leaked in July 2014. How much do you credit that leak with helping the film get made?
Reese: I think it was a combination of a few things. We got the right regime at the right time at Fox, which was crucial. The few times things leaked, the script and the test footage, it really got a wonderful, passionate reaction among fans. Almost angry, saying, “Where is this movie?” And the third element was Simon Kinberg, he’s the keeper of the superhero flame at Fox. Paul sent him an email saying “We need your ass…” then after parentheses it said “assistance.” Simon helped out and reasoned the executives through why it might be smart to make with an R rating. He was very much an angel on our shoulders.
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Were you happy when the footage leaked?
Wernick: Oh my god, we were absolutely thrilled. If you go back and look at our emails after the test footage was made in 2012, we had said back and forth, “How do we leak this? How do we get the groundswell support from our fans?” When it finally leaked in 2014 and got the reaction we hoped for, we were like, “Here it goes!” This is confirmation we are not crazy to be passionate about this. There’s a whole fanbase of people clamoring for this movie. Had it not gotten that reaction, it would have been a disaster and the project would have been dead. We knew it in our bones this would be the reaction. We were thrilled and still to this day don’t know who did it. there is a very short list of suspects.
Reese: It’s like a game of “Clue”; every one of us has a motive but we’re still not sure who did it.
What made you want to make the movie; were you fans of the comic?
Wernick: We weren’t. We’re comic book guys but this was a 90s comic book, it came out a little bit after our time. When we auditioned we had to familiarize ourselves with the comics and we became huge fan boys, which is why we auditioned for the job. The character was so fresh and original and no one had ever seen anything like it. So we became fanboys as a function of educating ourselves on the comic.
That said, after poring over every story, we had to put them down and come up with our story. Rob Liefeld paid us the ultimate compliment he said, “You guys have created Deadpool’s seminal story, the story that will herein out be who Deadpool is.” That’s the ultimate compliment coming from the guy who created the character.
Were there any rules to this universe you found it hard to adhere to?
Reese: Probably the greatest rule was you have to break rules. We were given license to be irreverent and silly and make pop culture references and break the fourth wall. The studio was extraordinarily supportive in giving us the leash to make fun of them and the previous movie. Ryan Reynolds was very supportive of us making fun of him and his career. He pushed for us to make fun of “Green Lantern.” It was like we were teenagers and the adults were giving us the keys to the car and saying, “Drive as fast as you want.” And I think that joy of being able to do whatever we wanted bleeds onto the screen a little bit.
How did you pitch some of those jokes that are specifically making fun of Ryan?
Wernick: Some of those Ryan Reynolds-specific jokes, he actually came up with. He’s brilliant and so self-deprecating. There were some we wouldn’t have dared to suggest early on in the relationship.
Reese: It’s not often you can go to a star and talk about a movie from his previous work . We had a moment that didn’t make the movie where he picks up the figure from “Wolverine” and says, “This is the biggest piece of sh– in the history of earth!” How great is it we feel safe enough to hand you a joke about the movie you were already in and within that joke call it the worst piece of sh–? And have him look at it and crack up. That was indicative of the kind of bravery and self-deprecation he has within his character to say all bets are off.
Was there anything that was off-limits?
Wernick: What’s great about Deadpool is he’s an equal opportunity offender. So I’m sure we overstepped the bounds in places but I do feel like what you’re seeing on the screen is a fairly unfiltered representation of what was in the script.
You make some jokes about one of his famous co-stars; did you warn that person in advance?
Reese: Ryan is best buddies with that actor, so those wheels were greased before we put it on screen. And he was a great sport and so supportive of the movie.
What’s up next?
Wernick: Hopefully “Deadpool 2.” If the movie comes out and is a big success, that will become our next priority. We’re starting to think about what we could do and how we could do it. we’ve lived in this world for six and a half years so we have plenty of ideas.