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‘Deadpool’s’ Cinderella Shot

It’s 'the little big movie that could,' but does it have a chance to vie for Oscar’s big prize?

Nearly every industry group and guild has weighed in with nominations, and, no surprise, the most dominant film is “La La Land.” The musical has been nominated by 10 groups — every single one except the Visual Effects Society (an understandable omission).

“Arrival” and “Manchester by the Sea” are also strong, with seven mentions. Fellow best-picture contenders “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Lion,” and “Moonlight” are also in the thick of it.

One film that has been stunningly resilient alongside these Oscar powerhouses is “Deadpool,” Fox’s irreverent comic-book adaptation that opened nearly a year ago and made a big splash with $783 million in worldwide box office. It’s been nominated by the Producers Guild, Writers Guild, American Cinema Editors, Makeup and Hair Stylists Guild, and the Visual Effects Society. Tim Miller even picked up a first-time director nomination from the Directors Guild, edging out critically acclaimed debuts like “Krisha” and “The Witch.”

All of that industry love, combined with Golden Globes recognition, have many pondering whether “Deadpool” has a chance in the Academy’s best picture race. But let’s take a few steps back.

There have been mitigating factors along the way, like how ineligibilities rendered the WGA’s adapted-screenplay category an absolute wasteland, and the fact that if anyone is going to worship at the altar of box office success, it’s the producers. (Though the ongoing narrative that “Deadpool” took more than a decade to come together and was made for a fraction of the budget of most superhero movies didn’t hurt.)

But that’s not to take away from the movie’s success on the circuit. It’s quite a Cinderella story, the “little big movie that could,” as star and producer Ryan Reynolds puts it.

“We were recently thinking back to those emails when we were cracking the story in a sweaty New Orleans hotel room,” Reynolds says. “Even when we made the film, the expectations were quite low. And any time there’s been anything campaign-oriented, it’s mostly been tongue-in-cheek. In terms of the push for awards and awards attention, we’ve been pretty quiet about it, other than just showing up.”

That has made the industry reaction all the sweeter, as it feels pure rather than manipulated. But Fox has certainly put in some legwork maneuvering the film into this position, with a series of Q&As throughout the season, and pitches to keep it on the radar, like Reynolds’ Entertainer of the Year prize at the Critics’ Choice Awards. A GQ Man of the Year designation was part of the recipe, too, along with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which Reynolds received in December — a bit of classic Tinseltown pageantry that has been increasingly leveraged for awards-season exposure.

“We never wanted to over-campaign it, because it’s not in the spirit of what the property is,” one studio source tells me. “It’s been the anti-campaign campaign.”

A wave of advertising is on the way, pegged specifically to the film’s guild recognition, as Oscar ballots were due last week. But everything at this stage is really just a cherry on top of an unlikely success story.

Here’s a question, though: Will the meta-character address all this adulation in the film’s sequel? “I don’t know that he’ll talk about awards season, but maybe something about how great the year has been,” Reynolds says. “Maybe Deadpool will have, like, 20% more self-loathing because of it.”

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