Deadpool: From Screenplay to Screen
It yook years for the Deadpool movie to get off the ground. We look at how the Deadpool movie changed from the original script.
This article is full of Deadpool spoilers and probably won’t make any sense unless you’ve already seen the movie.
Deadpool spent the weekend breaking just about every box office record that an R-rated movie can break. You have to call this a success. It’s a pretty satisfying win to watch, not just as a fan of the character, but as someone who’s watched the bumpy, underdog path to its creation.
It took years of prodding to get Fox to greenlight Deadpool when it seemed like a hopeless cause. Two of the things that helped it happen are the leaking of the CGI proof-of-concept test video and the leaking of the 2010 screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. I, like many others, read the screenplay and thought, “Hey, this gets the character right and would be a pretty cool movie! Too bad they’ll never make this!”
I don’t know why I was yelling. 2010 was a crazy time.
I always find the evolution of movies to be rather fascinating, especially with superhero movies. Spider-Man 3 was originally a lot longer and made almost everyone more well-rounded before being cut into the movie we got. Hancock was originally a darker and more serious film, ending in attempted rape and suicide. Iron Man was going to have a far stronger second act, but the US Air Force made them rewrite a big chunk of the movie so they didn’t look like antagonists. Iron Man 2 may not be anyone’s favorite Marvel movie, but it was still a gigantic improvement from the nonsensical mess of a story we almost got.
After seeing Deadpool, I decided to look back and reread the old script. It was an interesting experience, getting to see what ideas were done away with and what were improved on. So now I share with you all the changes that came in the last six years.
Before I get to the bullet points, I should note that the basic structure is the same. If you had one person read the old screenplay, had another person watch the movie, then had each one explain the entire thing in sixty seconds, it would sound virtually identical. But there are still a lot of scenes and characters who have gone missing, as well as the opposite.
I’d be here all day if I mentioned every single miniscule change, though. The dialogue has been punched up a lot, mainly because that’s what rewrites are for. Certain one-liners and exchanges are very different. Honestly, it’s for the better. The only great gag that isn’t in the movie is when Blind Al tells Deadpool, “Go get her, Rocky!”
He gets all pumped up and says, “Yo, Adrian!”
“I meant Rocky Dennis.”
Anyway, let’s get this started.
– Ajax begins the movie being released from prison and being picked up by his men. Yes, he’s already been brought to justice. That’s why Deadpool had to wait so long to get his hands on him. He hasn’t been spending all that time searching through informants. He simply has had to wait it out so Ajax could get released.
You’d think Deadpool would want to spring some kind of chaotic prison breakout instead of sitting on his hands.
– Dopinder the cab driver’s situation is a little more positive. He’s actually engaged to the woman of his dreams, mainly due to lucking out on an arranged marriage. The stuff about his adversary/cousin doesn’t come up until late in the movie when he’s driving our heroes to the final battle. Rather than kidnap his cousin and all that, he instead hands Deadpool his business card with his cousin’s address on the back. The insinuation being that Deadpool will pay him back for the cab rides via murder.
– As Deadpool realizes he forgot his weapons, there’s a brief scene change to Blind Al tripping over a duffel bag back at the house. Considering how long it takes for her to get a real introduction, it’s probably less confusing for them to have cut that out.
– Instead of listening to “Shoop” prior to jumping off the bridge, Deadpool sings the lyrics to “Holla Back Girl” by Gwen Stefani.
– There’s a couple of gags where Deadpool speaks very basic Spanish and there are yellow subtitles to spell it out in English.
– The scene with the pizza guy is a bit darker. Wade doesn’t simply intimidate the kid. He viciously beats him up. Afterwards, he and the homeowner proceed to enjoy the pizza and watch TV together. The sweet scene of the teenage girl thanking him and calling him a hero is nonexistent.
– Our first character to end up on the cutting room floor is Patch, the guy running Sister Margaret’s School and its acting bartender. The description makes it sound like he would’ve been played by Sam Elliott or someone like him. All of his bits were completely consolidated into Weasel’s role, which is for the better, since Weasel wouldn’t have had nearly enough to do otherwise.
– Okay, so the whole Dead Pool thing leads to one awkward running gag/subplot that is completely messed up in retrospect and it’s very, VERY obvious why it’s not anywhere close to the final script.
One of the names on the Dead Pool is Amy Winehouse with the gag being that she simply cannot die. Every so often, the movie would cut to Winehouse doing something irresponsible and dangerous and somehow coming out of it alive and no worse for wear. This continues on until the post-credits scene, which has her walking down the street and getting hit by a bus.
Deadpool closes it out by saying, “And you woulda thought an overdose.”
– Outside of the character list, the absolute biggest change to the movie is the treatment of Vanessa. One of the stronger criticisms of the movie is that Vanessa exists for the sake of being a damsel in distress (making it for the better that they removed, “I don’t do damsel in distress!” from the trailers). She seems pretty half-baked.
While that is completely valid, she’s still a massive improvement over the earlier vision. The final version of Vanessa may be two-dimensional, but the 2010 version of Vanessa is straight-up one-dimensional.
In the movie, she at least has moments where she has a voice and gets to have her say. She’s so barebones originally. She doesn’t stand up for herself against Fat Gandalf. The playful bit in the arcade is gone, going straight to the sex. There’s no dramatic moment of desperation at the doctor’s office where she wants to fight the cancer on Wade’s behalf. She doesn’t even try to convince Wade to stay with her and instead allows him to walk out without any fight. When they’re reunited at the end, she takes everything in stride to the point that she isn’t angry in the slightest that he left her. Even the initial disgust at seeing his face is kind of glossed over and she shrugs it off.
They might seem trivial on their own, but they make a mountain of difference.
– Another thing talked about throughout the movie, all through Deadpool’s narration, is mention of the worst moments of his life. He has them ranked and will occasionally mention them, such as claiming that finding out about his cancer was the ninth shittiest moment of his entire life.
The payoff to all of this is the insinuation that #1 will be Vanessa dying or rejecting him or something just as tragic. Instead, it’s a fake-out and one of the scenes during the credits shows that #1 is Deadpool and Blind Al finally getting that piece of Ikea furniture together, only for it to completely collapse a moment later.
Eh…yeah, that was probably for the better to get rid of that.
– The first fight with Ajax on the freeway is a lot more traveled, going into more heavily-populated areas and including hostages. Obviously, this is a budget-based edit. They also make sure to keep the motorcycle helmet on Ajax’s head during his entire time in the freeway section of the movie for the sake of dramatic reveal.
See, Deadpool calls the helmeted guy “Francis” a bunch and we never see his face. Then in the flashbacks we meet Ajax. When Wade discovers his real name is Francis during the flashback, it’s supposed to be this big, shocking twist. A twist that the jerk he’s after is the one guy who was a jerk to him. It doesn’t really have much of a punch to it.
– There’s a montage of Wade attempting to find a cure for his cancer through more unique channels. Traveling the world, desperately following leads, all while his condition worsens. It’s basically a lot like the ending of Man on the Moon where Andy Kaufman goes to a miracle doctor who is really a total quack who pretends to rip the cancer from his body, but it’s just chicken guts.
Wade sees this trickery happen to an old man he connected with in the waiting room and his blood boils. He ends up killing the doctor and tears out his beating heart while asking for a lollypop.
– Negasonic Teenage Warhead doesn’t exist at all in the original screenplay. Colossus just straight-up appears. They don’t even have the scene of him watching the news while eating cereal.
– Angel Dust is another character who doesn’t exist originally. Her role is spread out among Garrison Kane (cyborg dude), Sluggo (massive guy), and Wyre (dude with retractable wires coming out of him). Wyre is the one with the habit of keeping a matchstick in his mouth. Kane and Wyre were mainly dropped for budget reasons.
Hey, the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but at least they added two female roles during its production. That’s something. Well, they also got rid of the female role of Amy Winehouse, but that one’s addition through subtraction.
– One thing Wade keeps doing during the painful experiments is repeat, “Am I a superhero now?” in the style of the very outdated cell phone commercials.
– In another instance of characters getting removed, there is a brief appearance by Doctor Killbrew, the man who experimented on Wade in the comics. He shows up at Wade’s side after the torture montage. He acts all good cop and tries to comfort Wade before leaving him in the darkness.
– Once Wade escapes, things turn out very differently. He actually defeats Ajax, which when you think about it makes him look like a really shitty villain considering they fight it out three times in the story and Ajax loses every time. Wade carves “HELLO, MY NAME IS FRANCIS” into Ajax’s head, which isn’t seen until later since this version of Ajax is supposed to have long hair obscuring it for much of the movie.
Police and firefighters arrive, explaining why Ajax started the movie getting his leave from prison. Wade finds Worm (Cunningham in the final version) and kills him out of mercy.
– There is a scene of Wade horrifying onlookers, but it lacks the gravitas of him realizing he can’t see Vanessa ever again. It also lacks gravitas due to his complete lack of clothes, taking too much focus off his ugly face. He ends up going to the top of a building and jumps off to kill himself. He survives. He makes various attempts on his own life but keeps surviving.
– When Wade and Weasel meet up and discuss his future, they get into a discussion about Steven Seagal movies and how they all have three-word titles. Later on, Weasel tries to have the same kind of conversation with Patch, but realizes that only Wade gets him.
– As I mentioned earlier, there’s no reason for Deadpool to go on a tear through the underworld to find out where Ajax is. The dude’s in prison. Instead, there’s a montage of Deadpool acting as a highly-skilled and very unkillable mercenary. After certain jobs are completed, it would transform into a comic book cover. The idea is that after 60 issues of this, five years have passed.
It’s worth noting that he doesn’t go after the creepy recruiter guy during this. He survives the story.
– Ajax and his crew visit Sister Margaret’s, but they don’t simply walk out when threatened. They end up killing every single mercenary in the bar and claim that they now run the merc game in town. Wyre strangles Patch to death with his retractable wires.
– Wyre goes to spend a bunch of his new hard-earned money at a strip club and goes off with one of the strippers into a private room. When he isn’t looking, Deadpool changes places with the stripper and ends up killing Wyre.
– Afterwards, Deadpool sees that Vanessa is one of the strippers. He ends up confronting her in a hotel while being entirely cryptic and never showing his face. He can’t bring himself to say who he is and leaves her to basically piece if together herself.
– Blind Al helps convince Deadpool to go after Vanessa along with an episode of Dr. Phil that they’re both watching. Deadpool ends up thinking back to memories of himself with Vanessa, back before the cancer. Thing is, these memories are completely bupkis and most definitely never happened. One such memory is just Wade and Vanessa reenacting the accidental naked collision bit from Reynolds’ movie The Proposal.
– In the movie, Ajax only has Vanessa in that oxygen torture tube thing for less than a minute before Deadpool puts a hole through it. The original script had Ajax turn that thing on before he even texted Deadpool their location. So she suffered for a long, long time.
Reminder, she still wasn’t mad.
– In preparation for the final battle, Weasel becomes Q to Deadpool’s James Bond, introducing him to all sorts of various special guns. The bit about Deadpool once again forgetting his duffel bag doesn’t happen and he goes on to use every single one of his weapons.
While it’s far funnier that the bag gets left in the cab in the actual movie, this once again pretty much falls down to budget.
– Colossus is brought in to fight Sluggo one-on-one, much like how he takes on Angel Dust. There’s no scene of Deadpool recruiting Colossus for help and, completely surprise, no moment where Sluggo’s nipple accidentally pops out. Since Colossus has no trainee to bail him out, he beats Sluggo singlehandedly.
– Going back to the whole weapons thing, the final act has been cut down extensively due to the lack of budget. In the movie, Ajax’s headquarters is the remains of a Helicarrier with Deadpool fighting some goons, then getting blasted to the top to fight Ajax.
The original vision has the headquarters being an entire building. Deadpool fights his way through it, guns blazing, going through 4,000 bullets. This involves him facing Garrison Kane, whose arms are turned into rocket launchers, like a live-action Mega Man. Deadpool ends up killing him by forcing his “hands” together while he fires, causing Kane to blow himself to kingdom come in a big mushroom cloud.
By the time Deadpool reaches Ajax, he’s completely run out of bullets, so they have to fight without artillery and we get a similar final battle as the movie.
– Right before the credits begin, there’s a cliffhanger where the recruiter character picks up Dr. Killbrew (who has only had that one, brief, unexplained appearance) and drives off, asking, “Where to, Dr. Killbrew?”
Whatever the hell that means.
And that’s that. There’s the two post-credits scenes of the Ikea thing falling apart and Amy Winehouse getting hit with a bus and it’s over.
Outside of the action stuff getting cut down because of money, it’s almost entirely a bunch of improvements. It’s refreshing to revisit the script that I thought was so good years ago and now think, “It’s for the better that we didn’t get this version.”
Even with the action, we might be better off with what we got. Would it really have added anything if Ajax and his goons destroyed Sister Margaret’s instead of simply walking out and being menacing regardless? Hell, if you really want something like that to happen, just save it for the sequel.
Which we’re totally going to be getting. It’s so good to be a Deadpool fan right now, guys.
Gavin Jasper expects Vanessa’s comic death to be negated any day now. Follow Gavin on Twitter!