For writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the road to the release of superhero film Deadpool has been a long one. The film spent years in development, only heading into production due to an overwhelmingly positive response to a leaked test video for the film. The film was finally released earlier this year and, vindicating those who pursued it for so many years, was a success on a scale that few expected.
With Deadpool now headed to home video we sat down with the two screenwriters for a chat about the film, the delays, the age rating and the Statham.
I’m gonna jump straight in with a question about structure, particularly that of the first two thirds of the movie, where everything is coming into and going out of that action sequence. How intuitively did that come together? How early did it come?
Paul Wernick: It was very early on; it was in the outline stage. We wanted to both tell an origin story and also tell a story in the present that linked together in the third act. So, yeah, it was an interweaving of those two timelines that we felt was non-traditional and tonally allowed us to go in and out of darkness and humour in a way that doesn’t make the movie feel inconsistent. It was also a budget choice, because this was a very small budget movie and it allowed us to stretch one set piece, that set piece out on the freeway, over the course of the first two acts. That was the mother of invention, I feel, more than anything.
How close did we get to a PG-13 Deadpool?
Rhett Reese: I think we got reasonably close to that. In that, Fox asked us at one point ‘hey, write the PG-13 version and we can make a decision based off that’. We did it. We sold our soul for a few minutes (laughs). But interestingly the PG-13 version is not that different from the R version. The language is reduced, the sexual content is reduced, but most of the action and the structure of the movie and the scenes were all the same. It was up to Fox to look at it and decided ‘should we make this?’ and thankfully – thankfully only in retrospect – they didn’t. It allowed us to circle back with the support of Simon Kinberg a couple of years later and convince them that R was always the best way to go. That was a very freeing situation, being able to write with the R rating. We got to put all the old jokes back in, I think it just infused a sense of freedom in the entire crew and the cast, to push things and to have fun and to not worry about the rating.
PW: There’s a hole in that space, that hasn’t been done. Not at this scale, I don’t think. I know there have been other R rated superhero movies but not like Marvel, Deadpool, Fox. So there was this space and Simon Kinberg really pushed us towards that and gave the studio the assurance that this would work.
So you worked on the script for about six years, on and off. Is that right?
RR: Yeah. Mostly off, but yeah.
PW: We drafted every calendar year from 2010 on.
RR: We were writing it every year at some point or another. We did go through long stretches where we didn’t do anything but sit there and pray.
Do you ever hit a point where you’ve been working on something for that long where you’re like, ‘It’s finished. What do you want me to change?’
PW: Every day.
RR: In a sense, change for us during those five years represented hope, because as long as someone was still asking us to change something there was at least a chance that they wanted to make it. There were fallow periods in there where nine months would go by with no changes and no work on it and it would just be dead. So in a way, we welcomed change just because it was life.
PW: As screenwriters you never welcome change to the script. Anytime we got a call, like, ‘fire up the draft!’
RR: The famous joke is how many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb? And the punchline is, why does it have to change!
Deadpool’s line, with regard to what he can and can’t do is different to other superhero films. How difficult was it to find the line to what he can do, where he’s still a character that we like to spend time with? Rather than him just being reprehensible.
RR: I think it’s just, it’s weird, it’s just instinct. You try to push him to darker and more annoying places, knowing that if he gets too dark or too annoying frankly, if he’s just too jabber-mouthy, people with turn off to him. You just have to sense it, it’s almost like self awareness except it’s character awareness, where you feel like ‘ahh, maybe this is just a touch too far, or too immoral, or something people wouldn’t forgive him for’. Maybe this is just to the point where I’m sick of hearing him talk or he’s too quippy. But it’s more gut than anything, it’s more art than science.
PW: You live with this character in your head, so he’s speaking to you, he’s living with you. So when he starts to get to you he’s probably getting to the audience.
So, assuming there’s going to be a Deadpool 2, I know there’s no confirmation of a Deadpool 2 (this was made clear at a little introduction panel), but if there were to be one, would you like six years to write it?
PW & RR (simultaneously and horrified): No!
RR: The great thing about television is it forces deadlines and on features you don’t have that unless there’s a set release date. A forced deadline can be a good thing for everybody.
One of Deadpool’s traits is his healing ability, which makes him quite invulnerable. How difficult was it to find ways to get to the character and to create peril for him?
RR: Well, I think you make a good point, which is how much can you fear for a character who can’t die? I think ultimately, you fear for Deadpool emotionally more than you do physically, and I think you also fear for him whenever the people he cares about are jeopardised. He can’t die, but Vanessa could, or Negasonic Teenage Warhead could. Plus he does feel pain. It’s not like when he gets shot he doesn’t feel it the way Ajax doesn’t feel it. I just think it’s about exploring the other ways he can get wounded as opposed to the physical ways.
What’s your favourite Jason Statham film?
RR: Oh, well I would say The Transporter. To me that’s the film that really made him, in a way. The one I really want to see that I haven’t is Spy. I’m dying to see Spy.
PW: I saw Spy and I thought he was great but I would put Transporter at number one.
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, thank you very much!
Deadpool will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from 13th June 2016, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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