The X- Men uni­verse just got ruder

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Front page -

Ca­reer res­ur­rec­tions courtesy of Quentin Tarantino aside, sec­ond chances are rare in Hol­ly­wood. Just ask Dead­pool. No, go on – ask him. Given he’s so damn meta he doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as ride a wreck­ing ball into it, he might just hear you…

For years it looked as though the mo­tor- mouthed su­peras­sas­sin had missed his shot at cin­e­matic glory. High on quips and car­nage, this law­less, de­ranged an­ti­hero emerged from the X- Men ti­tles of the ’ 90s to claim fan favourite sta­tus, part bad- ass, part par­ody of the trend for psy­cho- steroidal icons that swept the comics world that decade. Vic­tim of the same ex­per­i­men­tal Weapon X pro­gram that armed Wolver­ine with an adaman­tium skele­ton, Wade Wil­son was gifted with the power of ac­cel­er­ated heal­ing, a dis­in­te­grat­ing mind and enough gobby self- aware­ness to re­alise that he’s the star of a comic strip…

2009’ s X- Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine saw him make the big screen, al­beit in a neutered form scarcely recog­nis­able to his fan­base. A screen­play for a solo ad­ven­ture was swiftly com­mis­sioned by Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox, a di­rec­tor signed, a star locked. And then the pro­ject van­ished into the vor­tex of de­vel­op­ment hell, even as the big studios tore apart ev­ery last comic shop to find prop­er­ties they could strip­mine for box of­fice profit.

“It’s a lot of fac­tors for any movie to get made,” says Tim Miller, the helmer that’s fi­nally brought the merc with a mouth to the screen. “A lot of stars have to align. If you look at five years ago there was a dif­fer­ent regime at Fox. There was a dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tion from the au­di­ence for su­per­heroes. They hadn’t seen as many su­per­hero films as they have now and they weren’t ready for some­thing dif­fer­ent be­cause they weren’t tired of what they had.”

Miller was ini­tially signed to di­rect in 2011. “The thought back then was, ‘ Why do some­thing new when the PG- 13 model works so well? Why spend our money on some­thing that’s edgy?’ Now, five years later, ev­ery­one’s go­ing, ‘ Hey, it’s time for some­thing dif­fer­ent.’

Guardians Of The Galaxy proved that they were ready for some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

fan power

For once we can thank the massed le­gions of the in­ter­net. In 2014 test FX footage for Miller’s never- made movie leaked onto the world’s servers. The pos­i­tive fan re­ac­tion to this proof- of- con­cept se­quence fi­nally per­suaded Fox to give the green­light.

“It proved in a ver­i­fi­able way all those emails I sent that said, ‘ Hey, peo­ple re­ally love this char­ac­ter!’ were true,” laughs Miller, on the line to SFX from Santa Mon­ica, three months ahead of the film’s re­lease. “And then [ pro­ducer] Si­mon Kin­berg came on board and blessed it be­cause he’s re­ally the gate­keeper for Marvel prop­er­ties at Fox. He said, ‘ This pro­ject’s cool, and Tim doesn’t seem like a com­plete idiot, so maybe we should give it a try…’

One con­stant in the film’s crawl to the screen has been star Ryan Reynolds, who played the dis­fig­ured rogue in Wolver­ine but re­mained com­mit­ted to one day de­liv­er­ing a truer take to the char­ac­ter’s fans.

“Ryan was on board from day one. He sat down with the writ­ers right after Fox green­lit the script. His DNA is all over the movie. If you look at other Hol­ly­wood lead­ing men, where are you go­ing to find the com­bi­na­tion of

Ryan was on board from day one . His DNA is all over the movie

ath­leti­cism, beauty – he’s an ex­cel­lent look­ing man – and com­edy that this guy’s got? And the com­edy is the clincher. He’s an amaz­ing ac­tor but he’s so fuck­ing funny. His per­son­al­ity in real life is very close to Dead­pool in the film. It’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Reynolds played a ri­val stu­dio’s su­per­hero in 2011 but Miller re­mained loyal to his lead­ing man. “The ques­tion was well, if he’s go­ing to be Green Lantern, is there any­one else who can play Dead­pool? And I said no, there’s no­body else. No­body else can play Dead­pool. It would have been a very dif­fer­ent movie if he hadn’t been in­volved. He was push­ing it ev­ery sec­ond.”

Given fan­dom won the green­light for this film, you won­der if Miller felt locked into a com­pact with the Dead­pool hard­core, com­pelled to de­liver the most faith­ful take imag­in­able.

“I al­ways felt that way, regardless of them giv­ing per­mis­sion,” he shares. “I wouldn’t say I’m a Hol­ly­wood in­sider, so I’ve al­ways looked at the films that they do [ from a fan per­spec­tive]. You can see that they take a prop­erty and do things to it that you can only do if you don’t un­der­stand the prop­erty and don’t care about it. Per­son­ally I fall in love with char­ac­ters and sto­ries for a rea­son, and then when you trans­late them to the big screen, to throw away all of those things that made it great just makes no fuck­ing sense to me. As a stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive, why would you think that you know bet­ter than 20 years of fans’ love for a char­ac­ter? Maybe 90% of the au­di­ence won’t get an­gry be­cause they don’t know the dif­fer­ence but it does hurt the movie and the

char­ac­ter in my mind. I’ve al­ways felt like I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the char­ac­ter and the lore of the char­ac­ter.”

keep­ing the look

The movie’s fidelity to its source ma­te­rial can be seen in Dead­pool’s cos­tume, one of the most ac­cu­rate trans­la­tions of a comic book out­fit the screen has seen. How im­por­tant was it for Miller to hon­our Rob Liefeld’s clas­sic de­sign?

“I didn’t re­ally think about it. I just did it. I al­ways liked Dead­pool’s de­sign and when we set out to de­sign the cos­tume there was just no ques­tion in my mind that it had to be true to the comics be­cause I liked the comics. I hap­pen to be a friend of Rob’s so I cer­tainly feel a cer­tain obli­ga­tion to make him happy, but mostly I just like the cos­tume.”

And Miller had no qualms about bury­ing his star’s face be­hind that iconic scar­let and black mask.

“For any of the shots that matter, such as a medium close- up, we recorded Ryan with­out the mask, say­ing the same things he’s say­ing with the mask, and we’re do­ing some CG en­hance­ment,” the di­rec­tor re­veals. “Most of it’s to the eyes – they’re the most ex­pres­sive part. It’s sub­tle, so it’s never over­whelm­ingly comedic or car­toony but man, those shots are start­ing to come in now and it just adds a whole other dimension to the char­ac­ter. We cer­tainly lose a lot but Ryan’s so ex­pres­sive in the way his body moves and the way his voice is that he only needed a lit­tle bit of help with the face to bring it home.”

The film also pre­serves the know­ing, self- aware vibe of the comics. “We have quite a lot of fourth wall breaks, and we use them to com­ment on moviemak­ing and the su­per­hero genre. We oc­ca­sion­ally use the fourth wall to com­ment on Ryan, and Ryan’s life, and Ryan play­ing a su­per­hero in a movie. My rule was when he’s Wade Wil­son he can’t break the fourth wall. Only when he be­comes Dead­pool.”

A lead­ing VFX artist and an­i­ma­tor, Miller’s a first- time fea­ture helmer. In spite of his in­ex­pe­ri­ence he says Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox al­lowed him to de­liver the quirky, ballsy movie he knew the char­ac­ter de­manded.

the movie is so strange that you just have to ac­cept what it is

“The stu­dio re­ally didn’t ques­tion any­thing,” he tells SFX. “The movie is so strange that you just have to ac­cept what it is. Ques­tion­ing one in­gre­di­ent in the soup felt wrong, I think. So they said, ‘ Look, you guys un­der­stand this, go make it great – we trust you.’ I wouldn’t say they trusted me – they trusted Si­mon [ laughs]! But be­cause Si­mon trusted me we re­ally had no in­ter­fer­ence.”

test­ing the lim­its

Dead­pool’s hard R rat­ing en­sures the film has li­cence to scat­ter gore and F- bombs galore. But just how far can a film that’s of­fi­cially part of Fox’s X- Men fran­chise push the bound­aries?

“Here’s the thing,” says Miller. “You say we’re push­ing the bound­aries and I guess we are – I just don’t re­ally feel like we are. You see a movie like Saw and I know how hor­ri­ble and un­com­fort­able that shit makes me feel. I don’t even want to watch it. Or you see those movies where you have a guy get­ting cut in half, right in front of the cam­era, with his sides split­ting open and guts spilling out… we don’t have any of that kind of shit. I don’t feel like we’re even close to that. Or you watch a comedian roast on Com­edy Cen­tral and just how fuck­ing nasty the com­edy is, how mean and just dis­gust­ing it is… we’re not any­where near that.

“I want to be edgy and I want to push the au­di­ence but I don’t want to leave them be­hind. I want peo­ple beyond the hard­core fans, be­cause that’s a rather small num­ber in re­la­tion to the pop­u­la­tion. I want the fans to feel like they got ex­actly what they wanted but I don’t want to ex­clude the rest of the movie- watch­ing au­di­ence. Not just be­cause hey, I’d like it to be a hit so we can make an­other – which is true – but more be­cause I want peo­ple to en­joy the film and I don’t want half the au­di­ence sit­ting there go­ing, ‘ Shit, I don’t feel so good…’ [ laughs].

“It’s a care­ful line,” Miller in­sists. “We’re edit­ing a scene right now that I think rides that edge. I’m the one push­ing it, say­ing, ‘ No, no, no, let’s not cut shots! It’s amaz­ing!’ And every­body else is go­ing, ‘ Well, no, it’s mak­ing peo­ple un­com­fort­able…’ So we’ll cut back to a spot that still feels re­ally pow­er­ful but also doesn’t throw peo­ple out of the movie whole­sale. There’s a cer­tain per­cent­age that are go­ing to be of­fended and aren’t go­ing to like the movie. There’s noth­ing I can do about that!”

And, Miller tells SFX, never un­der­es­ti­mate the ro­man­tic ap­peal of at­ti­tu­di­nal as­sas­sins and full- throt­tle ul­travi­o­lence.

“If you look at what’s spe­cial about Dead­pool it’s ex­actly what would make it ap­peal to a broader au­di­ence. If it was an R- rated Pu­n­isher film I would go, ‘ Oh, okay, maybe the ex­treme vi­o­lence is more niche and it doesn’t have a chance of break­ing out…’ But with Dead­pool there’s hu­mour and hu­mour re­ally trans­lates well. There a lot of women on Valen­tine’s Day who might not or­di­nar­ily see a film like

Dead­pool but be­cause it’s funny and be­cause it’s got a love story they may be tempted to go into the theatre, whereas if it was Pu­n­isher it would be an ex­er­cise in ap­pease­ment…” Wait. Dead­pool’s a date flick? Miller laughs. “It is! Se­ri­ously. It does have a re­ally strong love story…”

Dead­pool opens on 10 Fe­bru­ary.

Ajax: so much more than Spray ’ n’ Wipe. Mask- free di­rec­tor Tim Miller with his mask- free star. Our guy gets close up with Ne­ga­sonic Teenage War­head ( Bri­anna Hilde­brand).

Wade Wil­son isn’t wear­ing that mask just for fun. Ajax up to no good, we bet. Go on, take us up on the bet! Copy­cat ( Morena Bac­carin): one of many women in Dead­pool’s life. An­gel Dust ( Gina Carano) can kick you in the Mor­locks.

Colos­sus may be CG, Dead­pool, but he can punch very, very hard.

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