The X- Men universe just got ruder
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.”
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.