‘Deadpool’ Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on Script Changes, Fincher’s Involvement, and More

     November 3, 2015


Earlier this year I got to participate in a group interview with Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick when the movie was filming in Vancouver. As a longtime fan of the character, getting to stand on set and watch the character come to life was one of those experiences I’ll never forget. But more than just seeing the action up close, the best part was learning how close to the comics they were keeping him. Unlike some comic book movies that need to change the tone of the character to make it four quadrant friendly, Ryan Reynolds Deadpool is going to break the fourth wall, be very irreverent, silly, borderline psychotic, and do some crazy shit. He’s going to be exactly what comic book fans have always wanted to see from this character and it should be a sight to behold. I honestly cannot wait to see the finished film.

During the group interview Reese and Wernick talked about the long development process, what fans should be excited for in the movie, how the character will be very faithful to the books, what other characters almost made the finished film, how Cable could be seen in the sequel, how tough was it to get Colossus in the film, what the R rating allows them to do, the cameos, the way David Fincher and James Cameron helped the film get made, and so much more. It’s a great, informative interview about the making of the film so check it out below. Deadpool arrives in theaters February 12, 2016. Start counting the days.

Before getting to the interview, if you haven’t seen the amazing Deadpool red-band trailer, I’d definitely watch that first.

Question: As I think everyone knows, the possibility exists that the script might have been online for a little bit, so a lot of us are curious, how has the script changed if at all since that version hit, and what tweaks have of have not been done?

deadpool-movie-posterRHETT REESE: I’d say the script is about 70% the way it was still. So it’s changed significantly but if you were to read that script and go see the movie you’d have a lot of stuff spoiled. I mean, the same basic movie is there.

PAUL WERNICK: It evolved. You know, we’ve been on this project for more than 6 years now. We were hired right after Zombieland, 2009. And it went through various iterations and evolutions over the course of those 6 years, including starting as an R-rated draft and evolving eventually into a PG-13 draft over the course of 4 of those 6 years, and then returning back to the R-rated draft near the end. Largely, tonally, story wise, it’s very, very similar.

REESE: Yeah. I mean, some additions –Tim Miller, our director, thought that the first draft had a lot of gun fighting at the expense of kind of superhero fighting so he wanted us to introduce another superhero, so we did. Negasonic Teenage Warhead was a pretty recent add for Tim. I’d say it’s both different and the same, I know it sounds strange or maybe as an oxymoron. But, again, if you’d read that draft you have a pretty good sense of what you’re gonna see.

Was that highly frustrating for you guys, is there any positivity to come out of a leak like that?

REESE: I don’t mind leaks myself.

WERNICK: As long as they’re well received [Laughs].

REESE: Yeah. But I think a poorly received leak in today’s day and age could really kill a movie, I really believe that. And a well-received one –I mean, both our script and the test footage were well-received and I think that helped us in each case. It didn’t put us over the top, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

WERNICK: It does make us highly suspect that both the script and the test leaked, but neither of which we had anything to do with.

What made you guys decide to put a less known characters like Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Angel Dust, when those are characters that are barely in the comics anyway?


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: Yeah. Well, a lot of the bigger characters are spoken for, so when you go to get someone like Colossus, there are a lot of approvals and it has to fit into the larger X-Men universe and what the X-Men franchise is planning on doing with Colossus and who are you gonna cast and all those issues come in to play; it becomes a little bit of a quagmire sometimes, we did get approval for Colossus. But with Negasonic Teenage Warhead Tim actually gave us a pre-approved list, he’s like, “You can use any of these names” and we looked down the list and there were names like Bizarre, Tar Baby was a character, like, “I don’t think we’ll be using Tar Baby” But anyway, on that list it just popped, this name Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

WERNICK: It almost didn’t matter what her powers were, we just loved the name so much.

REESE: And she is so minor that very few people know her, which is actually good for us. Usually you have the opposite problem where people know them too well so whenever you do anything even slightly off book everybody jumps down your throat. But with Negasonic, nobody knew who she was anyway so we got to map an entire personality onto her, new powers onto her, kind of anything we wanted which was nice.

WERNICK: And thematically I think it works that some of these lesser known characters are in Deadpool, because it’s just they feel like Deadpool, these kind of off-kilter, lesser known characters feel more Deadpool.

REESE: And we are part of the X universe, and that is important. Simon Kinberg is our producer and he kind of minds the store in regards to the X universe, so we are fitting into the larger timeline, we need to recognize that. I mean, we have things like the Blackbirds in the movie, we reference Professor X in the movie. So Deadpool is very much of that world and I think sooner or later we’ll cross over into that world. I mean, we’re not sure when that would be. Probably, if I’d have to guess, we would do a standalone sequel before he entered the actual ensemble movies, but I think at some point it will cross over and it needs to fit.

WERNICK: He even jokes in the movie about being part of an ensemble movie, Deadpool does.

There’s been a lot of talk that Hugh Jackman is leaving Wolverine after the Wolverine sequel, and there’s a lot of talk that after Apocalypse Fox might reboot or something with X-Men because of contracts. Are you sort of aware of that have you had that conversation about a reboot coming, does it still exist?


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: I think that anyone who’s in those other movies we can refer to them by character and not get into a problem, if we start talking about specifics of timelines and plots, that’s where it gets dicey for us. So we’ve tried to be a little generic, we talk about Professor X but it’s not in any sort of so specific that it could come into conflict with a potential movie or a potential reboot. We’re not sure ourselves where it’s going, I’m not even sure that there exists the exact plan, but we’re just trying to be in a place where we can be flexible not matter which way it goes, if that makes sense.

Do you guys go into the first Wolverine movie at all, referencing, going back to or away from it?

WERNICK: Yeah, very much. Obviously I think it’s pretty well known that they fucked up Deadpool and Wolverine.

[All laugh].

WERNICK: So we have our fun with it. Deadpool obviously breaks that fourth wall in the comics, he breaks it in the movie. This is an origin story, partly an origin story, partly a story in the present of revenge and then redemption. So we do have our fun with the Wolverine movie and how Deadpool was portrayed, and yet we completely disregarded it and done it hopefully better than they did.

What is more important to you and what combination can we expect?

WERNICK: It’s pretty outrageous and hopefully fairly funny. I’d say comedy to action…

Like Green Lantern type of humor?

WERNICK: Let’s hope not.

[All laugh].

WERNICK: What would you say?


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: Yeah. I mean, really it all flows from the character. The character is very irreverent, he’s very edgy, he’s very silly, he’s borderline psychotic, and I think all of those flow right into the tone. We love this tone, we were really given a gift when we got to write this character and all the other characters in a way become straight men to Deadpool who’s the lunatic in the middle. Usually the straight man is in the middle and the lunatics are around them, and with Deadpool it’s the lunatic in the middle and the straight men are around him. It’s just a joy to write, it really is, it’s a joy to write. And we think it’ll be very faithful to the Deadpool you know. I don’t think anyone’s gonna watch this and go, “Oh this isn’t the Deadpool that I’ve read on the page” I think they’re gonna feel like, “Ok, this is pretty much the quintessential look at what he’s like and what drives him and why he is funny even”.

So he’s totally crazy.

REESE: Well, no, he’s not insane. It’s not the hearing voices, we’re not doing that, he’s not schizophrenic or anything, but he is as Ryan [Reynolds] says, in a highly militarized shame spiral. So he’s very insecure, he is very vain, hates the way he looks, and the comics had given us the lead way to break the fourth wall, so in a way he’s just strangely omniscient, he can talk about the fact that he’s in a movie, he can talk about things that the character wouldn’t know and everyone around him is kind of like, “What are you talking about?”

WERNICK: For example, he’s stubbing though a People’s Magazine sexiest male alive, Hugh Jackman 2011’s sexiest male alive People Magazine, so, you know. Is he insane? He’s not insane.

REESE: Yeah. We’re not pushing him quite as far as some of the later comics do in terms of his sheer insanity. We figured we had time to do that, hopefully with sequels we have time to do that.

What characters came very close to being in this film?

REESE: We had some that were in that are now out. Garrison Kane was in and is now out, Wire was in and is now out.

WERNICK: Both budgetary.


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: Both for budgetary reasons. I’m trying to think… Cable, you know, there was a lot of pressure to put Cable in this movie just because he is associated with Deadpool and they have an interesting fun relationship. Our feeling was we just better get Deadpool on his feet before we introduce Cable. Anyone else?


REESE: I mean, I though. We really took some people off the table, most of the X-Men we took off the table. Colossus was the one we wanted to fight for because he’s a real goody two-shoes and a real rule follower, and we thought he was a good foil to Deadpool. He’s just this sort of square jawed, metaphorically and literally, but he’s also a square and that’s pretty fun to play opposite Deadpool.

I imagine there were numeral processes to getting Colossus, did you guys have a backup plan if you couldn’t get him?

REESE: I don’t think we, thankfully, got that far. We kind of put him in there with the hope that we could use him and then it just worked out.

WERNICK: Sort of like how we wrote it with the hope that it would stay R-rated. When we started we did say like, “Well, are they ever gonna make an R-rated Deadpool movie?” and Ryan, God bless him, was like, “Go with God. Write it the way it should be written and we can kind of figure it out beyond that” So same sort of thing, we just wished and it came through.

Some movies go just pure over the R-rated line and some movies go really far with R, what are you guys doing?

WERNICK: We may have to appeal for an R rating as opposed to an NC-17.

REESE: Yeah. I mean, we have all the things I think that make a movie R: Language, Sex, and Violence. And so I would say we’re a reasonably hard R, though that’s certainly in play if it gets too gory and it might turn some folks off, we have to find the right line.

A lot of Deadpool’s sense of humor is from pop culture references, how do you make sure that you reference pop culture things but also that you’re not making a joke about something that people will roll their eyes about in a year?


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: Boy, that’s such a good question and it’s so hard to me. Interestingly this script is 6 years old, so one of the things we decided I think was, it’s ok if someone in the audience doesn’t get a specific joke, and Family Guy has always committed to that idea. Like, you know, we’ll make a bunch of jokes, you’ll get maybe 7 out of 10 but 3 you won’t get, maybe somebody else will get or maybe it’ll inspire you to look that person up on the internet. They’ll do jokes that are pretty obscure for a modern audience, but they do enough, the quantity is enough I think that any particular one if it makes somebody grunt or feels like yesterday’s news, that’s ok in the larger scheme. I do think we need to watch the really popular trends, like the jokes that just get beaten down by other movies and other TV shows, but some stand the test of time, some jokes are so timeless like, I mean, Justin Bieber, we’ll probably be able to make jokes about Justin Bieber and if it’s a funny joke it’ll still work.

Do you have any sort of end credit or post-credit scene, where you guys approached to write anything like that?

WERNICK: There is a post credit thing that if hopefully comes together, It’s gonna be phenomenal.

REESE: We’re planning it. It’s one of those ones that’s gonna require some doing, so it may not come together, and if so, I don’t know, we’ll either do a plan be or none at all. I think we should have one, I mean, we really feel like we should have one.

It’s Deadpool.

REESE: Yeah. Right. Exactly.                       

Is there a Stan Lee cameo?

REESE: Stan Lee is in the movie.

WERNICK: In a way you’ve never seen him before.

REESE: Yeah. Did you guys see that recent Stan Lee cameo, the video on YouTube? It’s pretty funny. The Stan Lee School for cameo acting.


Image via 20th Century Fox

WERNICK: We could…You guys want the spoil or not?

REESE: No? No, no. No spoiler.

How much was Rob Liefeld involved in the script?

REESE: Rob wasn’t that involved in the script but he’s been incredibly involved once the script was done in helping us get it to fruition. Just pushing and nudging and kind of generating enthusiasm on the fans and on the studio. He’s so passionate and such a cheerleader, just such a positive person and a positive force. I think, truly, that if it hadn’t been for his –Obviously most importantly if it hadn’t been for his character none of us would be here, but also just his tireless passion and enthusiasm means a lot. In a business where people can get cynical and beaten down and tired, he never gave up and it really helped the movie.

Being in the film for 6 years, having different iterations, going back and forth, is there a period in time where the light at the end of the tunnel seems the faintest?

REESE: Yes. There were some really low moments. One of the lowest moments was when we turned in the script on the day The Avengers came out, a Friday, and The Avengers made what, over 200 and some million dollars opening weekend? And we thought for sure, “How do you read this script as an executive on that particular weekend and not greenlight this Monday morning?” and instead we got the word on Monday morning that Fox was gonna kind of rethink, given the success of The Avengers, rethink Deadpool possibly within the context of an ensemble as opposed to by himself, and we just went, “Ugh!” so that was a low moment. What were some other ones?

WERNICK: I mean, pretty much every moment from the time when we turned in the script to the time they greenlit the movie was pretty low. Just because we’re so immensely passionate about it, and not able to understand how a movie like this, a Marvel movie, in a space with a little bit of oversaturation but yet this is an apple to everyone’s orange in terms of it being hard R and being this character that the audience has never really seen a superhero like this, I don’t think, kind of a self-loathing antihero.

REESE: It’s funny, greenlight decisions come down to people, people make the decision, obviously. But maybe not so obviously in the sense that you need that right combination of people, and it wasn’t until we had Jim Gianopulos, Stacy Snider, Emma Watts, and Simon Kinberg, that group of people, to come together and say, ‘Ok, now’s the time.” And we’re really lucky in that retrospect that I didn’t get made in a previous iteration because it might have been PG-13, or an executive who was doing it maybe because they thought the market was didn’t really get it. I think we finally got the right combination of people at Fox who just supported us 1000%, and I think because of that we’re all gonna get the Deadpool we always hoped for.


Image via Fox

WERNICK: Yeah. It all ultimately worked out. But if you were to track the email chain from Rhett, myself, Ryan, and Tim, over the course of 5, 6 years we all never gave up. We pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and sent emails where we over step boundaries all the time in term of like, Jim Gianopulos got it like, ‘Please we’re grown men, we’re begging”.

REESE: And we had some angels on our shoulder too, this movie had some very quiet unsung heroes. One of them was Jim Cameron, who’s a friend of Tim Miller, and read the script at a key moment a few years back. He said he would read it and we were like, [Sarcastically] “Oh yeah, he will read it.” And literally he read it that night and got back to us the next morning.

WERNICK: He was procrastinating I think on Avatar 2.

REESE: But he read it and he went to Jim Gianopulos and he got it on the radar in a really big way. David Fincher was another guy who was a big help for us, he’s also a friend of Tim’s, and he loved the script and he pushed forward with the executives at certain key moments. Having guys like Fincher and Cameron pushing certainly didn’t hurt and we very well might not be sitting here if it hadn’t been for those two guys.

WERNICK: The ultimate angel on our shoulder really was Simon Kinberg. When he came aboard it really did kind of move what was delayed to blazing superhero speed and “let’s make this movie”.

REESE: Yeah. I mean, I think Simon in a way was probably most responsible, just his understanding of comics, his understanding of this character.

WERNICK: And the trust that Fox has in him.

Have Cameron and Fincher been on set at all?

REESE: No, they’re so busy. But their enthusiasm really helped us, I can’t say that enough, it really helped us.

So you guys think Deadpool will have his own standalone sequel before being part of an ensemble?

REESE: Just a guess.

Have you guys given any thought to what a second standalone film would look like?


Image via 20th Century Fox

REESE: Not really because we’re trying not to jinx it. I think what we’re discovering in this process is that we’ve really fallen in love with these characters, and by these I mean Weasel, Blind Al, Dopinder who plays the taxi driver, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Colossus. So I think there will be momentum to keep as many characters from the original as possible because they seem to be working out so well.

WERNICK: It’s like this fucked up dysfunctional family that kind of all works, and so we’d love to keep the core together if we could.

REESE: And not overpopulate it. I think some movies get overpopulated, I mean, obviously there would be a new villain. It would be fun to get Cable involved, that’s not a promise, that’s something that we will explore certainly. But I think we’re just in love with this particular ensemble, kind of like a TV ensemble, they’re fun beyond episode 1, episode 2, sometimes many seasons the same ensemble could work, so we’d like to play with these guys.

And it also bares mentioning too, a word about Ryan Reynolds. This is a pretty little known fact but when we developed this script to write it, we outlined it very seriously and we did that with Ryan. So it was really the three of us, Paul, Ryan and I, and I think sometimes people make the assumption that the start is just the start, he just shows up and he does his job and that’s it; and he was so instrumental. When we first pitched Deadpool to him, it was not an origin story, interestingly, because we thought origin stories were old-fashioned, and Ryan was the one who said, “No, it needs to be an origin story” and so I think it was kind of his choc but then our peanut butter in the sense that we decided to kind of do a modern story and an origin story and link them with the sort of five-year flashbacks. But when we wrote the script we would send pages, 10 to 20 at a time, to Ryan and he would give us his notes and his feedback as we were going. So I just can emphasize enough how important he was to the writing process and really this is not just Paul’s and my script, it’s Paul’s, mine, and Ryan’s from a long, long time ago. And I just wanna make sure that everyone gets that because he really deserves that recognition.

For more from our Deadpool set visit:


Image via Fox

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