Despite all its current financial and critical success, Fox’s Deadpool probably never should have happened. Against all odds and after more than a decade in development with lots of false starts, budget cuts, ratings discussions, and misunderstandings between creative filmmakers and bean-counting studio brass, Deadpool only came into existence thanks to dogged pursuit from director Tim Miller, the confidence of star Ryan Reynolds, and of course the character’s co-creators Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. And yet the Deadpool that’s currently delighting moviegoers to record-breaking ticket sales could have been very, very different.
In a chat with EW, Miller talked about the long road to bringing Deadpool to screen, chronicling the difficulties with the studio and his tireless attempts to push progress forward. Additionally, Reynolds joined Empire’s recent podcast episode to talk about the Merc with a Mouth and all of the various iterations the script went through over the years. You can blame budgetary restrictions and creative differences for characters like Wolverine and Taskmaster not appearing in the film; thankfully, Deadpool 2 will almost undoubtedly have a bigger budget to play with.
First up, Miller summarized his decade-plus process of getting Deadpool on screen. Here’s how the studio responded when Miller brought the crazy script from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to them, along with Reynolds’ commitment to star:
“Fox told me a number. They said, ‘Here’s where the budget needs to be if we’re gonna do this as an R-rated film.’ The number had to start with a four. And then it was up to the point where the senior execs at Fox were looking at it. [Fox chairman] Tom Rothman just said, ‘No. We don’t get it.’ Tom told me, ‘Love your passion but I just don’t care for the script. Don’t get it.’
“To be fair, some things had changed from between the time when we first started talking and when we proposed the budget. Green Lantern had come out and that hadn’t helped Ryan’s career. Plus, I was a first-time director. It’s a particular confluence of momentum and money and talent that leads to any movie getting made.”
In a great anecdote that’s a testament to Miller’s ultra-marathon-like dedication, he reveals the secret to his eventual, hard-earned success:
“I wrote an email once a month or so to the Fox executives, saying ‘Please tell me who I have to f— to get this going?’ And the answer was, ‘It’s not the right time, we appreciate your passion.’ I wrote a lot of emails and I’m sure I annoyed the s— out of them.”
In an alternate universe, there’s a PG-13 version of Deadpool that ended up quite differently from the one we can now enjoy today:
“At one point I asked if a PG-13 would move the needle and then they let me do a more sanitized version of the script. We lost a few ‘f—s’ and we lost a few sexual references. But we didn’t have to adjust the violence at all. Wolverine is stabbing people with swords on his hands and that’s happily PG-13.”
Speaking of Wolverine, Reynolds confirmed that the script featured the famous X-Man, once upon a time:
“We had endless [conversations about other X-Men]. Taskmaster was in the script originally, too expensive. We had versions where we wanted Hugh Jackman in there, we wanted all kinds of cameos from different people, but it just becomes a big mess for the studio.
“We went through such hell developing the script and which X-Men we could keep and which we couldn’t and it just turned into a nightmare. The studio would just say, ‘too expensive, too expensive, too expensive’ to everyone. So finally we were like well, ‘what about Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ and they said, ‘Negasonic, what?'”
So you can thank budget concerns for the inclusion of Brianna Hildebrand’s character in Deadpool, but now that the film has proven successful, the X-Cast might expand in the sequel. And since we’re talking x-pansion (had to), there’s every possibility that Deadpool’s success will lead to future films, like X-Force:
“I think the natural progression is Cable, ‘X-Force,’ hopefully. I’d like see ‘X-Force’ to be rated R as well and have the flexibility to do that stuff. If ‘Deadpool’ does what they want it to do [financially], it affords you that ability to do that.”
Deadpool has certainly performed above and beyond all financial expectations, and producer Simon Kinberg recently said that he could see an R rating for an X-Force film, so it’s looking pretty good for the future of Fox’s Marvel mutants film franchise. Finally, the time has come when we can put the horror of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine behind us.
For more on Deadpool, be sure to check out our recent coverage below:
- What Does ‘Deadpool’s Success Mean for Future Superhero Movies?
- Remembering ‘Deadpool’ Director Tim Miller’s Title Sequence for ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
- ‘Spawn’ Writer Says R-Rated Movie Will Embrace Horror and the Supernatural
- ‘X-Force’ Could Be Rated-R, Says Simon Kinberg
- ‘Deadpool 2’: 5 Things We Want to See in the Sequel
- ‘Deadpool’ Demolishes Box Office Records with $135 Million Debut