It was a cold, gray day in Vancouver, and I was crammed into a tiny van full of journalists speeding towards a scrapyard on the outskirts of town. Normally, in this situation, I would be worried that I was about to become the star of a snuff film, but in this instance I was elated because we were heading to the set of Deadpool. Considering that the film has been in development ever since 2004, this set visit felt particularly well-earned. Marvel’s merciless mercenary has become a fan favorite in recent years, but the prospect of seeing Deadpool on the big screen always seemed to be a pipe dream. Until recently, that is. Fittingly enough, once we arrived at the makeshift set, it began pouring rain, but not even a soggy chimichanga was going to ruin my excitement. We were here to see Wade Wilson kick ass, take names, and absolutely obliterate the fourth wall.
After a long and tumultuous trip through the labyrinth that is developing a feature film in Hollywood, the Ryan Reynolds-starring film is finally making its way to the silver screen. The turning point came in the summer of 2014 when Deadpool test footage created as a proof-of-concept by Blur Studios hit the web, proving to Fox that there was indeed a market for Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth. The studio was understandably nervous after the intensely negative reaction to Wolverine: Origins, in which Reynolds appeared as a version of Deadpool/Wade Wilson. However — and I’m sure Reynolds would agree — that film was a steaming pile of hot garbage and not indicative of what Reynolds could bring to the role. Likewise, Reynolds had been burnt by comic book movies before after the less-than-stellar reception of films like Green Lantern and R.I.P.D.. So rather than roll the dice again, Reynolds decided to take matters into his own hands.
Reynolds is not only the star of Deadpool, but he is a producer as well, and this isn’t so If the prospect of a fourth-wall-breaking antihero with a predilection for decapitating his enemies wasn’t a hard enough sell, director Tim Miller and star/producer Ryan Reynolds decided to push the envelope further, sacrificing a larger budget for tighter creative control. (“Our budget is like the Craft Services budget on most X-Men movies,” Reynolds joked.) With inventive fight choreography, a wicked sense of humor, and a host of heretofore underutilized characters, Deadpool is looking to break the mold for what audiences expect from a superhero movie. Based on what I saw so far, it looks like they have a recipe for a darkly comedic, action-packed, R-rated superhero flick, the likes of which we have not yet seen from Marvel.
While on set, we spoke with a number of different people involved both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. We also watched the beginnings of a brutal showdown between Deadpool and the villainous Ajax, which will serve as a precursor to the film’s knock-down, drag-out slugfest of a finale. We learned a metric ton of information about the film, but here are the twelve things that you need to know.
Good things come to those who wait — especially those who wait ten years.
This film has been in development for a decade. Let that sink in for a moment. Now consider the sheer amount of superhero movies out there. With the exception of, perhaps, Kick-Ass, there is no other film that really occupies the same territory as Deadpool — one that is violent, twisted, and decidedly tongue-in-cheek. In fact, without the wait, Deadpool might not even exist in its current form, according to Reynolds.
“I just think there’s nothing else that occupies a space quite like it in any universe, in any comic book universe,” Reynolds said. “It’s been like that for a long time, so in a weird way waiting might have served us better than anything, because now’s the time for a movie like this in a way that, y’know, five, six, seven years ago might not have been.”
The body count is going to be awfully high.
People like to point out the fact that there were lots of civilian casualties in movies like Man of Steel or Avengers, but none of them are shown. By and large, bad guys are just knocked out or punched until they stop moving; there don’t seem to be any real consequences. Deadpool is looking to change that with a little bit of the ol’ ultraviolence.
“Well, every comic book movie I go to nobody fucking dies!” Reynolds exclaimed. “I mean, everybody’s getting shot at; it’s like an episode of The A-Team, y’know, everyone’s shooting the ground. So, we get an opportunity to do this in a way that follows all the scripture that Deadpool’s laid out, which is fourth-wall breaking, that kind of mercenary sensibility and humor. And then we also have this opportunity, which is very rare in this world, to do something that’s not necessarily for just kids. There’s some pretty racy, pretty hyper-violent things that happen in this movie and it’s been a lot of fun to shoot.”
Ryan Reynolds was too jacked for the original Deadpool costume
Yeah, yeah, we get it. Ryan Reynolds is comprised of equal parts winning smile and abdominal muscles. But did you know that he was apparently too ripped for the original Deadpool suit?
“I think it’s worth noting, usually in these costumes you have a muscle suit underneath,” Tim Miller explained. “Because nobody is so ripped that it can show up underneath this costume, and so, even Superman and all those guys have a muscle suit underneath, a kind of polyurethane kind of thing and so we had one built for Ryan and then we didn’t need it. We put him on it and he looked fucking jacked, y’know.”
“I looked like a house in it,” Reynolds laughed. “It was like too much.”
“But, the funny thing is he IS jacked,” Miller elaborated. “It would shame all of the men in this room if you saw him with his shirt off. Even the stunt guys. He’s huge. We had this moment when he first was changing into costume and I hear him go, ‘Tim, Tim come in here for a second.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ And I go in there and he’s got his shirt off and he’s like, ‘Okay, this is as close as we’re going to get to being naked together on this entire process.’ But, I mean, he was just showing me how ripped he was. But then you put him in the costume and it looked TOO big, so we dropped all the muscle suit and that’s all 100 percent USDA Ryan Reynolds underneath. But it looks great because the costume kind of slims him back down, which is to what I think is the quintessential Deadpool. I mean he’s not a super strong guy…”
“We wanted a lithe and kind of a little more slippery than the big beefcake kind of thing, so…” Reynolds added.
Don’t worry Liefeld fans — there will be pouches. Pouches galore.
A hallmark of Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld’s design is to included a number of seemingly superfluous pouches on his characters. Considering how closely the filmmakers are hewing to Wade Wilson’s comic book origins, it’s only fitting that they pay homage to his aesthetic roots too.
When asked about his costume’s many, many pockets, Reynolds was quick to acknowledge the Liefeld references — but with one important distinction.
“I have the pouches!” he exclaimed. “And I have feet,” he added with a laugh.
“And the tiny feet and tiny hands,” Miller chimed in.
“Sometimes [the pouches] have stuff in them, sometimes not,” Reynolds said. “Our Deadpool has a cell phone at times, so, y’know…”
“We missed the Liefeld joke with the little hand thing…” Miller remarked almost sadly.
“Oh yeah!” said Reynolds “Well, there’s still time, technically…”
It takes four hours to get Ryan Reynolds into makeup.
Putting on the suit is one thing, but what about when Deadpool unmasks himself to reveal the horrible scarred mess that is Wade Wilson? Well, that’s a whole other bag of cats — one that takes a long time and feels like the stuff of nightmares.
“It’s like four hours to get ready and it’s like wearing a wet diaper on your face, according to [Reynolds],” Miller explained to us.
“The make-up’s tough on any character or any person that has to wear that kind of thing, because you have to push yourself through it as much as you can, so everything’s a little big bigger and you’re really moving your face a lot more,” Reynolds followed up. “We have Bill Corso, who’s an Oscar-winning make-up artist, he did Foxcatcher, and he’s a big piece of the puzzle because … right when we got the green light, we said, we gotta get this guy, we have to have Bill Corso. I say to Bill a lot of times, ‘You’re half my performance.’ He really is.”
“There was a lot of relief when [fans] saw the make-up for the first time and they realized we weren’t going to pussy out and not do scars,” Miller noted. “Everybody wants to see Ryan looking beautiful, and we have that, I think, because it’s an origin story. But then, central to this character is this damaged person whose had this horrible thing happen to him, and without that it kind of unravels his journey, if you will, and it doesn’t work. When you see the movie, you’ll see that, without that, we couldn’t tap a well of humor around [it.]”
“Some of the best jokes in the movie are about just how fucking ugly he is,” Miller added with a laugh. “T.J. Miller’s got some lines that will kill you, I’m telling you now.”
The script is approximately 70% the same as the one that leaked.
Making a film is a constantly evolving process, which means that the script itself becomes a living document. Back in 2010, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s Deadpool script leaked online, and many savvy superhero fans managed to get their hot little mitts on it. So, how similar is that script to the one that fans will see on the big screen?
“I’d say the script is about 70% the way it was,” Rhett Reese said, “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.”
“We were hired right after Zombieland, 2009,” Paul Wernick explained. “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.”
“I’d say it’s both different and the same, I know it sounds strange or maybe as an oxymoron,” Reese continued. “But, again, if you’d read that draft you have a pretty good sense of what you’re gonna see” Considering the goodwill surrounding that script, fans are going to be quite pleased at the end of the day.
Ed Skrein is secretly a huge comic book nerd.
For many, their first encounter with Ed Skrein was as the impossibly confident and decidedly handsome Daario Naharis during HBO’s Game of Thrones‘ third season. Now, he’s playing the brooding badass Ajax, the villainous thorn in Deadpool’s side. But Skrein’s most important credit is as a dyed-in-the-wool comic book fan.
“I’m a massive comic book geek,” Skrein said with a smile. “I love this world, this universe. When actors sit around on set they talk about their dream jobs — and you ask any of the actors I’ve worked with previously — my answer would always be comics. I want to be in this universe. And also, being somebody who loves comics so much, it’s also important to me, it’s also a bonus, that it’s this project. Cause this is not your average comic book project. We’re not regurgitating anything that’s been done before. In fact, quite the opposite. We’re really trying to push to do something faithful to the character that the fans love so much. And so we’ve got all his idiosyncrasies and quirky traits, which are also very hilarious and violent. Y’know, it’s the dream project in every way for me.”
Skrein was instrumental in introducing his castmates to the world of Deadpool and Marvel Comics.
“I was really focused into my character because I couldn’t find anything about her and it was actually stressing me out a little bit,” Briana Hildebrand revealed. “But I borrowed a few Deadpool comics from Ed. He’s a comic book nerd, straight up, he has all of them. So I borrowed some from him and I was reading through a few of them, I haven’t really got that much into them. I’ll let you know. I’m on volume two of the complete Deadpool series — go me.
As for Gina Carano, she has Reynolds to thank as well:
“Ed Skrein took me to my first comic book store, and I’m going through the comics and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I read this in Ryan Reynolds’ voice,'” she revealed.
Negasonic Teenage Warhead was a last-minute addition.
Fans of Grant Morrison, New X-Men, and obscure comics characters named for Monster Magnet songs were thrilled when it was announced that Brianna Hildebrand would be portraying Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool. The Genoshan teenage mutant is a formidable young telepath with possible precognitive abilities — although the exact nature of her powers in Deadpool remains unclear. What is clear, though, is that NTW was a last-minute addition to the script.
“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,” Reese explained. “So we did. Negasonic Teenage Warhead was a pretty recent add for Tim.”
“Tim actually gave us a pre-approved list [of characters],” Reese continued. “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. ‘I don’t think we’ll be using Tar Baby’ But anyway, on that list it just popped, this name Negasonic Teenage Warhead.”
“It almost didn’t matter what her powers were,” said Wernick. “We just loved the name so much.”
But who is she in this feature film adaptation? According to actress Briana Hildebrand, “She is a 15-year-old psychic, she reads the future, and she also is her own personal cannonball. She’s a warhead, so she runs at things and explodes at them, and she’s Colossus’ sidekick. Her relationship with Deadpool is friendly; it’s like a brother-sister relationship. They don’t really get along but they’re on the same side.”
Using lesser-known characters turned out to be a huge boon for Deadpool.
Be honest — did you really know who Negasonic Teenage Warhead was? What about her powers? Are you lying to sound cool right now? That’s what Reese and Wernick are banking on.
“She is so minor that very few people know her, which is actually good for us,” Reese said. “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 was quick to agree: “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.”
Likewise, Gina Carano’s character, Angel Dust, only appears in the comics for four issues, so there isn’t a whole lot on which to base the character. For Carano, though, this is an opportunity to put her own stamp on the character.
“So there wasn’t a lot I had to go of of, but that also means that I had more freedom,” Carano said. “My character is very strong and silent, so I wanted to at least be a presence” With short black hair, rippling muscles, and a take-no-prisoners stare, Carano cuts an intimidating swath across the screen. Oh, and did we mention the yellow eyes?
Gina Carano’s contact lenses scared the shit out of her co-stars.
Look, human eyes aren’t supposed to be yellow. Unless you have super-advanced jaundice. Even then. But Gina Carano’s Angel Dust is here to break the mold. In fact, the yellow contacts turned out to be Carano’s favorite part. “Contacts are a little tricky, and they gave me this bug-eye look, which I didn’t mind, but apparently everybody else did,” she explained. “I was like, ‘It makes me look crazy!'”
Gina Carano is more worried about spiders than doing her own stunts.
As Angel Dust, Gina Carano goes toe to toe with some seriously impressive foes — including the massive mutant Colossus. And she isn’t letting someone else have all the fun; oh no, at the time of our set visit, Carano had done all of her own stunts up to that point.
“I’ve actually done them all, so far,” Carano revealed. “Tim look at me and says, ‘Oh, she can handle it.’ I had to climb on top of Colossus’ shoulders and punch down and do a roll out of it…and then he picks me by the neck and slams me…so everything that he’s doing I have to so by myself. So I’m throwing myself back into the dirt and he saw me going through five different emotions like, ‘This is disgusting, oh no, get me outta here!'”
But that isn’t the worst part, according to Carano: “We’ve been shooting in this junkyard and I’ve realized I don’t like dirt so much, but I’ve had it everywhere. It’s probably the messiest I’ve ever been in a fight, and I kinda loved it and hated it. I was just worried about the spiders…that’s all I cared about. I was like, ‘Did we do a spider check?'”
“But you learn to love your character and you learn to love the places you shoot,” she said. “So I think I won’t look at a junkyard the same.”
There are more than 700 VFX shots in the film.
Considering that Deadpool spends a majority of the film palling around with a 7-foot-tall mutant with steel skin, it should come as no surprise that Deadpool will be packed to the gills with VFX shots. But according to visual effects coordinator John Rothbart, there are more than 700 VFX shots planned for the film.
“We planned for 700-plus, and we’ll probably be something between 800 or 900 is my guess,” Rothbart explained. “Which in today’s day and age is a pretty manageable number…and VFX is a funny thing, there’s plenty of shots that hopefully will never be noted as a VFX shot. But that has an effect on numbers. But that’s generally what we are planning around. For me, in doing VFX my goal as a supervisor is I’ll be happy if you never noticed I’ve worked on the show at all.”
Deadpool hits theaters on February 12, 2016.
What aspect of Deadpool and Wade Wilson’s story are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below
Images: 20th Century Fox, Marvel