Interview with Deadpool's writers: "we didn’t ask for permission, we just begged for forgiveness"

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on the "crazy" risks of bringing the Merc with a Mouth to screen. 

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The Independent Culture

Deadpool happened. Just take a second to let that thought sink in. An R-rated superhero movie about a foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking lunatic wielding double katanas wasn't laughed out of the studio offices. It's been made, it's here, and it's everything its fans could have ever hoped for. 

Even the people who wrote Deadpool, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, can't quite believe it's happened. "It’s crazy," Wernick told The Independent. "You know, we’ve watched the movie, we’ve seen it a bunch of times obviously. And we, much like probably you and the audience, thought, ‘I can’t believe that we did that, that we got away with that.’ Like, sometimes we just scratch our heads and wonder."

The pair, speaking over the phone, made their gratitude towards studio 20th Century Fox evidently clear; if not just for the mere gutsiness of giving Deadpool the greenlight. "We thought to ourselves, ‘Is Fox ever going to make this movie if we do it as we want?’" Wernick reflected. "And ultimately, they did. And that is a really, really bold decision on Fox’s part, you know? This is a big studio and to allow us to do the kind of things that we did and to make fun of the stuff that we did and to say the things that we did, it took a really bold leap of trust by the studio to allow us to do that."

Indeed, what becomes remarkably clear in conversation with these writers is the exactly the incredible level of freedom Fox afforded its production. Sure, Deadpool's lack of collapsing bridges doesn't put it on par with the budgetary demands of other superhero movies, but it's riskiness is something that can't ever be underplayed here; and certainly caused enough nervousness to be briefly pushed as a PG-13, with Reese and Wernick even going to the lengths of creating a draft for the rating. 


"In that draft, in particular, we had a bunch of restrictions but, boy, apart from that draft? Almost zero," said Reese. "The studio was extraordinarily supportive of the R-rated version at the beginning, and then when they finally decided to make the movie. We never had to pull a punch. Not even a single punch. Which was awesome."

And when it came to those not-so-subtle jabs at Fox's own X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which featured Deadpool's (disastrously received) first onscreen appearance? "We didn’t ask for permission, we just begged for forgiveness after the fact," jokes Wernick. 

Which brings us to everyone's favourite topic, Ryan Reynolds. Having starred as Origins' Deadpool, Reynolds came into the unique position of being one of the first people attached to the project, and one of its most passionate supporters. The actor stuck by Deadpool through more than 10 years of development hell, as it bounced between studios and failed to attach a director.

By the time Reese and Wernick stepped in, January 2010, Reynolds had essentially become Deadpool's "keeper of the flame". "It’s always been Ryan’s voice," Wernick said of the actor's effects on the writing process. "He so embodies the voice, and that voice so engulfs our head and what we write on the page, that it really is so easy to write because all we have to imagine is Ryan saying it."


The pair were largely unfamiliar with the Deadpool comics themselves before they stepped up to the project, though their own education on them meant they, as Wernick phrases it, "fell in love with them as everybody has". They knew certain aspects were essential: the fourth-wall breaks, the suit, the motor mouth, the powers, the scarring, and the cancer; yet no one seemed to know the character quite as intimately as Reynolds himself. 

"Anytime we strayed even a step off the path of what Deadpool might say or how he might act, Ryan would pull us back onto the path and say, 'I don’t think he would do that exactly' or 'I don’t think he would say that.'" Reese stated. "And that was just always very comforting, it was like a safety net to us. We were never really going to go splat, because Ryan knew the character well enough that if we made a misstep, he would pull us back onto the tightrope."

But even with Reynolds' guidance, the writers still faced one major challenge of their own: how would this anarchic, meta-hero fit into the existing cinematic world of the X-men? "That was really a function of, I think, understanding that the X-Men tone is very different from ours, and trying to use that to our advantage," Reese said. "The X-Men is definitely a more serious franchise, maybe not as serious as The Dark Knight, but it’s very serious. And, rather than look at that with trepidation and wonder, ‘how’s Deadpool going to fit in?’, I think we tried to take advantage of it and use them as foils to his madness and his lunacy." 

Reese further explained how the pair struck the tricky balance of Deadpool's own tone, of exactly how to write a superhero movie that deconstructs superhero movies. "I think that the movie wouldn’t have worked had it been all parody. I think it needed heart, and it needed a real story and real backbone," he reflected. "I remember the Zucker Brothers, who did Airplane!, were asked a long time ago about what they thought one of the reasons Airplane! succeeded. And they said it was because they used an existing plot of a drama, this movie called Zero Hour, and it had real emotion and it told a real story." 

"And then they layered all the jokes and the silliness, and the craziness, on top of that. Whereas, if it had been just craziness, it probably wouldn’t have worked. So we really did pay attention to the pathos and the tragedy and the love story and the story of loss of someone you love and then redemption and finding that person again. We used those as the backbone of our story, and hopefully that worked."  

And, boy, are the pair relieved that it did work. "In terms of how the character and the movie turned out, we couldn’t be more thrilled," Wernick enthused. "I feel like a triathlete at the last 300 yards of the triathlon, and I’ve lost complete muscle and bladder control at this point," Reese said of reaching the end of such a lengthy process. "Like I’m stumbling to the finish line."

Though the film has only just opened, Deadpool 2 has already been officially greenlit with Reynolds, director Tim Miller, Reese and Wernick all set to return. That said, the pair were only speculating on that fact at the time of speaking, in response to how established X-Men characters could potentially feature in the future; "I think that will be the joy if we get to do sequels; to bring in the likes of, and I’m just making this up off the top of my head, Professor X, Storm," Reese mused. 

"Headline – Professor X is in the next Deadpool movie!" Wernick jokingly intervened, with Reese concluding: "That’ll be really fun to explore over time." Let that fun begin. 

Deadpool is out now.