Interview: Deadpool 2 Screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
20th Century Fox invited ComingSoon.net to the New York City junket for Deadpool 2, where we scored an exclusive 2-on-1 interview with “The Real Heroes Here,” screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The two discussed co-writing the sequel script with star Ryan Reynolds, the transition from director Tim Miller to David Leitch, the upcoming X-Force movie, and some ideas that were too wild even for a Deadpool movie. Be forewarned this interview contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Deadpool 2, so proceed at your own risk!
Ryan Reynolds is reprising his role as the Merc with a Mouth alongside Zazie Beetz as the luck-manipulating mutant Domino and Josh Brolin as Cable, the time-traveling son of the X-Men’s Cyclops. Jack Kesy (The Strain, Baywatch) is playing the film’s central villain, which, while unconfirmed, is rumored to be Irish mutant Black Tom Cassidy. Other additions to the cast include Shioli Kutsuna, Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, with Bill Skarsgård, and Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
Other stars returning from the first Deadpool include Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Karan Soni as Dopinder, and Stefan Kapicic as the voice of Colossus. Deadpool 2 will be released May 18.
Again, MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!
ComingSoon.net: You guys very famously spent years and years hitting a lot of walls trying to get “Zombieland” made and then the same experience trying to get “Deadpool” made. What was it like writing a movie like “Deadpool 2” where the studio was probably banging down your door to write it?
Rhett Reese: It was a little bit of the opposite in the sense that we started writing in June of 2015. When we wrapped principal photography on “Deadpool 1” we started writing “Deadpool 2.” By writing, I use that air quotes because it was really more trying to break the story. There was a ton of pressure. There was a lot of scrutiny and there was a lot of when is it going to be done from the studio, but more importantly just from fans. “When are we going to get to see a ‘Deadpool 2?'” The expectations were pretty high and it was definitely harrowing for us.
Paul Wernick: Despite the pressure, the key to us was getting it right. I think the studio wanted to get it right, too, so it wasn’t them rushing us into production going, we don’t care what’s on the page just make the movie. It was, let’s make the movie but let’s make it right. We did spend three years basically developing, writing, you know, from start to finish on this movie.
Reese: So yeah, three years.
Wernick: It wasn’t as quick as it would seem. It feels very quick but it was a long process. We went through two directors and a lot of development and many scripts and ultimately came out the other end with, I think, a product we’re very proud of.
CS: Oh my God, yeah. I was in the audience last night with a lot of people dressed as Deadpool and they seemed to enjoy it. You had a long development on the first one and you clearly had your sites set on Cable for the second one. What were some kind of pie in the sky ideas that you had during that early development process that either didn’t quite survive or came out in a different iteration?
Reese: There were certain things that didn’t gel. We had a version with a bad guy called Mr. X that we ended up not using. We had a version where Black Tom was the bad guy, an expanded version.
Wernick: We had a version where Deadpool was the villain of his own movie.
Reese: Deadpool was kind of the villain of his own movie in a version. We did try… these are all kinds of outlining versions, they didn’t all become drafts. We tried a lot of different things. We had a version where Vanessa just broke up with Deadpool as opposed to actually dying.
Wernick: A version where Deadpool became a father.
Reese: Yeah. So we had all these things swirling around and we finally coalesced around the idea of family. We knew we were trying to set up “X-Force,” so we tried to back into the idea of if Deadpool finds a family at the end of the movie, let’s create a situation where he wants or needs a family. He gets Vanessa taken away from him, he’s laid low and then he meets this kid who could sort of become a surrogate son for him, and then in trying to save the kid ends up finding a complete family. So, that was the process.
CS: Ryan actually gets a co-writer credit with you guys on the film. He had huge input on the first one, but what was the process of properly writing with him?
Wernick: It was wonderful. Rhett and I have been in a writing partnership for 18-plus years now and we’ve known Ryan for almost a decade, 10-plus years. This process was much like the process on the first one except Ryan was turning around pages just like we were. We were all sitting in a room breaking story, going off giving up scenes here and there, trading them back and forth, rewriting. We were all of one hive mind so it’s very easy to coalesce the tones of each individual writer. Oftentimes writing in the same room, oftentimes in bathrobes…
Wernick: And again, Ryan is so brilliant and so the voice of Deadpool. To have his voice not only in our heads but literally sitting next to us and with a keyboard, it was just an absolute treat.
CS: One of the big things I was worried about when David Leitch came on board was that it was going to be a more icy, kind of street-level “Deadpool” movie and it wasn’t going to have the same elasticity that the first one had. Obviously I saw it last night and it’s completely of a piece with the first one. As sort of the gatekeepers of the franchise, how did you initiate David into what is expected from a “Deadpool” movie?
Reese: He’s a mad scientist the way we are. He really fit in beautifully. He’s a maestro with action and yet he really gets story and heart and comedy. There are so many things that he brought to it that weren’t in the script. For instance, the scene where Cable’s shooting at Deadpool and he blocks the bullet with his sword and then gets shot about six or seven other times instead of actually deflecting the bullet. That’s all Dave. There were any number of ways that he amped the movie from start to finish and he really did fit in with us really, really seamlessly. He’s also just a sweet person and it was just fun. We had a lot of fun with him.
CS: In terms of when Tim Miller left, was it a complete start over? Did any of his concepts make it into the final movie?
Reese: We tried a number of things with Tim and when Tim left we looked back over what we had and the draft that was then written was a little bit of a greatest hits of various early drafts and then a bunch of new things. So, we were dropping in new things like the fake X-Force… we called it “fake X-Force” but the X-Force interviews and the X-Force that ends up dying really quickly, we dropped that in after the fact. It was a little bit of an amalgamation of some old and some new but we really did start from page one and take it all the way through to the end again to try to make it of a piece, as you say. I think the story we ended up with it’s a little sprawling at times, but we think it works.
CS: No, I would say so. That X-Force scene, some people were saying “Oh, ‘MacGruber’ did it!” But in the movie it’s a little different than what they did in “MacGruber” with the assembling then immediately killing the team bit.
Reese: I’ve never seen MacGruber.
Wernick: I’ve never seen MacGruber. I know people are referencing it, but surely if it was reminiscent it was unintentional.
CS: I always think about that scene with Alan Alda from “Crimes and Misdemeanors” where he’s like, “If it bends, it’s funny, but if it breaks …
Reese: “But if it breaks, it’s not funny.”
CS: As I’m watching the movie last night, often with my jaw on the floor, I was sort of like, “I wonder what was too extreme to make it into this movie?” Do you have any bits?
Wernick: There were a few. There’s a Disney joke that didn’t make it in. We can’t tell you what it is, but it would’ve probably blown up the Fox-Disney merger that is impending. There was a baby Hitler bit in the final moment that we shot that ultimately just didn’t fit in tonally.
CS: Where he goes back and kills baby Hitler?
Reese: Yeah, he kills baby Hitler. Something about killing a baby in the final shot of your movie, even though it was baby Hitler, it was a little too strong. Every now and then… it’s not like you’ve stepped over a line completely, but you do wonder whether or not you’ve just pushed it a touch too far, but that’s rare. That’s a tribute to how much leash we’ve been given that we rarely run into that moment.
CS: How do you even signify that it’s Hitler? Do you give the baby a mustache?
Wernick: He was a baby, it was a German nursery, he had “A. Hitler” on his birth card.
Reese: We did have a moment where somebody thought it would be funny if Deadpool, as he was going to strangle the child-
Wernick: God, this is so hard, this is so hard.
Reese: He couldn’t quite bring himself to do it, so he gets a Sharpie and he draws a little mustache on the baby. He goes, “Okay, that’s much easier now,” now that there’s a mustache on. So, that idea was in there but again, just killing a baby, it’s weird.
Wernick: I think it’ll be DVD extras. I think you’ll see it. There’s going to be a version of the DVD that’s all new jokes, the entire movie including this.
Reese: The last line was, “maximum effort” as he’s going in to strangle the kid.
CS: That’s awesome. I liked the whole subplot about the mutant conversion thing. It’s very much an affront to the Mike Pences of the world.
Reese: Conversion therapy.
CS: Yeah. As Deadpool says in the movie, X-Men has always been sort of a civil rights allegory, but what was it like to dig into something like conversion therapy that is real and genuinely terrifying?
Reese: We had a little bit more of that in… the Headmaster has more footage that didn’t make it in for time, but there were moments where you see him talking to all the kids and he’s talking about your urges are something you should be fighting.
Wernick: It’s the “pray the gay away” thing.
Reese: Yeah, it was a metaphor and he’s trying to drill it into these kids at a young age that your goals should be to resist those instincts. It felt like a good lesson to toss out to us. Then of course it didn’t end up in the movie as much as we wanted. It’s great that you actually picked it up, because it’s not as front and center as it was in the screenplay. Yeah. Where we can impart a good lesson of non-hate we’re thrilled to do it.
CS: Yeah. I guess throughout the movie you poke fun at conservative culture in general like Fox News and Jared Kushner, you twist the knife a little bit.
Reese: Then of course we also make fun of overt political correctness too. We’re trying to have it both ways, make sure everybody’s happy.
Wernick: Equal opportunity, I would say. Always.
CS: As of now, I believe, Drew Goddard is working on “X-Force,” but as the godfathers of this franchise, how has it been handing over the reigns to somebody else?
Reese: We love Drew. It hasn’t realized itself yet because he’s off making another movie so he won’t really write the screenplay until next year. We have every faith in him. He’s awesome and funny and he’ll be a great director of it too. We’re not worried.
Wernick: It’s in great hands.
CS: Because of what you do with X-Force in this movie, was Drew ever like, “Guys, I really could’ve used Shatterstar!”
Reese: Yeah, well we have a time machine. We could bring Shatterstar back.
Wernick: We could do anything we want right now with the time machine.
Reese: He is so funny too. The actor playing Shatterstar was so funny that whatever … “Comedy first” is our motto. If he’s funny, maybe we bring him back.
CS: Yeah. And Ryan has kind of intimated that there might not be a third Deadpool movie. In your mind is there one?
Wernick: There may not be a third one but there’ll definitely be a fourth one.
Reese: We’re going to skip. He doesn’t want to do three that’s fine, we’ll go right to four. I think when he said that there was a collective cardiac arrest over at the studio, literally the ambulances were racing to Fox after he made that comment. Look, I think we’ll see. I think the most important thing is “X-Force” comes next. “Deadpool 3,” if it happens, won’t be for awhile. It will all be about our collective appetite and our collective feeling that we can still do something fresh and as good as the other ones. If we don’t think we can we won’t do it, and if we think we can or if Fox insists on making some more money maybe someone will do it.
Wernick: We think there are more stories to tell, I think we all do. My guess is we just kind of take a breath here, Ryan gets out of the suit, gets out of the makeup. He’s been running nonstop for years on this, as have we. I think it’ll be good to get this little bit of a respite in and come together and say, “Okay, what’s the next story we want to tell?” My guess is we’ll add on something wonderful.
CS: He told me last night he’ll play the role not a day past age 80.
Reese: So he’s got makeups on, you couldn’t really tell how old he is. Deadpool won’t age behind the makeup.
CS: Heck yeah. There’ll just be a stunt guy in the suit.
Reese: Yeah, exactly.
Wernick: Hologram. A Deadpool hologram.
CS: Isn’t that what Robert Downey Jr. does? He just goes in for like a few minutes, puts his head in the blue screen?
Wernick: Maybe it’s just us, but it may be the audience as well … you can tell when it’s Ryan in that suit and when it’s not Ryan in that suit.
Reese: Yeah, he’s so comedic.
Wernick: Distinctive with his acting, and even within the suit it’s just how brilliant he is.
CS: Real quickly, just wanted to talk about that end credit scene where he literally shoots himself from the 2009 “Wolverine” movie. It really is incredible, I think Ryan is the only guy who has ever pulled a Mulligan on playing the same character.
Reese: I know, right? The first golf swing went off into the bushes so you got to swing again and hit a drive down the center of the fairway. That’s exactly what he did.
Wernick: You also have to have a forgiving foursome, though.
Reese: Yeah, that’s true, who’s willing to let just tee-up the ball again.
Wernick: And fortunately the audience has been forgiving enough to let us reinvent it and do it right.
CS: Did you have to go through approvals with Hugh, just to reassure him that it wouldn’t make him look bad?
Wernick: Yeah, they pulled existing footage from the movie which was hard to find because everyone has destroyed it.
Reese: At least that scene.
Wernick: Yes, but Ryan always… we all see this as therapy in a strange way, and we’re working things out and we continue to work out this, you know, Wolverine origins mishap and Ryan continues to work out the “Green Lantern” mishap and it’s fun for us.
Reese: Hopefully now he’s gotten some closure though. The bullet goes straight to the brain.