CS Interview: Paul Wernick on Wayne, Clue & State of the Deadpool Union
YouTube Originals just premiered all ten episodes of their action comedy series Wayne, and ComingSoon.net got to chat with one of the show’s producers, Deadpool writer Paul Wernick about the show, the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, the remake of Clue that he’s writing, and the current state of the Deadpool union. Check out the interview below!
In this gritty and sometimes bloody tale, fifteen year-old Wayne sets out on a dirt bike with his new crush Del to take back the 1978 Pontiac Trans Am that was stolen from his father before he died. It is Wayne and Del against the world. It will star Mark McKenna (Sing Street, Kat and Alfie: Redwater) as the titular character and Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush, Red Band Society) as “Del.” Joshua J. Williams (Mudbound) will also recur as “Orlando.”
The 10 episode series is written and created by Shawn Simmons. The series is executive produced by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool, Zombieland), Greg Coolidge (Ride Along) and Kirk Ward. Iain B. MacDonald (Episodes, I’m Dying Up Here, Shameless) directed the pilot. The series hails from Endeavor Content.
ComingSoon.net: I just watched the pilot and I loved it. The vibe is almost like if Holden Caulfield was also James Dean, but with a lot of F bombs.
Paul Wernick: Yeah, the way we best describe it is, it’s John Wick meets John Hughes, you know? It’s 10 episodes. The pilot is a great start. It truly evolves and gets better and more emotional and we’re super, super proud of the show and can’t wait to unleash it out in the world.
CS: It’s very subversive, you could not possibly predict where this show is going from moment to moment.
Wernick: That’s what we love to do. I think most entertainment that’s out there, whether it’s TV or film, you sit down in the first five minutes, and whether you’re a screenwriter in Hollywood or you’re a farm worker in Iowa, you could pretty much predict where it’s going to go over the course of the half hour or the two hours or however long it is. We really do love to keep viewers on the edge of their seat and be unpredictable and not know in the first five minutes where the show is going to be. And I promise you, having just seen the pilot, you have absolutely no idea other than it’s a road trip where there’s this kid and this other kid. Wayne and Dell are going down to Florida. Other than that, you know where it starts and you know generally where it’s going to end, but how they’re going to get there and all the excitement on their journey you just have absolutely no idea. So we love that about the show and that’s something that we really love to do when set out to tackle a project.
CS: How did you guys get roped into it? How did you find the material, and then, what was your role in shepherding it to YouTube?
Wernick: The creator, a guy named Shawn Simmons, who’s been writing in TV for about a decade now, and a friend of ours, Kirk Ward -who we worked with on the “Zombieland” pilot at Amazon and also our show called “Invasion Iowa” for Spike TV- he came to us with this pilot that he helped develop with Shawn, he and Greg Coolidge and said it kind of fits squarely within your guys’ wheelhouse. Is it something that you guys would be interested in shepherding? And we read the pilot and just fell in love with it. And we fell in love with it because it’s such a distinctive voice. I think part of what’s missing in the 500 plus television shows that are out there right now is that distinctive voice, that no one else in the world could’ve written this show. Shawn is from Brockton, Massachusetts. It’s kind of about his childhood, or at least the people he grew up with and around. Tonally it felt like a perfect match for us. It was a mixing of tones in terms of the comedy and the action and the drama. We really do like to make you laugh and cry and sit on the edge of your seat. It felt like a perfect fit for us, and we jumped at the chance to be involved and we pitched it around town and there were multiple buyers. YouTube was the perfect home for us in terms of allowing us to really not water it down in any way, to be ultraviolet and to be able to tell the story that Shawn really wanted to tell. And Rhett and I were in the writer’s room as much as we could be. We were out on set. We shot in Toronto and but really, this was Shawn Simmons’ vision and Shawn Simmons’ baby. And our primary job was to just protect that from page to screen.
CS: It’s funny because it’s set in Brockton. I have a friend who grew up in Brockton and I showed her the trailer when it came out, and she was like, “What is this shit? Is that fuckin’ Vancou-vah?”
CS: She doesn’t really talk like that. She’s a PhD candidate.
Wernick: No, but we shot it in Toronto, which doubles for Boston in a great way. And it feels northeasty and cold and sparse. If it passes for Shawn, who again, wanted to be as authentic as we could, and budgets really didn’t allow us to actually shoot it in Brockton…
CS: Massachusetts has draconian union rules that prevent a lot of productions from going there, right?
Wernick: Yeah, I don’t know how it entirely works, but I do know that fitting it into the box that we needed to fit it into, Toronto was the perfect spot for us. It’s fairly authentic in that way.
CS: What I really love about the character of Wayne is there’s that whole screenwriting cliché, “Does your character kick the dog or does he pet the dog?” And there’s a scene at the beginning of this where he feeds a dog to break a guy’s arm. I love that it just completely broke that paradigm.
Wernick: Yeah, oh my god, yeah. That opening scene where Wayne throws the ice through the window and then gets the shit beat out of him, and then gets up and throws the second patch of ice through the second window… Shawn actually saw that happen when he was a kid. That was really the first thing he wrote when he sat down to write the pilot, he wrote this opening pre-titles thing. It really did inspire the attitude and tone that Shawn wanted to capture in this guy who stands up for what’s right and doesn’t give a shit. The best way he was described was it’s Dirty Harry if he was 16 years old, or Charles Bronson. The thing that Shawn wrote that was so indicative of the tone and feel of the piece was, in his character description of Wayne, it was “Wayne. 16. Wayne does not give a fuck.” That was it. That’s all you needed to know about Wayne.
CS: You and Rhett are involved in a lot of projects, and it made me think about this thing I read about when James Cameron was just starting out. There was this point where he was writing “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and “Rambo 2” all at the same time, and the way he would pivot from script to script was he would put on different music for each script and then he would just start writing.
Wernick: Oh my god. That’s a great idea.
CS: Since you guys are involved in so many different projects, how do you physically block out how you pivot from one project to another in your working day?
Wernick: Well, it’s interesting. For one, there’s two of us, which is great. We can divide and conquer it a lot of different ways. And two, the projects all fit within the wheelhouse. They’re all in the same wheelhouse or at least a similar wheelhouse, so that when you shift from project to project you’re not having to completely sit down and clear your brain and go like, “Okay, I’m writing a romantic comedy and now I’m writing a kickass action adventure movie.” It all merges. It all fits into the same wheelhouse, so the mind doesn’t have to compartmentalize in a way that it completely shifts. There are times where we’re writing and we’re like, “Wait, that joke sounds so familiar. Did we use that somewhere else?” That occasionally does happen, where we have to check ourselves and make sure. “Did I just think of that or did you say it somewhere else?” But we’re pretty good checks and balances on each other to make sure we’re not robbing from Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. So yeah, it’s a challenge, for sure, but look, it’s a great problem to have. We’re busy and that’s a wonderful thing in this business.
CS: I know you can’t say too much about “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but when it was announced that you guys were involved with that, it raised a lot of questions for me. Like, can Ryan Reynolds do an English accent?
Wernick: (laughs) Well, Ryan’s our muse. We set out to do absolutely everything with Ryan. So we love him and any opportunity we can to work with him, we do. You know, we’re writing “Clue” right now. We’re deep, deep into “Clue” and that’s for Ryan to produce and star in. And his voice lives in our head all the time, so to write for him is always, always a treat.
CS: And are you guys collaborating with him in the same way you did on “Deadpool 2”? Or are you just writing it yourselves?
Wernick: We broke story with him, and now we’re just going off to write it and he’ll see a draft relatively soon. And then, I think the three of us will do what we did on “Deadpool,” which is roll up our sleeves and really dig in and make it distinctively the three of us. But generally speaking on this one, it’s us. Rhett and I are writing the draft and then we’ll bring Ryan into the process, once we have something to show. But he was very, very involved breaking story and coming up with character and all that fun stuff before we set off to sit down at our keyboards.
CS: And that’ll be in the same kind of Agatha Christie kind of vein or is it updated? What is the angle?
Wernick: Well, it’s a remake of the Tim Curry “Clue” movie that was based on the board game, the Hasbro board game. I think it was in the mid-80s the movie came out. It really was a murder mystery comedy, I would say a comedy murder mystery. It was a comedy first and a murder mystery second. We’re trying to recapture that tone of being funny and outrageous. It’s not “Deadpool,” because obviously, “Deadpool” is its own thing, but I think the three of us bring that unique tone and irreverence and pop culture. It’s going to be very, very fun and outrageous and we’re having a wonderful time writing it.
CS: Yyou guys just did the PG-13 “Deadpool.” There were a lot of people speculating that that was maybe in some way a trial run to see if “Deadpool” could work as PG-13 once a certain company acquires Fox. How do you think it worked? What is your assessment?
Wernick: Well, I think we’re super proud of it. We loved the framing device of Fred Savage in “Princess Bride.” We kind of wish we had actually done that for the original release of “Deadpool 2,” the R-rated version. It was fun. Any time we can get Ryan to put the suit back on we’ll jump at it. So we may be writing a G-version at some point, relatively soon. Obviously a joke, but we were just sitting around talking one day and Ryan said, “What about a PG-13? How could we do it?” And we came up with this thing that we all got excited about and Ryan pitched it to Fox and we were all shooting it about three weeks later, when we recreated the set of “Princess Bride,” the bedroom scene. Who knows what it means in terms of the Disney of it all. I think part of the experiment was about getting into China, which was just announced yesterday, because that version will air in China. I think it debuts in about 10 days, January 25. So that was one of the goals of that PG-13 version. In that respect it was a success, and we’re proud of it creatively. Its’ just one more thing for the fans. I think we have a lot of friends whose families are like, “Oh god, I want it so badly. My kid wants to see it so badly.”
CS: Right, but based on the reaction, do you think it’s a sustainable thing or do you think it’s a one-off?
Wernick: Oh no, no. It’ll be interesting. We’ll see when Disney officially takes over what the mandate is, but I think they know what “Deadpool” is and they know why it’s a success. Because it really was and is an outlier in that world. At the time no one was making R-rated superhero movies because they wanted it to be four quadrant. We really somehow became a four quadrant R-rated movie, which is rare. We grew up on that stuff. The “Die Hards” and the “Lethal Weapons,” all those movies that we loved as kids, those were R-rated movies. As soon as shareholders started taking over Hollywood, the big corporations were buying movie studios, that stopped, because it was too big a risk. We we proved that you can make an R-rated movie that does appeal to more than just one or two quadrants, but it does have mass appeal. It can make money. Our hope is that we continue to do what we’ve done when Disney takes over, that we stay the course and continue to bring something that is uniquely “Deadpool” to the audience.
CS: When you guys were doing press for “Deadpool 2″ a lot of people were asking about “X-Force.” Drew Goddard was doing “Bad Times at the El Royale” so you guys were in a holding pattern. Are you still in a holding pattern because of the Fox deal?
Wernick: I think what’s next, or at least what’s slated next, is “X-Force.” We set it up in “Deadpool 2.” And that’s Drew’s baby and he’s going to write and direct that. “Deadpool 3” is something we’re always kicking around. It can, I think, exist concurrently with the development of “X-Force.” So we’re always pitching ideas back and forth, texting and jumping on the phone with Ryan. Deadpool’s always top of mind. So we’re kicking around ideas and “Deadpool 3” will happen, it’s just a question of when and what. It’ll be worth the wait, once we get cracking.