If you think it’s tough being the scarred, wise-cracking Deadpool in the world of superheroes and villains, you haven’t heard what writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and the film’s other creators had to go through to make his movie a reality.
Mere days before the film was set to get an official green light, the writers, director and producers sat down with 20th Century Fox executives, and were given a near impossible task.
“We had to carve something like $7-8 million out of the budget in a 48-hour window,” Reese told io9. “And we, as a group, just put our heads together, got creative, and said ‘How do we cut what is essentially nine pages out of a 110 page script?’”
It wasn’t easy. The duo had already been tinkering with their script and making changes at least once a year over the course of six and a half years of development. The most radical of those changes involved creating a version that dialed the film’s violence and balls-to-the-wall humor down from R to PG-13. Thankfully, that didn’t stick, but several other changes did.
Including some last-minute changes that were done purely to trim the budget.
“Angel Dust, played by Gina Carano, used to be three different characters,” Reese explained. “It was Garrison Kane, Sluggo and Wire. There was a reduction of action. We had a motorcycle chase between Deadpool and Ajax on the freeway that we took out. We had a big, big gun fight in the third act that we took out and we basically had Deadpool forget his guns as a means of getting around it. So there were just reductions.”
But in the end, Reese and Wernick felt like that $7 million reduction was really what brought the movie together.
“It was that last, lean and mean chop that got us to a place where Fox was willing to make it,” Reese said. “The script was very efficient and not too long. That was a function of budget more than anything, but I think it really made the movie pace nicely.”
Fans had been aware of what Reese and Wernick had in mind for the popular Marvel character for years. One of their earliest versions of the script had leaked online in 2010. On a typical movie, that would be a disaster. For Deadpool, it was a blessing. At a time when Fox was hesitant about making the movie, fans embraced the script and started to get vocal about it. A few years later, another leak—this time some test footage of the freeway fight scene—was the true turning of the tide. That scene remains in the movie, as well as about 70% of the story and dialogue from that first, leaked script.
“It’s been a long, long road pushing that ball up the hill for so many years, and having it roll back down and crush us each and every time,” Wernick said. “So to see it come to life, in the way it has, has been absolutely thrilling for us.”
But now that the movie is finally here, the next challenge begins: How to fit Deadpool into the X-Men universe. Since Reese and Wernick wrote that first script, the concept of a single “shared universe” that includes tons of different characters and subgenres has grown massively more important. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has become a huge juggernaut, and DC is creating its own version now. Meanwhile, Fox has tried to tie all its X-Men movies together, and even connect them to its failed Fantastic Four relaunch.
But Deadpool wasn’t really part of Fox’s “shared universe” plan—it was almost willed into existence by fans, with a tone that is so radically different from everything else, it’s going to be challenge to find a balance.
“Those X movies are so good, but there is a consistent tone to them that is more serious than ours, obviously,” said Reese. “So it’s going to be really interesting and delicate to weave [Deadpool] into those kind of movies. It’s much easier for us to borrow some elements from the X-Men and plug them into our madness.”
Which is how it works in this movie. There are multiple X-Men connections in Deadpool—two of the biggest (that aren’t spoilers) are the inclusion of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Reese said these characters, and the other links, were a key component of getting the movie right.
“[Bringing in some X-Men tropes] in worked greatly to our advantage, because it really grounded our movie,” he said. “It gave people some familiar faces, settings and established some ‘straight men’ for Deadpool to play off of. Whether Deadpool so easily mixes into the other worlds? We’re going to have find out over the long run.”
Something else happened during that long six and a half year wait too. Several superhero movies that shared tones and ratings with Deadpool were released that made audiences, and definitely movie executives, more open to the idea of a hard R-rated superhero.
“In the case of Kick Ass, we were like ‘See? It works! It can get an audience,’” said Reese. “Guardians of the Galaxy was another one where, it wasn’t R rated but [we were like] ‘See? It works. It’s okay to get silly and fun and outside the box.’”
If everything goes well, “outside the box” is a place Reese and Wernick hope to stay.
“The fans gave us this movie,” Wernick said. “And the fans will be the reason we have a sequel. We would love nothing more than to be involved in the sequel. It’s a creative team that we just love being around and it’s a sandbox we love playing in.”
And, this time, it’s hopefully going to take much shorter than six years for it to happen.