In the current Hollywood landscape, there are three major superhero franchises: Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros’ DC Comics Extended Universe, and 20th Century Fox’s mutant universe that began in 2000 with X-Men. Although Bryan Singer’s X-Men trilogy arguably kicked off the modern day superhero trend in Hollywood, Fox’s mutant franchise has seen both successes and failures. However, the studio took a new and significant step in 2016 with the release – and massive success – of Deadpool, an R-rated superhero action/comedy that became Fox’s top earning film in the mutant franchise.
But, Deadpool took an atypical path to theaters, since the project languished in development for over a decade before finally receiving a green light from Fox. In fact, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick penned the script more than six years before the film was put into production. Notoriously, leaked test footage for Deadpool, and the massively popular response to it, prompted Fox to take a chance on the R-rated script. Now, the Deadpool writers discuss how they infused the script with so much unique humor, and reveal what went into persuading Fox to give the film a green light.
In an interview with Variety at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this weekend, Reese explained how Deadpool star/producer Ryan Reynolds encouraged him and Wernick to “write it as dark as our minds would go, as silly and sexual and violent as we wanted. So we did that, and it sat on a shelf for six years.” But, what really helped persuade Fox to give Deadpool the go-ahead was X-Men producer Simon Kinberg saying, “Let’s do something Marvel and Disney can’t do.”
Reese went on to say the Deadpool script stands out among other blockbusters, and credited the unique tone of the film with at least part of the movie’s success: “It really feels like an apple among oranges with big studio movies. I think that contributed to its success.” Certainly, Deadpool was an outlier in many ways. Despite – or, arguably because of – the film’s R rating, Deadpool broke box office records, becoming the highest grossing R-rated film ever. Its mix of brutal action and raunchy comedy earned Deadpool a “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an 84 percent critic score (and a slightly higher audience score of 90 percent).
Of course, the leaked Deadpool test footage undoubtedly prompted Fox to revisit the project that had been, in Reese’s words, sitting on a shelf for so many years. But, it certainly helped that Deadpool was so different from what Marvel Studios and Disney had established in the MCU. Given the movie’s success in theaters, Fox has already started development on Deadpool 2, which will presumably be R-rated as well, with the studio reportedly already planning on a third film in the series.
Next month, Fox will release their second R-rated film set in the X-Men universe with Logan, which features a Western tone rather than the humor seen in Deadpool. If Logan is a success as well, Fox will have found an R-rated niche in the popular superhero genre that their X-Men universe will be the only one serving. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Deadpool 2 will be as successful as the first movie but, if nothing else, it’ll certainly be unlike any other superhero films in Hollywood.