In spring 2011 we learned that visual effects guru and head of Blur Studio, Tim Miller, had been attached to direct the Deadpool movie, a project that Twentieth Century Fox had commissioned a script for from Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Four years later and these three creative minds are finally on the set of Deadpool in Vancouver, British Columbia making the movie happen.
We traveled there in May to chat with them about the lengthy development of Deadpool, and how Tim Miller is handling it since it is his feature feature film. In our conversation Miller talks about getting help from the experienced crew, star and producer Ryan Reynolds himself, and Hollywood friends including James Cameron. He also tell us about how on this project they have complete creative freedom in addition to a franchise first R rating, and how that allowed them to re-introduce X-Men hero Colossus and connect Deadpool to the larger X-Men universe.
Has directing this movie been as crazy as it looks?
Tim Miller: It’s horrifying.
Tim Miller: The whole process is terrifying and uh… no. it’s been great. As a first time director it’s interesting, but not all that different from what I did before. A lot of parts of this job seem to be very similar to running a big company, which it wasn’t a big company, my company Blur, but it was big enough that it feels sort of similar. There’s a little burst of creativity followed by lots and lots of meetings and talking to people and more meetings. It’s scary. And I can’t believe anybody actually lets me do it. But it’s going well so far.
You were attached to the project years ago but it wasn’t greenlit until last year. When did you find out that this was going to happen?
Tim Miller: About 30 minutes before the rest of the world did. It had been... you know, I never gave up. And Rhett and Paul, the writers, and Ryan, we’d all never given up. I mean Rhett and Paul thought it was the best script they’d ever written. I thought it was the best script I’d ever read. Ryan, it’s been his pet project for a long time.
But for whatever reason, you kinda see this in the studio systems, projects get to a point and then they either go or they don’t go. And there’s a lot of reasons why it doesn’t happen. And we had already been to that point a couple times, so a little hope had been lost. But we were all still actively pushing it. I, myself, wrote at least 20 pleading, begging letters of who do I have to, you know, to get this movie made?
Then they decided to do it suddenly. I think the fan reaction to the trailer being leaked, which I swear I did not do. Wasn’t me. And I think just timing. Timing was right for Comic-Con. I wasn’t there, but I heard at one of the X-Men panels last year one of the first questions asked was: When’s the Deadpool movie coming? And I think that had a lot to do with everybody seeing the potential in this character. So I think the fans really, more than anything else, got it going, because I had already pretty much exhausted my small power in begging and pleading.
So it was really just I guess mid-October last year. I actually had a meeting at Fox about it. But I’d had lots before without it actually moving forward. But I got a call from Emma Watts a few hours before the meeting. She said, “What are you doing February 2016?” I said, “Uh, nothing.” She said, “Because we’re going to date the movie,” which means, you know, there.
And I said, “Oh, great. Super.” And I go to the meeting, and by the time I got out, they had announced it. My phone started blowing up with my five friends calling to say congratulations.
Were there requirements or notes to change the story to make it fit with what they were doing in the X-Men universe? We know there are so many movies now and they set in the same universe.
Tim Miller: No. Not at all. In fact, I thought there would be because we have some crossover characters like Colossus and things like that. But, no. they, by and large, let us do whatever we wanted. You hear horror stories about studio involvement or whatever. I cannot add to that at all because they’ve been incredibly supportive. In fact, there hasn’t been one thing that they’ve said, “No, you can’t do that,” or, “No, that violates something else we’re planning to do.” So it’s been great. I can’t complain at all.
Can you speak about the rating issue and going back to a PG-13 rating and then it actually becoming an R rating in the end?
Tim Miller: Look. It’s fine to sit back and talk about the creative purity of projects. But, at the end of the day, making movies is a business. And I respect that. So it has to make sense. You can make the argument that, “I think if you do what I want to do creatively, it will also make money for you.” But nobody can sit there and make the argument that, “Look. Let me do whatever I want and I know it won’t make any money for you, but fuck off. I don’t give a shit.”
So having run a business, I always understood that. So when they said there was a middle part there that said, “Hey, what if we try this PG-13?” The comic book is not R rated. There’s no reason why we couldn’t have made a great PG-13 movie. I’m so glad they didn’t because the script that we had that I loved was R rated to begin with. But we did a PG-13 pass and it was still great. We lost a couple of masturbation jokes and things like that, but it was still largely intact. And I think it would have made a great movie, too. I know the fans would have been disappointed. But I think when they saw it they wouldn’t have been disappointed.
But anyway, I’m as happy as everyone, because then, when they decided it was going to be R, then the shackles were really off. We were trying to keep it in the zone so it could go back and forth. But now, you know… now the horses are running out of the barn on fire. It’s great.
Can you tell us something about Deadpool breaking the fourth wall and how it will be realized in the movie?
Tim Miller: It’s pretty simple. "There’s the camera Ryan and…"
Tim Miller: But only Deadpool breaks the fourth wall. I mean there’s some logic to it. Way before he becomes Deadpool he doesn’t break the fourth wall. It’s not like House of Cards where you have a character that does that repeatedly. It’s more of a product of what happens to Wade in his psychosis, I guess. But it’s great.
It’s super meta, because not only is he aware of the audience, but he’s aware he’s Ryan Reynolds and he’s aware of everything Ryan has been involved in beyond the audience. So we’ve got to be careful not to get too meta, meta. But I love it.
When we watch the scene when Wade is going into the surgery and he makes the comment about the animated green super suit...
Tim Miller: Because he’s not saying anything about…he’s not saying "like Green Lantern." He’s just saying don’t make it green or animated. And he’s not breaking the fourth wall in that moment. There’s a couple of moments… we have another scene in the bar where Wade mentions Wolverine but he doesn’t say that he was in it. He just mentions that it’s a movie that’s out there in the zeitgeist. We’re walking a line there. It’s a very thin membrane but he doesn’t say… When you see what he does when he’s Deadpool, it’s very different in that he really, really makes mention of these things, knowing these things.
We were talking to the visual effects supervisor. What caught my interest here is obviously the helicarrier.
Tim Miller: It’s not a helicarrier.