The Leak Was (Probably) Deliberate
Sitting on this incarnation of the foul-mouthed hitman while watching the world clamor for as many comic book movies as they can consume had to be incredibly frustrating for Reynolds, Miller, Reese and Wernick. They knew they had a hit, but had no way of proving that to Fox. According to Reynolds and other insider sources, the leak had to be from one of those four, with Reynolds and Miller being the most likely suspects. Nobody else had ready access to it and in the unlikely event the leak created negative buzz, anybody lower-tier likely would have done real damage to their career. Based on on this quote from Reynolds, it's also likely that those in the inner circle know who leaked it - but aren't saying:
"I know that one of us did it. There’s four of us. There’s me, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Tim Miller, the director. One of us did it. We all sort of said at the beginning, 'Someone should leak it. Someone should leak it.'"
A Deadpool film was a plot of gold just waiting to be mined. The character has one of the most dedicated fandoms in comics, having swiftly become and remained one of Marvel's most popular creations since first publication in the early '90s. Anybody who knew anything about what characters people would like to see in a movie could tell you Deadpool was towards the top of the list for many. But what an audience will actually pay for and what executives think an audience will pay for can sometimes be very different. Leaking the footage is the one trump card these guys had to really demonstrate that people will show up for a feature-length Deadpool adventure - the more severed heads the better.
And to be fair to Fox, their apprehension wasn't totally misguided. They don't have the best track record when it comes to franchising over the last decade or two, but an R-rated, ultra-violent superhero film filled with meta dialogue was completely untested ground. The last R-rated comic book adaptation was 1998's Blade, and that was much safer by comparison. Deadpool was out there, and backing it was a gamble of sizable funding that could go towards less experimental but more "safe" projects. The leak probably wasn't malicious or meant to undermine the company, but to prove that this was a risk worth taking in a way that audience data just couldn't provide.
Will We Ever Know The Truth?
"I’m 70 percent sure it wasn’t me." Ryan Reynolds joked last year, when asked about the footage leak last year. Meanwhile, Tim Miller is considerably more adamant that he wasn't the culprit, telling Collider in an interview last year:
"The leak which happened at Comic Con. I literally got home from Comic Con, put my bags down from getting off the train, and my phone starts blowing up. Like, ‘Dude, your s**t’s online. Oh my f**king god!’ I was horrified. I felt sick to my stomach. I thought Fox would kill me."
This whole thing is perfect fodder for one of those anniversary re-release blu-ray documentaries: 'So Who Really Leaked That Footage?,' with a bunch of new interviews with anyone who was anywhere near the project before it was greenlit. Everyone will continue to point to the finger at everyone else, making jokes that it might have been them, or their kid, or their parents, or whomever else they can implicate without scrutiny.
A concrete answer seems unlikely at this stage. The first movie did gangbusters and everyone's career is all the better for it. There's no need to ever let the truth be heard. And really, it's the kind of legend that encapsulates why people love Deadpool so much: he represents the extreme and the weird and the strange and the rebellious. He was born out of his creator, Rob Liefeld, getting creative control over New Mutants after being a major forcing in turning the book into one of Marvel's top-sellers. The extra-lethal assassin turned the comic industry on its head and shut Liefeld's doubters up very quickly, and with the leak, he did the same for another group of industry underdogs. Not bad for a guy who can barely remember where his ammo-bag is.
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018