It's been a long, hard road for Deadpool, the comic book movie adaptation that first began its life as rumor in the lead-up to the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. During a development period that has gone on for four years without yet getting the official greenlight from Fox, we've seen Zombieland screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Rheese brought on to write the script and newcomer Tim Miller elected to make the film as his feature directorial debut.
A draft of Rheese and Wernick's script was leaked back in 2010, and what could have been a minor PR disaster ultimately only served to increase hype for the film, when the script received glittering reviews from critics and fans alike. So, what's the hold-up?
Ironically, the elements that have been creating a large amount of buzz around Deadpool are the same things that have kept it out of production until now. From the very beginning, the plan has been to make the movie as loyal to the comic books as possible: a reboot that is not only separate from the existing X-Men movies but will also potentially mock their more serious tone - including classic Deadpool fourth-wall-breaking, heavy involvement from creator Rob Liefeld, and - most significantly - a script that will unquestionably earn a hard R rating. Generally speaking, R-rated scripts are unpopular with studio executives on the basis that they cut out a large chunk of box office sales that would have gone to children and young teens. Despite this, the creative team behind the project are determined that Deadpool's violent and foul-mouthed ways can't be tamed into a PG-13 movie, and Ryan Reynolds has agrees: "We would never wanna do it unless you could do it that R-rated way."
Despite this, production on Deadpool has recently begun to move along. Rob Liefeld suggested, none too subtly, that former CEO Tom Rothman's departure from Fox Film Entertainment was instrumental in speeding up progress on the irreverent superhero film, saying that, "The single biggest blockade (blockhead?) is gone," and that Rothman was "Not a friend of Deadpool's." Now that the film is apparently heading towards pre-production and needs only a thumbs-up from Fox to continue, Collider has published an interview with the screenwriters that gives a good idea of where the movie is going.
First and foremost, Wernick and Reese believe that they have come up with a simple solution to combat the fears of the movie not being profitable:
Rhett Reese: "We think that we can make it for $50 [million]. Feels like a no-brainer to us."
Paul Wernick: "Kickstarter!"
We're pretty sure that Wernick is joking about the Kickstarter, though it's a popular idea right now. Their budget compromise seems like a legitimately good idea, though. Matthew Vaughn's R-rated comic book adaptation Kick-Ass was a relative flop at the box office, grossing less than $100 million worldwide, yet still managed to make a profit off its modest $30 million production budget. Perhaps the market for R-rated superhero movies is smaller than that of family-friendly fare, but there is a market for them:
Reese: "I think there just has to be a tolerance for the outlier. There has to be a tolerance for this one project that’s not like all the other Marvel projects."
Wernick: "Iron Man was like that when it came out. Tony Stark and the hard drinking, fast-talking billionaire was very different from all the other Marvel characters. And look what it became. And we feel that way about Deadpool."
Fox's lawyers came down hard on all images, text and upload links to the leaked script when they began appearing online and, despite Rheese's following comments in the interview, the average Google search for the script will generally bring up little more than broken links and redacted reviews. The most important thing about the script leak, however, is that most Deadpool fans gave it a stamp of approval:
Rheese: "The script leaked online in some bizarre way that we haven’t figured out, so it’s very easily findable out there. It’s pretty much you go on Google and type in “Deadpool script” and you’ll find it. Not to say people should be doing that because it certainly wasn’t something we anticipated or enjoyed in the moment, but the Deadpool fans who found it think that it’s right in the wheelhouse of what a Deadpool movie should be. And so again, we’re just fighting that uphill battle to convince people, and be positive."
A lot of the hype for Deadpool has stemmed from the test footage that Tim Miller shot last year, which had Liefeld claiming that, if it had been leaked along with the script, "the Internet would freak and riots would ensue" (in a good way). The screenwriters seem to concur with that view:
Reese: "We have a phenomenal director in Tim Miller, who did about a three-minute test for Fox, and Ryan came in to do the mo-cap for it and the voice. And it’s like the greatest three minutes ever. I look at the three minutes and I’m like, 'That’s the movie, and it has to get made.'"
It's important to keep in mind that Deadpool's creator, the screenwriters who wrote the script, the director of the movie and the actor who plays the character all have a vested interest in seeing the Deadpool movie get made, and therefore we should take their enthusiasm with a pinch of salt. Caveat in place, however, I might be more excited for Deadpool than I am for any other film currently in development. It's refreshing to see a creative team refuse to alter their vision to meet the studio's preferred rating, and there should be a place for Deadpool in the Marvel movie family that doesn't require him to watch his table manners and be more polite.
The planned budget of $50 million seems like it could tip the scales in favor of a green light for the project. Unlike The Avengers or the Dark Knight trilogy, Deadpool wouldn't necessarily require a city - or planet - destroying plot or an enormous FX budget; if anything, having a slightly grittier and lower budget superhero action film would be a nice antithesis to the shiny blockbuster feel of most Marvel movies.
We'll keep you up to date on the progress of Deadpool, and will hopefully have more news soon.