Fans following along with the lengthy development - leaked script included - and official marketing materials for the Deadpool movie should be familiar with "Francis" or has he very much prefers to be known as, Ajax. Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, The Transporter Refueled) plays Ajax in the upcoming X-Men spinoff and serves as the primary antagonist of the feature.
Ajax is a messed up guy who does messed up things and loves every bit of it. And he can't feel any pain. Ajax may be the main villain but he's not the top dog behind the scenes in Deadpool. He serves another important character from Marvel Comics named Doctor Killebrew who only has a small part in the feature but who helps connect the origin of Deadpool to the nasty Weapon X Project where Hugh Jackman's Wolverine got his metal skeleton and claws.
On the set of Deadpool in May 2015 we sat down with Skrein to talk about his role in these nasty experiments and his relationship with Deadpool, and for half the interview he seemingly remained in character when discussing Ajax's thoughts on mutation.
Tell us a bit about your character.
Ed Skrein: My character’s name is Ajax. He’s the antagonist in the story. It’s a story of revenge from both sides, from Deadpool and Ajax. Ajax is a very fun character to play. He’s quite lighthearted in his approach to a lot of things. And I think he enjoys a lot of the things he’s doing. So in terms of the shoot, I’m having a lot of fun doing the scenes.
Can you tell us a bit about his motivations, his antagonism with Deadpool?
Ed Skrein: What’s interesting about Ajax is he’s had all of his nerve endings removed. So he can’t feel anything. He can’t feel pain. But that also, I think, has affected him psychologically as well. His motivations with Deadpool… I think Deadpool’s motivations towards Ajax are a lot stronger and full of a lot more visceral feelings than Ajax towards Deadpool. Chaos and violence is just what Ajax does. It’s just a game. It’s sort of just one big fun game. Win or lose, he feels nothing. So, yes, there is revenge, but it’s not as strong a motivator as Deadpool.
Ajax has history with Deadpool?
Ed Skrein: You see the history throughout the movie. So we go through different time zones. Actually, today we’re filming the first time they ever meet. We show a lot of what happens there. Then there’s a big time lapse and then we show the second half. So it’s kind of in two segments, two halves, like football, or soccer.
How has it been working with director Tim Miller?
Ed Skrein: Tim is brilliant. Tim has a very similar character to myself and very similar work ethic. He doesn’t mince his words. He is very direct, which I like. He is very clear in his directions, which I like. He’s had a very strong vision from the beginning, which is great. He’s got such a warped sense of humor that fits so well with this script and project.
You talked about your character having no nerve endings. Does he have any mutant powers?
Ed Skrein: He’s strong and agile to the limits of human capacity. They allude to some sort of healing factors, minor healing factors. In terms of his fighting, he’s about as strong and fast as it gets.
He’s responsible for scarring Wade?
Ed Skrein: Yes.
Why does he do that?
Ed Skrein: I think in Ajax’s eyes he’s improving him. All of Ajax’s victims are actually people that were going to die anyway and that he helps him to stay alive and to improve himself through mutation. Sometimes that mutation goes extremely well, sometimes it doesn’t. And to turn him into a mutant, really to subject him to extreme stress. So the disfiguration was just part of the process of making him better, of improving him, of helping him. In fact, I don’t think we’re enemies. I think Ajax is…you know, he should thank Ajax.
Talk about the other characters Ajax aligns himself with. Angel Dust (Gina Carano) I guess is one of them?
Ed Skrein: Yeah, Angel Dust is a very interesting character. They have a very close relationship, a rather ambiguous relationship. You can’t quite tell if it’s teacher/pupil, brother/sister, or lovers. It’s very ambiguous. We’re very close, very affective, very functional. She’s the muscle. We think about it as she’s the Joe Pesci to my De Niro, because if she could, she would smash and break and she’d commit horrendous violence. But, for me there’s no need for any violence that isn’t going to give us again. I think she has more sport in it.
So, a lot of the time I think Ajax is probably trying to mold her and make her into a more sophisticated mutant rather than the hothead that she perhaps is.
Then we’ve got Dr. Killebrew, which is the guy behind the guy, the mastermind behind the workshop. He’s an ominous figure that we just allude to a lot. He does feature.
And then we have plenty of henchmen that are all welcome to die, and most of them do.
And they work for you?
Ed Skrein: Mm-hmm, the workshop, the organization, which I suppose is like a military trauma center on the frontlines, although it’s in a suburban setting, which I suppose makes it even more creepy.
Is Ajax brought into that as a scientist?
Ed Skrein: I think he enjoys picking the wings off flies, or he would have when he was younger, and he’s graduated to this now. There’s a wonderful quote that Tim told me, which is: “First you have it done toy you, then you do it to others, and then you order others to do it.” I’ve now come to that third stage. Angel Dust is probably in the second stage, but hopefully she’ll graduate one day and take the reins.