'It Sucks to Be Naked All the Time': On the Set of 'Deadpool,' the Most Outrageous Superhero Film Ever

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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It’s a cold, rainy, and thoroughly miserable early spring day in the industrial outskirts of Vancouver, but Ryan Reynolds couldn’t be happier. The 39-year-old actor is finally shooting Deadpool, the wild-card superhero film that the quick-witted, effortlessly upbeat star has been trying to get made in some form for more than a decade. Now, he’s finally donning the foul-mouthed antihero’s red-and-black threads — and in his hometown, no less. “He’s totally getting a kickback,” director Tim Miller cracks about the production’s northwest Canadian location. “Big-time kickback,” Reynolds responds. “[I see] my menacing mother every Sunday. That’s the kickback.”

Banter about Reynolds’ “very hot” mom ensues, apropos to the film he and his director have been shooting for nearly two months now. Deadpool, Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth,” is a notoriously crude crimefighter, one with a surprisingly sinister background: Born Wade Wilson, he was terminally ill until shady government experiments held by Weapon X — the shifty government research project — endowed him with super-strength and accelerated healing powers.

Deadpool’s naughty nature is one of the reasons the character, first introduced as a villain by Rob Liefield and Fabian Nicieza in 1991’s New Mutants #98, faced such a formidable paddle to the big screen. Though there were IRL hold-ups, as well, including the mishandling of the character in the 2009 mulligan X-Men Origins: Wolverine — which marked the first time Reynolds donned Deadpool gear — and 2011’s Green Lantern, the movie that seemingly stripped away the actor’s big-screen superhero powers for good.

But after test footage of a scene Miller and Reynolds shot in 2012 leaked onto the Net and floored fanboys and girls, the film got fast-tracked by Fox (the scene, in which Deadpool drops through the hood of an SUV and merrily dismantles its henchmen, quickly captured the character’s devil-may-care vibe). Better yet, Miller and Reynolds — along with X-Men magic maker/producer maker Simon Kinberg and Zombieland writing duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick — were given as free a reign as you’ll find in Hollywood to not just make a Deadpool movie, but make a faithful Deadpool movie. Meaning that it’s going to be filthy, comical, hyper-violent fun. And it’s going to be rated R — a rarity for comic-book movies, especially in the post-Iron Man age.

Getting there, however, required making six years of script tweaks, finding Deadpool’s new place in the growing X-Men universe, and determining just how crazy they would paint Marvel’s loosest cannon in his first standalone film. Here are 10 tidbits we picked up visiting the movie’s set:

1. Reynolds almost gave up on Deadpool, and Green Lantern didn’t do him any favors.

Considering the decade-plus long history of the film’s development process — the project was first announced by Marvel in 2000, and Reynolds, along with his Blade: Trinity writer-director David S. Goyer, came onboard in 2004 — there were certainly moments when the light at the end of the tunnel seemed fully dimmed. “It was pretty faint after Green Lantern,” Reynolds says about his 2011 DC Comics bust.

But that was only one setback. There was also New Line putting the movie in turnaround in 2005, as well as unsuccessful attempts at luring directors like Robert Rodriguez. Even more disastrous was the ill-conceived X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), in which Deadpool was introduced, then had his mouth sewn shut and was decapitated, much to the fury of his fanbase. That fate seemed to finally kill any chances of a Deadpool solo adventure. “There was a time when I thought, ‘I just gotta let it go,’” Reynolds admits. “It was like the worst relationship I’d ever been in. It was on-off, on-off, you know?”

This Deadpool will exist within the Marvel and Fox’s X-Men shared universe, so it does have to acknowledge the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, even if it does so begrudgingly. “Obviously, I think it’s pretty well known that they f–ked up Deadpool and Wolverine,” Wernick says. And the film itself even manages to get a dig in at Green Lantern, too. “Please don’t make the supersuit green, or animated” Deadpool tells government agents in the trailer, a moment that had Comic-Con audiences howling.

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2. The test footage changed everything. But who leaked it?

Reynolds credits his key collaborative partner Miller — an Oscar-nominated visual effects artist who created the opening sequences for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Thor: The Dark World — with keeping the faith that the film would get made. But Miller admits he was equally as frustrated with all the start-and-stops, and says keep-hope-alive credit is also due to writers Reese and Wernick, who were hired soon after their hit Zombieland opened in 2009.

Still, even with all of their support, Miller was frustrated. “I begged, I pleaded, I did everything,” he says. “I wrote at least 10 or 15 Who do I have to [expletive] to get this movie made?” To which Reynolds dryly responds without a beat: “The answer was: A lot of people.”

Added the actor: “What was great is that Tim isn’t that intimate with the studio system, and so I was privy to some of his emails to [Fox CEO] Jim Gianopolus. I was like, 'You can’t f–king write emails like this to the studio head!’ But evidently, you can … I think in retrospect the studio found that charming in a weird way, because he lacked some of the sort of typical bulls–t etiquette that most people have when they’re trying to get their movie made.”

Reynolds makes it a point in every interview to credit and/or blame Miller for leaking the now-legendary test footage that ultimately pushed the project forward. Not even just in interviews. “I had the studio here yesterday and I was like, 'I’m so glad Tim leaked that footage!” Reynolds says. (“I did not leak it, I swear!” Miller insists.)

Regardless of who was behind the leak, it worked: “There was a bit of a fever pitch after this test footage leaked,” says Reynolds, who read in the trades shortly after the leak that the film had been given a release date. “That was the weirdest green light I’ve ever heard of,” he says. “Because they didn’t tell us. They just [gave it a date].”

Related: See All the F*#%ing 'Deadpool’ Memes You Could Ever Want

3. It’s going to be racy as hell. And characters will actually die.

Everyone on set appeared to have a special fondness for the fact that they’re taking part in a Hollywood rarity: An R-rated superhero movie. And though early versions of the film went through various PG-13 iterations, the final result will be very R-rated. “He’s filthy, he’s so nasty,” Miller says of his potty-mouthed mercenary. Notes Ed Skrein, a self-described comic book junkie who plays Deadpool’s chief antagonist, Ajax: “It’s unlike any superhero movie before, especially in the Marvel universe.”

Early previews display that much of the violence will be over-the-top, not unlike another rare R-rated superhero flick, 2010’s Kick-Ass. (Just check that moment in the trailer where a single killshot makes not one, not two, but three baddie domes go bloody boom.)

Watch the latest trailer for ‘Deadpool’:

And it won’t just be the traditionally disposable henchmen meeting their dooms. “[In] every comic book movie I go to, nobody f–king dies!,” Reynolds complains. “I mean, everyone’s getting shot at, it’s like an episode of The A-Team… Everyone’s shooting the ground.” Deadpool promises to correct that time-honored trope of bad villainy aim, among other things. “We have this opportunity, which is very rare in this world, to do something that’s not necessarily for just kids. There’s some pretty racy, pretty hyper-violent things that happen in this movie.”

Watch the cast of ‘Deadpool’ talk about its racy content:

4. There’s going to be a lot of sex, too.

Aside from something like Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s crime-fighting comedy Orgazmo, you don’t tend to see too much sex in the superhero genre. That could change with Deadpool. Morena Baccarin (TV’s Firefly, Homeland, and Gotham) — who plays Vanessa Carlysle, the prostitute who catches Wade Wilson’s eye — says there’s an explicit lovemaking scene. “You see this sort of passage of time [eight years to be exact] through this really funny sex montage where you see us having sex throughout the holidays,” she says. “Believe it or not it was one of my favorite things to shoot — even though it sucks to be naked all the time.”

“You have moments when you’re shooting where you think, 'This is, uh, a little excessive,’” Reynolds says. “'This is a comic book movie. Are we going to get away with this?’ But so, far so good. [The] studio hasn’t crushed us with anything.”

The excess skin isn’t all that surprising, considering the tantalizing first image Reynolds and company released of Deadpool in March, a Burt Reynolds-inspired fireside pose (below). As to whether there are more sexy Deadpool snaps to come, (Ryan) Reynolds coyly notes that he and the producers devoted an photo shoot to capturing the character doing “completely insane things.” So look out. “[The shoot] wasn’t all Burt-inspired,” the actor says. “A little Dolly Parton in there. Got some unicorn-f–king.”

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5. Marvel characters were added (Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and nixed (Tar Baby) on the basis of their names.

The director and his writers all discussed the fact that they were encouraged to peruse, as Miller notes, “the voluminous archive of characters that Fox controls” in deciding which supporting characters, good and evil, should surround Deadpool. Some made the cut, like the hulking Colossus (a CGI character played on set by the 6-foot-8 French actor Andre Tricoteux, also wearing stilts), who Miller called “our gateway drug into the rest of the X-Men universe” (the character also appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past).

Related: ‘Deadpool’ Costar Gives Clues on His Mutant Hero Colossus

Others they couldn’t squeeze in, like Garrison Kane (aka Weapon X) and Wire (both of which were budgetary decisions, Wernick noted). Also missing is Cable, who has shared a popular comic book series with Deadpool. “There was a lot of pressure to put Cable in this movie,” Reese says. “Our feeling was we just better get Deadpool on his feet [first]. Others they had absolutely no interest in, including an actual Marvel character named "Tar Baby.”

One unlikely Marvel deep-cut to make the list? Negasonic Teenage Warhead, whose existence (and name, really) excited Miller, Reese and Wernick. Says Wernick, “It almost didn’t matter what her powers were, we just loved the name so much.” As an ally to Deadpool and sidekick to Colossus, in the film she’s played by newcomer Brianna Hildebrand. “She is a 15-year-old psychic, she reads the future, and she is her own personal cannonball,” Hildebrand explains. “She’s a warhead. She runs at things and explodes them.”

6. The villains might remind you of a pair of Blade Runner baddies.

Deadpool’s central villains are the menacing mercenary Ajax (played by The Transporter Refueled star Skrein) and his sidekick, Angel Dust (MMA star-turned-Fast and Furious 6 ass-kicker Gina Carano). Skrein says the two main references for his character have been the iconic screen rogue Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner, and infamous British doctor/serial killer Harold Shipman, who was nicknamed “Dr. Death” after he was found guilty of 15 murders.

But the connection to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi thriller runs ever deeper. “[Ajax’s] relationship with Angel Dust is quite similar to Batty and [Daryl Hannah’s character Pris] in Blade Runner,“ Skrein says. "It’s sort of an ambiguous relationship. [It’s] a very close relationship, and we’re trying not to make it [the] formulaic villain, [with] angry cackling.” Still, he does admit to having plenty of henchmen “who come and die” in the course of trying to capture Deadpool (see the triple kill-shot referenced above.)

Angel Dust, Carano says, was created by Ajax at Weapon X and in turn helps create other mutants.“ Carano didn’t have much of a mythology to build on — Angel Dust has only appeared in four comics — so she was allowed to help dictate her character’s look. "I was afraid they were going to put me in a ponytail, so [before arriving on set] I cut my hair and dyed it black.” She also came on with yellow contacts, which makeup designer Bill Corso quickly nixed. “It was like, 'Wow, that’s awesome, but that’s a different movie,” Corso (Foxcatcher, The Force Awakens) says with a laugh. “She just looked like she was in a Twilight movie.”

7. Deadpool is crazy, but he’s not THAT crazy.

Depending on what comics you read, Deadpool is either a slightly unhinged motormouth, or a flat-out-off-the-rails schizophrenic. Though Reese refers to him as “borderline psychotic” and “[a] lunatic,” he clears the air when asked if he’s totally crazy. “No, he’s not insane. He’s not hearing voices … we’re not pushing him quite as far as some of the later comics do in terms of his sheer insanity.” Still, a full Deadpool freak-out isn’t out of the question, assuming Deadpool spawns a franchise. “We figured we had time to do that. Hopefully with sequels we have time to do that.”

Reynolds breaks down the difference between Wade Wilson and Deadpool thusly: “When we meet Wade, he’s pretty acerbic and kind of funny in his own right, but not near the level of Deadpool,” he says. “Deadpool has zero ability to stop his mouth… and the other characters would do anything to get him to shut up. Anything. Except maybe sew his mouth shut. No one’s doing that.” (Zing!)

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8. Fourth-wall breaks and pop-culture references will be aplenty.

Another famous attribute that will follow Deadpool from page to screen is his affinity for breaking the fourth wall, or talking directly to the audience, acknowledging the fact that he’s a fictional character. “In a way, he’s strangely omniscient, Reese says. "He can talk about the fact that he’s in a movie. He can talk about things that the character wouldn’t know, and everyone around him is like, 'What are you talking about?’”

He’ll also make loads of pop-culture references, which proved a tricky proposition for Reese and Wernick, given that they worked on the script for over six years. Thankfully, “some jokes are timeless,” Reese says. “We’ll probably still be able to make jokes about Justin Bieber — and it’s a funny joke so it’ll work.”

Speaking of timelessness, the film’s soundtrack will also lean on nostalgia. In the film’s trailer (and initial test footage), for instance, Reynolds prepares for the SUV drop-in by bumping Salt-N-Pepa’s '90s classic “Shoop.” As Miller put it, “Ryan is a walking compendium of '80s and '90s music, so we are tapping into that.”

9. Deadpool’s relationship with the X-Universe is still somewhat ambiguous.

“I think we’re staying in our dark little corner of the Marvel Universe in a lot of ways,” says Miller. As Reynolds puts it: “Our budget is like the craft services budget on most X-Men movies.” So no, this isn’t an X-Men movie. But if it’s successful, it still could cross over into that world of mutants sooner than later, especially as mainstays like Hugh Jackman depart, and Fox’s flagship superhero series seeks new blood.

Having X-Men writer-producer Kinberg on board to “mind the store in regards to the X universe,” was priceless, Reese says. “We are fitting into the larger timeline, [and] we need to recognize that. I mean, we have things like Blackbirds in the movie, [and] we reference Professor X in the movie. So Deadpool is very much of that world.”

As for when we could see those worlds collide? “If I had to guess, we would do a standalone sequel before he entered the actual ensemble movies,” Reese says. Let the speculation begin.

Watch Reynolds talk about Deadpool’s place in the X Universe at Comic-Con:

10. The film was crowdsourced in a way — and the fans feel ownership.

There was no Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign launched to make this Deadpool movie a reality, but make no mistake, its existence is a direct result of fan buzz, whether it was all the chatter leading to Twitter trends or people writing letters to Fox. Asked if he feels a closer kinship to this movie’s fanbase given how instrumental they were in getting it made, Reynolds is unequivocal: “Totally. They own it. And I don’t mean that as anything falsely sincere. Genuinely, I feel like we owe this experience to them. Never in a million years would it have happened this way had it not been for their voice.

"I feel like we owe it to them to give them the most authentic Deadpool possible and at the same time we also feel indebted to them for getting this movie made. They greenlit it — really.”

Deadpool opens Feb. 12, 2016.