Despite the fact that Deadpool is Tim Miller’s first feature film, his many years in Hollywood make him acutely ready for the role. Already an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Short Film, for Gopher Broke (2004), Miller now takes on a superhero movie with a difference. Deadpool, adapted from the Marvel Comics character created in 1991 by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, tells the origin story of Wade Wilson (played by Ryan Reynolds), whose terminal cancer is “cured” by the same Weapon X programme that created Wolverine. Here, Miller talks about this massive undertaking.
Most first-time feature film directors dream of being offered a big studio superhero movie. How did this one come to you?
The executive at Fox who’d been working on X-Men: First Class with Matthew Vaughn had seen a piece I’d done for a DC Universe project, which had a lot of superhero action. He thought X-Men: First Class could use some help with working out the detailed action choreography, so I was brought on to help with that. He came down and we met, and by the end of that meeting he said, “You know, I think you should really be directing your own film. You’re a first-timer so I can’t get you on anything big, but we have this other movie… Deadpool. Are you interested?” I’d read the script already and I thought it was great, so I jumped at the chance. And then there were a whole series of hurdles to jump over, to make sure Ryan liked me, to make sure the producer liked me, and to make sure I wasn’t some kind of crazy weirdo.
Where does that passion for the character come from?
When I came on board the project, the script was already great. It was one of the best scripts I’d ever read, which was why I wanted to do it so much. Plus, I’ve been reading comic books for the last 35 years or so. I’m primarily a Marvel guy, so I’d read tons of Deadpool. Captain America’s very serious and the X-Men are very serious, but Deadpool was one of the few that had a real sense of humour about it and didn’t take itself so seriously.
Ryan Reynolds shares your passion for this character. What does he bring to the role?
I have to tell you, aside from the action stuff and the comedy, there’s a lot of heavy dramatic work and he really goes through the process. He’s a brilliant actor, and for a first-timer, it’s really interesting to watch him work. We’d done the first week of shooting, and I went over to Ryan and said, “Dude, what could I be doing better?” He said, “Tim, this has been the most satisfying week of filming I’ve ever had.” He said, “You don’t know everything, but at least you don’t pretend like you do. It allows everybody else to help you without a lot of ego involved and it makes for a better process.”
There were delays getting the film started, Fox stalled and footage was leaked. Considering that we get wall-to-wall- superhero movies, do you think the delays ended up helping the project?
Like Game of Thrones is sort of a gateway to fantasy, I think it’s the same thing where you had to have those first movies that taught you a whole language of storytelling. Now people are familiar with it and they’re ready to take the training wheels off the bike and look to something more aggressive, like Deadpool. As much as it’s for the hard core fan – and I don’t think we ever sold out on who the character is – we’ve also made a real effort to make it accessible to people who haven’t read the comic. We’re not packing it too much with insider references where the audience will feel stupid if they don’t get it. I want my wife to like the movie, which is why I made sure that Ryan took his shirt off a little bit.
There are a lot of jokes in the script that poke fun at the superhero world, including Fox’s own stable of characters. How did you get those past the studio?
We got no pushback from Fox at any point. They didn’t come in with a bunch of notes, though I think they were little prepared for how weird this movie is.
Deadpool is out in cinemas across Abu Dhabi from Thursday February 18.