'Deadpool' Screenwriters on the Sequel and Shaping the Tone of the X-Men Universe

"The hope is 'Deadpool 2' and 'X-Force' and future movies all be this new, consistent, sillier tone," says Rhett Reese.
Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are in a rare position for a screenwriting team. After toiling for years to get their passion project off the ground, the Deadpool writers are enjoying both creative freedom and huge box office success — as well as a recent WGA award nomination.

Now, the duo is hard at work on Deadpool 2, a key piece of Fox's plans for it's X-Men movie future. In a conversation with Heat Vision, Reese and Wernick share their hopes for their sequel and what implications the Ryan Reynolds film has for those other X-movies.

One of the best jokes in Deadpool addresses how confusing the X-Men movie timeline is. In Deadpool 2, will you continue to be able to ignore that timeline?

Paul Wernick: What's nice is Deadpool exists in his own universe. He's part of the larger X-Men universe, but in a way he isn't. He interacts with that world but he is in the present. We don't deal with the '60s or the '70s or the future. It's here and now. More than anything, I think he's going to have his fun with what they do in the other franchise. But fortunately, we don't have to play by those same rules. Deadpool is a movie that did break all the rules. And I think we're going to continue to break those rules. That involves knowing that he's in a movie, talking to the audience, breaking that fourth wall, a characteristic that they established so brilliantly in the comics way back when. So yeah, I do think that timelines are something that we can make fun of and don't have to be slave to.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is beloved and has had great success by heavily connecting its plot. But Deadpool and Logan, which looks poised to be a success as well, go back to a more standalone model. Do you see a trend of audiences wanting standalone movies rather than shared universe films?

Rhett Reese: I think sometimes the movies get a little overstuffed trying to set up future movies and it almost feels burdensome or obligatory, where you are weaving in four or five different plots that really aren't in service of the current movie, but are to set up  audience anticipation or logic for what's coming. We really are trying our best to avoid that. There is something to the movie that is just worried about itself for the moment.

The different universes tend to have different tones, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a very specific, genius tone that was set in Iron Man and has lived well beyond that into the other movies. DC tends to have its own tone, which is this dark, gritty tone. The X-Men have their own tone, which is kind of somewhere in between. Not too funny, not too light. But not quite as dark as the DC stuff. And I think what we stumbled into was a new tone, and I haven't seen Logan, so it's tough to say if they have it, but I think we hope to have our own universe that is defined less by characters and timelines and things like that and more by tone. The hope is Deadpool 2 and X-Force and future movies all be this new, consistent, sillier tone. More self-aware tone. And edgier and rated-R tone. We want to be establishing the universe but also focusing on each individual movie and not worrying too much about building a larger threat to the world or a larger plot machination.

When you look back on what you did with Deadpool, it was a struggle. Now everyone is behind you. Is there anything to the suffering that makes the first Deadpool so good that you might be missing out on for the sequel?

Wernick: We're not going to miss getting kicked in the ball for six years. The studio has been wonderful. From the moment they greenlit this movie, through release and now into the sequel. They've let the inmates run the asylum and so this movie won't take six years to make. That will be a blessing, not a curse for us. 

Reese: We haven't had the leash taken off this time, because the leash was never on the first time. The studio didn't ask us or force us to take out a single joke in that first movie. They never questioned anything we did. And that has remained the case. I don't think we feel necessarily any more free than we did, because we were already free.

Wernick: Deadpool, by nature, the character and in turn the movie, is really anti-establishment. Had it felt like a studio movie, had the studio not been receptive or willing to let us make fun of it, "How come I don't see any more of the X-Men around the mansion?" Had they cut those jokes and felt like, "No we don't want to make fun of ourselves, we don't want to make fun of X-Men Origins: Wolverine," or "we don't want to make fun of the timelines," it would have made the movie less anti-establishment. I think the studio embraced it, much like Ryan embraced making fun of himself. I think audiences appreciate that, because those are the same conversations audiences are having in their own homes.

You're now in a spot few screenwriters find themselves in, where anything you say or tweet can become a headline. How are you adjusting to that level of — for lack of a better word — celebrity?

Reese: I don't think it's a thirst to learn anything about us or hear from us. I think it's a thirst for information about the movie. We have to be ultra careful about what we say about the content of the sequel, because even the slightest hint becomes Internet news. It just does. But that has really nothing to do with us and everything about the secrets we may have, because of our position right now on the movie. We've learned to use cliché's. "The sequel has interesting stuff in it hopefully" so we don't get ourselves into trouble. 

Wernick: I joke that if we went on and announced Deadpool was going to be in the sequel, Deadpool 2, that that would be the headline. "Writers Confirm Deadpool Confirmed for Sequel."

Speaking of jokes: This movie felt like you knew what superhero movie fans were talking about when it comes to the genre. What is going on now in fanboy circles that is influencing the jokes for Deadpool 2?

Reese: This is the one that's going to become a headline if we answer. We definitely have some new things we are making fun of this time out, but I guess I'm going to have to say, "We're taking it one day at a time."

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