It turns out Ryan Reynolds has hidden talents as a marketer.
The Deadpool star can’t attend the Clio Key Art Awards In Los Angeles on Oct. 20 — he and his wife, Blake Lively, are in New York tending to their infant — but he’ll be thanked in spirit by 20th Century Fox if the groundbreaking, R-rated superhero film wins top honors for best integrated marketing campaign. Reynolds was intimately involved with the campaign from the outset, an unusual role for an actor, says Fox domestic marketing chief Marc Weinstock.
“I’ve never taken ownership like this before,” Reynolds tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I could email Marc or anyone on his team at three in the morning with pitches and ideas, and somehow a response would come back within 10 or 15 minutes.”
Reynolds, along with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, spent more than a decade trying to bring Deadpool to the big screen (they got close once, but then Reynolds’ superhero movie The Green Lantern bombed). Fox finally said yes after test footage from director Tim Miller was leaked online to positive response. “I plead the fifth,” says Reynolds regarding the leak.
The Deadpool campaign was saucy and audacious, including a number of viral videos shot on the spot with Reynolds’ iPhone (a Halloween video of Deadpool trick-or-treating with real kids was his idea, for example).
“Deadpool is probably the most unpolished superhero out there, and it gave us this almost unfair advantage. We used this opportunity over and over because we had a character that is a total misfit and f—ing rascal,” says Reynolds. “I can channel this guy [Deadpool] in a way I just can’t seem to channel anything else. When it comes to Deadpool’s sensibility, and certainly his sense of humor, I feel like we were born on the same end of the spectrum.”
A cautious Fox capped Deadpool‘s production budget at $60 million, and was likewise conservative when it came to the marketing spend, Reynolds says. For example, the now-infamous Deadpool billboard with a poop emoji only appeared in a few places, yet became a viral sensation. “The ad buys for Deadpool were minimal compared to the reward we reaped because we hijacked the internet,” says Reynolds.
The actor, a producer on Deadpool, recalls logging a personal call to Chevrolet to see if the automaker would provide vehicles for the shoot in Vancouver. “I phoned whomever was in charge of product placement for Chevy, but they were concerned with the materials they’d seen online,” he says.
Ultimately, the production had to buy vehicles — but it was the filmmakers who got the last laugh. Released in February 2016, the Fox film grossed $782.6 million worldwide, a record for an R-rated film.
“I swear someone should just make a romantic comedy starring Marc [Weinstock] and I,” says Reynolds, who is gearing up for Deadpool 2. “We were all energized from the get-go. The creative model for the film and the marketing model meshed well together. We were always, always trying to make one dollar look like 10.”