David Leitch is used to working on high-profile properties, but being at the helm of Deadpool 2 was a whole new level.
His previous directorial efforts John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017) have dedicated fanbases and were critical successes. But after 2016’s Deadpool became a phenomenon, the production team knew all eyes would be on the sequel, and that fans and the press would be looking for plot leaks and spoilers. For Leitch, it was reminiscent of the attention he saw on the production of the Matrix films, which he worked on in the stunts department.
“There was a lot of secrecy on Matrix: Reloaded and Revolutions, using a lot of the similar techniques. You kind of go analog,” Leitch told Heat Vision on Thursday about protecting Deadpool 2‘s secrets. “You have digital security, but digital is where you get nervous now. So, everything became analog. There are a lot of things on paper that get shredded. You just try to mislead, and it really is about the control of information.”
The downside to such secrecy is that not everyone on the project has all the pieces.
“Your core team always has the draft and the script and knows what’s going on — but sometimes your extended crew can only have excerpts because you really have to protect against leaks,” he says. “Especially with a movie like this.”
Leitch joined Deadpool 2 after Deadpool director Tim Miller exited the sequel in late 2016. Leitch had wrapped filming on Atomic Blonde and was flirting with the idea of tackling a movie about X-Force, a superteam of mutants that is getting its own film spun out of the Deadpool universe. He had already spoken with X-Men producer Simon Kinberg and Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds.
“I was down the road with that for maybe like a month. I had met with Ryan already, given him my take on what the X-Force universe could be. He gave me his thoughts,” says Leitch. “I was going back to L.A. I was working on a presentation for X-Force when I got the call. ‘Hey, would you like to talk about Deadpool 2?'”
He ended up working with Reynolds and the star’s co-writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to craft a sequel bigger than the original.
In addition to being in the midst of a worldwide media tour for the Deadpool 2, Leitch is gearing up to begin shooting the Dwayne Johnson-Jason Statham Fast and Furious spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw, for release in 2019, and he’s already working on Blu-ray features for Deadpool 2‘s home entertainment release. In a spoiler-free conversation with Heat Vision, Leitch looks at assembling the X-Force, casting an Avengers villain as his antagonist and why he has no plans to slow down just yet.
You got a great cast together to play the X-Force. What was the process there?
Rhett, Paul, Ryan and Tim — those guys created something that was a global phenomenon. There is so much goodwill out there for Deadpool, and that goes back to Ryan. They love him. So it was easy to get favors called. I’ll say that X-Force, that core group, were all people that I had reached out to. I knew Terry [Crews] from the Expendables movies. I knew Bill Skarsgard from Atomic Blonde. … And then Lewis Tan, his father is a longtime stunt coordinator. He gave me one of my jobs when I first started out. I’ve been friends with his dad [Philip Tan] for 20 years. And I remember Lewis when he was a little baby boy.
What job did Lewis Tan’s dad hire you on?
His dad hired me on this Trey Parker-Matt Stone movie called Orgazmo. It was before they did BASEketball and it was before South Park. I doubled Trey Parker and I had the Orgazmorator on my hand.
What did Josh Brolin bring to the part of Cable that you weren’t expecting?
In our initial conversations about Cable, I said, “There’s not a lot of script pages per se and you are kind of an action character, but I need you to help me find the moments in his physicality, in the nonverbal moments, and we need to see nuance in his character in those moments.” That’s what a great actor can do. Cable could have fallen quickly into the caricature role, but … you get someone with Josh’s ability to create nuances with just a look; or to have seven versions of a grunt and each grunt means a different thing — I’m just kidding. We always did that. We always laughed, “Which grunt should I use?” All kidding aside, the humanity he brings to such a cold, badass character — that’s difficult and nuanced. There’s always pain behind the eyes. There’s always this mystery and this loss. That makes him interesting.
Josh has been breaking box-office records as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War for the past few weekends. Were you worried that Thanos might take away from Cable?
(Shakes head no.) We knew it all going in. He was already shooting Avengers. We didn’t do it as some sort of gimmick either. He was just the right guy. We didn’t want that to stand in our way. … They are obviously two great characters that he’s created and they feel distinct and original and well-developed and compelling. I like them both. But I really like Cable.
You have a Fast and Furious movie out next year. Do you hope to keep working at this pace, where every year or every two there’s another big David Leitch movie out there? Or will it get too exhausting?
It is exhausting, but it’s also inspiring. When I was a second unit director and a stunt coordinator, we went from job to job to job. And granted, the pressures are more and the expectations are greater and the responsibilities are greater as a director. But I love making movies, so it’s hard to have downtime. There will be a time where it will feel right and we’ll need it and there won’t be an opportunity in front of me that’s so pressing that I feel like I should grab it. It’s about the material or the opportunity, so this next film is such an interesting opportunity and a premise and an idea that when the lightbulb went off, I really wanted to do it. I know it’s right on the heels of this, but I couldn’t say no.
Stay tuned next week for more from our conversation with Leitch.