'Deadpool' Director, Producer Credit Film's Success to Comic Book Similarities (Q&A)

Tim Miller and Simon Kinberg  - H 2016
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The comic book adaptation has become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, amassing $754 million at the global box office.

Deadpool was the little superhero movie that could.

After it sat in studio purgatory for years, Fox greenlit the film thanks to coaxing from star Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller, producer Simon Kinberg and the Internet fandom surrounding the self-aware Merc with a Mouth. 

Deadpool has gone on to shatter box-office records, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time and amassing $754 million at the global box office. 

Ahead of the film's DVD release, Kinberg — the super-producer behind Fox's recent X-Men movies — and first-time feature-director Miller sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss Deadpool's success and what it means for the superhero genre.

You've worked on multiple superhero movies for Fox films. What set Deadpool apart?

Simon Kinberg: There’s a lot of differences, I feel like the biggest was the self-referential nature of the movie, more than the R rating and the violence and the sex. All of that was more heightened than what you can do in a PG-13 film, but to me, creatively at least, it was the fact that the movie comments on other movies. That’s something superhero movies traditionally haven’t done and most movies don’t do. I think it’s part of why it’s so successful, because people are so fluent in these films now. I mean, I’ve made a few [superhero movies], but many, many more have been made. It is the dominant, the number one, genre in movies now. I think people were ready for a movie that could make fun of other superhero films. [Deadpool] was almost the opposite from the X-Men movies, which are very dramatic and self-serious and almost operatic. This is like punk rock.

With so many superhero movies coming up, moving forward, do you think we are going to see more films that play with the genre?

Tim Miller: You know, I can’t speak to the macro trends of the industry because I just don’t care, honestly. I’m interested in the movies in and of themselves. As a comic nerd, I’m interested in the arcs. Sorry to hype another movie, but Civil War, one of the best Marvel arcs ever. I’m so excited to see that story come to the big screen as a fan. Whether or not they’re R-rated or PG-13, who gives a shit, really? It should be about character and why they’re interesting and whether or not it makes a good story.

Even when I read the Deadpool script, at no moment did I feel like, "Oh my God, I’m breaking new cinematic ground here." I just felt like: I like this script, and it’s funny, and we’re going to make a movie out of it. It didn’t occur to me, the meta part of it. It was funny to me, but I didn’t know why it was special to everybody else. My guess is because I’m like two inches deep, really. 

Kinberg: You know, I think Deadpool and Suicide Squad and, you know, some of these sort of stand-aloners or spin-off movies are changing the way people approach superhero films. I think it’s, Marvel created a different way of making movies, which is you have individual movies that are part of a larger tapestry, and we just didn’t have that growing up. You had sequels, like the Star Wars movies had sequels or the Die Hards or Lethal Weapons, but you didn’t have separate movies with different characters that all link into a larger storytelling tapestry. I think we’re still evolving what that looks like, and the cool thing about Deadpool is the tone is so different from other films, so the challenge is how does that fit into, or can that fit into, a singular, coherent universe?

Miller: I guess the funny thing to me is like, you’re going, "Wow, this is so interesting and unique," but when you read comics, that’s kind of what it is. Everybody exists in this world and they interact, and sometimes you get to team up or, you know, they’re always fighting each other and interacting in this big soap opera, so the fact that they do it in movies just seems like, yeah, well, that’s what they do in the comics. 

Kinberg: I think that’s what Kevin [Feige, head of Marvel Studios] has tapped into. He started making movies the way the comics have always existed.  

So these superhero films are drawing more from their source material?

Miller: Or just trying to translate what works in [comic books] to another medium, which is film. They’re really not all that different. Somebody needed to have the will to say, we’re going to connect these pieces. In film, it’s difficult, because people never know. If the movie’s not successful, they’re not going to do another. So you have to have the will to say we’re going to make this movie successful, and it’s going to lead to this other movie. You’re putting it out there; you’re seeding the ground for this other movie and just hoping this one does well. 

We are going to see a lot more creative crossover.

Kinberg: What’s interesting too, and talked about less, is not just the proliferation of comic book movies but comic book TV shows. There are whole networks defined basically by these comic book TV shows. That’s an interesting trend: the fact that, seemingly on the DC side and on the Marvel side too, TV shows are intermingling. So you’re not just crossing movies, but you’re crossing mediums. As the world becomes more sort of intermeshed, it feels like the storytelling will happen on your phone and on a TV show and in a movie in ways that force you to actually ingest it all. 

Miller: I see Daredevil or Luke Cage or Iron Fist as TV shows, and a part of me goes, "F—ing awesome!" Then part of me goes, "Oh shit." Because I want to see the movies with the big battles and the epic scope. So I thought, "Can Iron Fist appear, or can Jessica Jones show up in an Avengers movie even though their shows are only on TV?" So I asked Kevin [Feige], when I happened to be at another thing with him. He’s like, "We haven’t planned that." I think that would be great.