It's notable that the script for "Deadpool" -- a meta, R-rated superhero project starring Ryan Reynolds that's stuck in development at Fox -- is the best that screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese feel they've ever written. Notable, mostly, because this is the duo responsible for "Zombieland" (a movie that you probably liked), along with this weekend's new release "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (a movie that you most likely haven't seen yet).
The problem is that "Deadpool" faces numerous hurdles: mostly that it's an R-rated superhero movie and that Deadpool (played by Reynolds) was completely mishandled in the movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." (This mishandling is addressed in the new script.) But it's an interesting insight into the Hollywood ecosystem to know that the guys who wrote "Zombieland" can't get what they feel is their best work to fruition -- a situation that they address below.
More immediate for the duo is this week's sequel, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." Wernick and Reese -- Reese especially -- have always been fans of G.I. Joe, standing in stark comparison to the brain-trust behind the original film, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." Here, they explain why they'd take on a risky G.I. Joe project after the commercial and critical success of "Zombieland" and reveal the behind-the-scenes discussions with Channing Tatum about the fate of his character, Duke.
After "Zombieland," why would you get involved with this movie? It seems like kind of a risk.
Reese: It did, I mean, to some degree. I think probably the biggest reason we wanted to do it was the fact that, a couple reasons: One, from my childhood, I had a real lingering affection for G.I. Joe. It was my favorite line of toys as a kid. I read the comics. I had probably every single toy except the aircraft carrier, the USS Flagg. I was very spoiled, as Paul points out. So I had this enduring love for it as a kid, and then Paul himself has kids.
To be fair, the Flagg would fit in very few children's rooms.
Reese: I know, I know. I think that was my parents' point. They were like, "If it's longer than your bed --" And I was like, "I intend to sleep on it, so it's gonna work out."
The director, Jon Chu, grew up with G.I. Joe as well, and it seems like this is the right team to be putting together a G.I. Joe movie. Why do you think they didn't do that the first time?
Wernick: Well, you know, it's funny. I think there were just a host of problems on that first one, just in terms of, I think, it was up against the writers' strike. And there was just a scramble to get it made. You know, Hasbro was pushing, and there were issues with toys and so forth. Like, there was a roll-out campaign. There was a whole complex issue of movie making and such that outside factors, and assassins kind of just -- you know, it's not for us to judge the first one. There were elements of the first one that we thought were great, that gave us the great gift of launching off into the second one with the bad president, which we thought was a great launching point into "G.I. Joe 2."
What characters did you guys really want to use that you couldn't?
Reese: Well, the first on the list that we really struggled to let go is the Baroness. We had a bit of a glut of villains and we really wanted to introduce Firefly, because we wanted to introduce a character who just loves destruction and is a great foil for Roadblock. So once we introduced him, and we already had Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander and it just -- we were worried about a glut of villains. So we had to let the Baroness go, and that was painful, because she's a really wonderful character. But we would always, if given the chance, relish the opportunity to bring her back in a sequel, because we love her.
And Jon Chu was saying that there have been ideas thrown around of how to recreate her in a different way. [WARNING: A major spoiler is revealed below.]
Reese: Yeah, I mean, one of the things is that Duke [played by Channing Tatum] is dead, so we don’t really have to service that Duke/Baroness relationship that they established in the first movie. We can just let that go and that provides us with the freedom either to ignore what happened in the first movie, because it was two movies ago, or create something entirely new. I think people will probably embrace that, it being two movies previous. People are much easier to accept and be fast and loose with reboots and sequels now than they used to be.
I think most people know that Channing Tatum is only in the beginning of the movie. How did his contract work? Were you told he had to be written out?
Wernick: Well, when we first pitched the idea when we were auditioning for the job -- in our first draft of the script, actually -- Duke was the protagonist through the entire first draft. Ultimately, I think schedule and desire and the excitement to turn over a franchise to a new set of actors excited Channing and excited the studio. When we first pitched Channing the idea that he was going to die, he got really, really excited. It's so rare that a big, huge huge star ever dies on screen, so the idea that he would have a death scene put a glint in his eye and a smile on his face. And then it really did give the Joes, we thought, a real motivation, a revenge plot. It's like, "Let's rally up and go after whoever did this." So it really did provide us the perfect motivation going into the second movie.
I've seen "Deadpool" mentioned a lot recently in the last week. Is that not going to happen now? That's the gist I'm getting. Am I reading that wrong?
Reese: Well, it's in development, so it's over at Fox. We're still trying to rally the support and arrive at the budget number and get to a place where we can convince the powers that be to make it. As of right now, there's no current fast track for it, so we're still fighting that good fight. It's our favorite script we've ever written, and we're most proud of it, out of all of our work. And so I think it's incumbent upon us to continue to push the ball uphill. We have a brilliant director, Tim Miller, attached. We have Ryan Reynolds attached, a phenomenal star. And we have a script and we have a budget and we have a 3-minute test that the director created inside a computer that -- it's stunning, it's just absolutely stunning to watch. So it's now incumbent upon us to become salesmen and attorneys for our cause, and to try to push the boulder up the hill.
Wernick: The biggest challenge has been it's a pretty hard R -- in a studio system that doesn't like taking risks. So to us, the fact that it's a lot lower budget than some of these other traditional superhero movies. You know, we're talking $50 million versus $150 million or $200 million -- I think that mitigates the risk for us. But again, it's not our $50 million. So we're banging the drum like crazy. Every time we have the opportunity to talk about it, we talk about it because the more that people write about it is the more that Fox reads about it is the more that the fans get in an uproar that there is not one yet. I mean, Deadpool is such a beloved character. He's so kick-ass. And it's a character that really is unlike any other. And so yeah, we jump at the opportunity, because we're trying like hell to get this movie made. And it's hard to get movies made these days. You know, there's just a million reasons to say no.
Reese: So much of our job is about convincing people to trust us, to give us the keys to the car. And with any luck, if "G.I. Joe" does well, that helps.
Wernick: "Kick-Ass 2" doing well will help us. That will be an R-rated superhero movie inside the studio system. I think Universal picked that up. So just every little bit helps.
Like most of the rest of the world, I'm not a huge fan of the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie. But when I saw you mentioning how Deadpool is not a fan of his appearance in that movie, either -- well, I'm sold.
Reese: We have a moment in the script -- you know, our script leaked online a couple years ago, which was a crazy moment for us because it was very surprising. And, actually, you can still find it online, which is an irony. Like, if you wanted to read that script, it's very simple to find out there to download. But regardless, it has a moment in it where Deadpool himself basically references the Wolverine movie, and it's a real wink about it. I mean, the Wolverine movie was a fine movie, but it really mishandled Deadpool. In particular: the greatest motormouth in the history of comic book characters -- you don't sew his mouth shut. That was just a mistake with that particular character, and I think everybody acknowledges that now and it was fun to kind of poke fun at that.
Wernick: I think the scene is: It's Wade at his terminal worst, about to die and expecting to die, and he and Vanessa are basically spring cleaning for death, going through all their stuff. And on Wade's shelf is an "X-Men: Wolverine" Deadpool character with the mouth sewn shut, and he basically tosses it in the trash.
Reese: Well, there's a mislead. Because he goes, "A little piece of me curled up and died when this came out," and you think he's talking about the action figure, and instead, he throws it aside and picks up this Wham! album that he didn't like. It was a late Wham! album. He was a big Wham! fan and their late album turned out really poorly. So that's kind of the joke.
Wernick: And we had to be especially careful, obviously, because again, you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you. But I just think it was a subtle, subtle nod.
But George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley are fair game.
Reese: [Laughs] Yeah, I think his line in the script is, "This was the album that Wham! lost their exclamation point," because there was an exclamation point in the actual title of their band, believe it or not.
Did it hurt that "Green Lantern" didn't do well with Ryan Reynolds starring? Does that factor in at all?
Wernick: I don't think so. Again, Ryan is so this voice. We developed the character with him. He read pages as they were coming out of our computer. We broke story with him. His voice so lived in our heads when we wrote this script, we can't see anybody else doing it. We feel that "Green Lantern" was not a Ryan Reynolds fail, it was just an overall conceptual fail. And so we feel that this is the role -- this iconic role that he'll be remembered for. Like Robert Downey Jr. with Iron Man: It kind of redefined him. And not that Ryan needs any redefining. He's a phenomenal actor. But just in terms of just getting the "Green Lantern" stink off, this is the perfect opportunity.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.