WARNING: The following interview contains all spoilers for Deadpool 2. Seriously, there is nothing in this interview that isn't a massive spoiler. Read at your own risk. You've been warned!
They are the mad geniuses behind both Deadpool and Deadpool 2, and while many will hail co-writers and producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as the real heroes of Deadpool, they'd like you to consider them the villains instead. Well, at least that's how they reference themselves in the film's dazzling James Bond-inspired opening credits sequence, in which no one is named and everyone -- from its stars to its director and, yes, its writers -- are viciously made fun of.
"We definitely evolved from the real heroes to the real villains pretty quickly over the course of two years," Reese told Fandango during a lengthy spoiler-filled conversation alongside his writing partner, Wernick. "We thought that was a fun twist on the first movie. Having just killed Vanessa, we wanted to paint everyone as a**holes [in the credits]." Wernick added, "And we just basically said we wanted a James Bond open, to the extent we can create a Deadpool-esque James Bond open, and I think they did a great job, the company that did that. They found that mix of cool and James Bond-y imagery, but also tied it in with a little Deadpool ridiculous-ness, like the cream cheese spreaders instead of knives, and Deadpool sitting on the barrel of a gun."
Deadpool 2, like the first Deadpool, is stuffed with a ton of Easter eggs, cameos and enough pop-culture references that it's near impossible for you to catch everything the first time through. For our conversation with Reese and Wernick, we decided to dive deep into super-duper spoiler territory to break down some of the more memorable Easter eggs in the film, and get the stories behind how they came to be.
The Logan music box at the beginning of the film…
At the very beginning of the movie, we see an adorable tiny music box crafted to pay homage to Wolverine's death scene in the movie Logan. How did this Wolvy nod come about? Also, is it a real music box and who owns it now?
Rhett Reese: I think it was a Ryan idea to start that way, or he wanted to do a music box. A Logan music box. So they designed it, and it actually does turn and play. It did not play that song, because later we added in the Air Supply song and then we had to match the music to the Air Supply song, so we had the composer do the sing-song version.
Paul Wernick: I think Ryan has the prop.
Reese: But it does turn! It does spin! I forget what song it actually plays, but, yeah, I mean we've got a lot of nods to a lot of movies, and we just decided to go ahead and kick it off with one. It gets a laugh.
Wernick: It’s pretty amazing. Especially the relationship that Ryan and Hugh [Jackman] have, and that Wade and Wolverine have, it was just a fun way to poke at the sibling rivalry that the two of them have, and it was a fun nod to that, a fun way to kick off the movie.
The big group X-Men cameo from the mainline cast
At one point Deadpool is brought into the X-mansion as an X-Men trainee. When he's roaming the halls looking for all the other X-Men, an open door reveals the entire mainline cast quietly avoiding Deadpool from another room. Beast then shuts the door before Deadpool can see them. So how did it happen?
Wernick: Well, we joked in the first movie that the X-Men are never around cause they're too cheap.
Reese: Well, Fox is too cheap.
Wernick: Yeah, Fox is too cheap, so we thought we would nod to that, and just have a glimpse of them in the background. Simon Kinberg was directing the Dark Phoenix movie in Montreal, so we shot against a green screen and the mansion in Vancouver, and then he shot separately, later in the summer, a couple of months later. The actual cast, James McAvoy and those guys, and then we melded the two and composited the two together through visual effects. It's real brief, but it always gets a laugh.
Wernick: Like Deadpool being oblivious and not seeing everybody right behind him in the scene.
Reese: And it is really an evolution from Deadpool to Deadpool 2, it's like we couldn't get any of the X-Men in the first one, we couldn't afford 'em, none of them wanted to do it. This one they all wanted to do it.
Wernick: Suddenly they were all like, “Yeah! Let’s do it, it’d be fun!”
Fandango: Did they all turn you down for the first Deadpool?
Wernick: No, I wouldn't say that as much as it was not a shoe-in to call somebody and say "yeah," like, "yeah, I'd love to do it". Gwen Stefani, we wanted to use "Hollaback Girl" in the open when he is on the overpass. And we just got shut down, God love her, I don't know, she just didn't respond to the movie, or if we were offering too little or what, but now, with this movie, once you've got a hit under your belt, suddenly you start getting yes's, and the next thing you know we got Celine Dion saying yes, and Brad Pitt saying yes, and Matt Damon saying yes.
Did you spot Matt Damon hidden in Deadpool 2?
There's one cameo in Deadpool 2 that is so well hidden, this writer had no idea it existed until Reese and Wernick brought it up during the conversation. Did you spot Matt Damon? Here, Reese and Wernick reveal who he played.
Reese: Matt Damon is one of the rednecks in the scene in the pick-up truck. Cable’s introduction.
Wernick: He's sitting there talking about toilet paper and how toilet paper is insufficiently hygienic. And he’s with Alan Tudyk on the tailgate of the truck.
Fandango: Matt Damon is the king of cameos. He cameos in everything.
Wernick: Yes! He was also in Thor: Ragnarok (see above), and in this case he disappeared so deeply into it. We had him out on set and he was in heavy make-up, done by Bill Corso, so you could never tell it was him. That's why nobody notices him. He did a little riff on Matthew McConaughey's voice. If you listen, you'll kinda hear McConaughey. It almost sounds like it was McConaughey doing the cameo -- you'd never know, he's so good. He just falls right into the character, and you'd never know it was Matt.
Brad Pitt did his quick blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo for a cup of coffee…
The addition of an invisible character called Vanisher allowed the writers to not just create a fun sight gag, but also cast a big name for the film's quickest cameo. Who they got was Brad Pitt. (Fun fact: Deadpool 2 director David Leitch was Brad Pitt's stunt double in Fight Club)
Reese: That was a later cameo. In the script we never saw who Vanisher was. Then he gets sparked by the wires, and we thought, 'oh my god', perfect cameo. We were like, 'who's gonna say no, who's the first to say no, let's go after the hardest get in Hollywood', and so we reached out to Brad -- Ryan [Reynolds] did. Brad's kids loved the first movie, and so he jumped at the chance. He did it for scale, and a cup of coffee.
Fandango: A cup of coffee?
Reese: Yes. That he insisted Ryan deliver to him on set, which happened. It was a real treat. That these massive A-list stars wanted to come on and play in your sandbox -- that's a real treat for us, and for Ryan. That Brad Pitt and Matt Damon want to be in our movie.
Ryan Reynolds didn't just play the hero of Deadpool 2 -- he also played the film's villain.
Deadpool 2 is unique in that it plays with the idea of a villain throughout. Early on it's the thug who shoots Vanessa, and then it becomes Josh Brolin's Cable. Eventually it shifts to a battle to stop the kid Firefist (Julian Dennison) from killing an evil mutant torturer. But perhaps the closest we get to a more standard superhero villain is the reveal of Juggernaut, a popular character from the comics, who teams with Firefist to commit a crime that will have lasting effects on humanity and lead to the reason behind why Cable traveled here to kill Firefist in the first place. Juggernaut was a completely computer generated character, but he was voiced by none other than Deadpool himself.
Fandango: We noticed that Juggernaut is still alive at the end, climbing out of the pool. Could he be a future X-Force member?
Wernick: Oh, that would be really fun. That's a good idea to have him come out of that pool and actually join up. He's fun, a fun character, and Ryan Reynolds did the voice. Not sure if you noticed that. He's a force of nature. Whether or not they need two big muscly guys if they're going to use Colossus or Juggernaut, we'll see, but why not? X-Force is very, morally flexible, and there is a lot of ambivalence and gray area there, relative to the X-Men, so maybe Juggernaut could be on the team - it'd be fun.
Let’s talk about that post-credits scene…
What will likely go down as one of the more memorable post-credits scenes, Cable's time-machine gadget is fixed and Deadpool uses it to go back in time to resurrect characters who died throughout the film, and also to both shoot the other version of Deadpool from X-Men: Origins (also played by Reynolds), and then to shoot Ryan Reynolds while he's holding the script for Green Lantern. It's all pretty elaborate for a post-credits stinger, and almost included a very dark joke that was cut at the last minute.
Fandango: So when are you writing that? At what point does that scene start coming together?
Wernick: It’s late in the game. We shot the movie, we put it in front of audiences, and we always leave the coda for additional photography week. We spend about eight days on additional photography. I'd say maybe two days were devoted to that coda, and it was multiple sequences. Someone had the idea of the time machine, not even sure who. I think it was Dave Leitch, or someone on Dave's team, and then it immediately sprung to Ryan wanting to make fun of himself and his past choices. I think one of the keys to making Deadpool not seem like a mean movie is that we definitely make fun of ourselves along the way. We make fun of the writing, we make fun of the studio, and then Ryan makes fun of himself, so I think when we go to make fun of other people it feels like-
Reeese: They’re more forgiving.
Wernick: It's all in good fun. And then we used the coda as an opportunity to bring some people back to life, and get some emotional closure, and some possible resurrections for future movies, and then also to go back and make fun, poke fun of Ryan's career a little bit. We had fun, and Hugh Jackman was great because he cameoed. Just by the virtue of the old footage, we needed his permission to use that footage and he's a buddy of Ryan's and they loved faux sniping at each other in the media which is really fun, and so Hugh said absolutely, you should definitely use it.
Reese: One of the unfortunate by-products of that coda is that it essentially invalidates the entire movie.
Wernick: Yeah, just go back in a time machine and fix everything. Why do we even have a movie? As long as you don’t think about it too hard, you’re fine.
Reese: It was one we were willing to kind of forgive because it was such a fun idea.
Fandango: And now you’ve introduced something that can mess up the timeline even more!
Wernick: Yeah, and we figure that Cable's gotta find it and smash it or something because of the dangers of destroying the time-space continuum or something, but we decided to leave that for the next movie. Or maybe we can just ignore it and move on, I don't know. Pretend it never happened.
And then there was the baby Hitler joke that was a little too dark to stay in the movie...
Reese: There was a baby Hitler scene where Deadpool goes back to 1800s Germany in a nursery to kill Hitler.
Wernick: Yeah, and he's trying to gain the confidence, and the chutzpah, to actually reach down and strangle a baby. I think that's why we cut it out, because even if it is baby Hitler, it's still a baby. Somebody had the idea of taking a Sharpie and put a little mustache on the baby so it looks more like Hitler and makes it easier, but in any case, it just felt a little too dark.
Reese: We wrote it, we shot it, it exists, and it will probably be on the DVD extras.
Wernick: Yeah, you'll probably see it, but we just thought it was a little harsh to leave the audience with that. And I think going out on that Green Lantern thing was better. When we first screened the Green Lantern Canada joke, it was such an explosion [from the audience] that we thought we can't top that. Hitler was just a come down from that, we thought, let's just end the movie there and wash our hands and be on our way.
Their alternate post-credits scene…
One of the earlier ideas for a post-credits stinger involved a return to the X-Force recruitment office where more interviews would be conducted with potential members. That's when Wernick and Reese had thought about adding an additional cameo from Chris Evans.
Wernick: We had other ideas for the coda. We were thinking about having continuing interviews for the new X-Force, like go back to the interview room and have more people coming in, and we thought of, Chris Evans. have Chris Evans come in and have him go 'hey', and sort of be acting like Captain America, but Ryan's like, 'We all know you're the Human Torch, you're not Captain America, so let's not kid ourselves.' And then Chris was going to say, 'we all have our pasts'. We just decided the time machine was the funniest angle.