For Ryan Reynolds, making Deadpool was a labour of love. After all, he had been trying to get the movie made for 11 years – ever since a studio executive introduced the actor to the Marvel Comics character absolutely convinced that he would be perfect for the role.
Unfortunately, somewhere, something went terribly wrong. That particular executive got fired, burying the notion of a film on the chatty (anti-)hero. Instead the Merc with a Mouth (as he’s lovingly known) became a supporting character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where his mouth – wait for it – was sewn up.
But Reynolds never shut up about it, even after taking on another superhero role (a fella with a green power ring) where the film flopped big-time. Reynolds continued to champion Deadpool at every opportunity, going ahead with screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on completing a script seven years ago.
After years of waiting and hoping, Reynolds was given seed money by 20th Century Fox to film some test footage. However, he never heard back from them. That is, until the footage leaked on the Internet and fans went absolutely crazy over it.
“That’s what really did it,” Reynolds tells the Asian press gathered in Taipei, Taiwan, which was one of his international promotional stops for the film.
“The fans screamed and roared for the character; we owe it to them. In some ways, it’s a fan-made movie because if they hadn’t spoken up like that – if they didn’t yell, kick or scream at Fox – it would have fallen on deaf ears. A month after the screaming and crying, they said ‘You know what, go make the movie’.”
Directed by Tim Miller, Deadpool is an origin story about Wade Wilson – a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary – who opts for a rogue experiment to cure his terminal cancer. Things go horribly wrong and Wade wants revenge. Donning a red and black outfit, he goes after the baddie as Deadpool. The film also features Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein and TJ Miller.
Deadpool is a character Reynolds likens himself to – just like the masked man who likes to spout pop culture references (albeit at the worst possible moments), Reynolds reveals he often uses similar references to make people laugh.
Reynolds is so in tune with the character that, on the Deadpool set, the camera only had to be on for Reynolds to ad-lib some Deadpool-esque jokes – a couple of which actually made it into the final cut of the film.
In the film’s production notes, Miller says: “I think his personality and DNA are really infused in the character. It was a close match to begin with, which is why Ryan was so attracted to Deadpool in the first place.”
Reynolds shares: “I always felt like he’s an alter-ego of mine. I can always turn him on (and) it’s sometimes hard to stop. My wife sometimes asks me who she’s speaking to, ‘You or Deadpool?’
“Sometimes I wonder if it’s Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool or Deadpool playing Ryan Reynolds.”
If there is one thing Reynolds doesn’t have in common with the character he plays, he does not have a healing factor.
While Deadpool can recover from any wound thanks to his super-healing power, the Canadian is currently nursing a hurt finger – the ring finger on his right hand – from doing reshoots for Deadpool four months ago. (His other ring finger is adorned with a thick gold ring indicating his marital status to beautiful actress Blake Lively.)
“I ripped all of the tendons on my finger. So I am still slowly healing.”
For now, sitting at a designated press room at the Mandarin Oriental in Taipei, a polite Reynolds is far removed from Deadpool and his twisted sense of humour. Every journalist who has spoken to Reynolds thus far has only nice things to say.
Nonetheless, the actor is talking very fast – kind of at Deadpool’s pace – often accompanying his statements with hand gestures.
The 39-year-old has been in the wet and chilly city for three days now, and is apparently starting to feel the time difference from New York, where he lives. But he is not showing any signs of sleep deprivation except for an unshaven mug.
The 1.87m-tall Reynolds seems alert and looks good in a climate-appropriate outfit: dark jeans, soft sweater and long black overcoat.
Factor in his charming insistence on learning each journalist’s name and his quick sense of humour, and Reynolds is so much more in person than what the camera captures.
His career started 25 years ago in the 1991 TV series Fifteen. At that time, this youngest of four brothers was 13 years old and still in school in Vancouver where he, erm, failed drama class.
“I failed because you need to go for drama class just to pass … and I didn’t go to my drama class.”
So what made him think he could make it as an actor?
“Pride,” he deadpans. “Good old-fashioned ego is what made me think I could do it.
“A TV show came to town when I was 13 years old, and said anyone can come to this audition. They went to each high school and said ‘Give me your four best drama students.’ And my drama teacher didn’t pick me because I was the idiot who never showed up. So I said **** it, I’m gonna go anyway. I showed up, and there were 12,000 kids there. I thought, God this is going to take a long time. But I am going to get this. I am going to show him.
“I sat there. The luck that I had there was, there was no script so the audition was just improv. And I was always really good at that, much better at that than at reading lines. Quickly I was in the last group of kids. And I got picked. And I ended up on the TV show.”
Fast forward a bit, skipping over how he went without work to the point he almost quit acting, to the time he popped up again in another TV series – Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place (1998), which lasted four seasons.
After that, Reynolds appeared in various films including Van Wilder: Party Liaison, Blade: Trinity and The Amityville Horror, Definitely, Maybe, The Proposal, The Nines, Buried and (ahem) The Green Lantern. Some did badly, others didn’t.
A lot of the roles Reynolds takes on see him playing “likeable regular guys”, which Deadpool is not. (FYI: Deadpool is irreverent, somewhat psychotic and always up to some crazy things.)
Just how the heck did Reynolds walk that fine line?
“I think I am inherently, when I am on screen, likeable. So I push as far as I can to the unlikeable area, which is where Deadpool kind of lives,” answers Reynolds.
“It’s incredibly liberating to play a character who doesn’t need to be liked. He doesn’t care if you like him, he doesn’t care if you’re annoyed around him. He is just go, go and go. The only person he wants to please is himself. It’s fun to play a selfish character like that – a character who just doesn’t give a sh*t what anyone in the room thinks.
“Meeting at the intersection of myself and Deadpool is kind of where we stayed in the movie. That sort of worked for us.”
Given complete freedom to make the film – “There was no one policing us, telling us what we can and can’t do.” – Reynolds and Miller stayed true to the character. This ultimately means the film’s rating is going to be for those 18 and above. The rating is something he is very comfortable with.
Reynolds, who is father to one-year-old baby girl James Reynolds with wife Lively, states he’d let his daughter watch Deadpool if she wanted to.
“I have no problem with that. My dad took me to anything I wanted to see when I was a kid. You can say a lot about me but you can say this though. I don’t think I am a complete sh*thead in my personal life. I think I am a pretty normal nice guy; I have normal friends and a normal life. I saw violent movies when I was a kid. I saw silly movies. I don’t think that has anything to do with this. Whenever my daughter wants to see this movie, she would see this movie.”
Deadpool opens in cinemas nationwide today.