In case you're living under a rock, then it's very clear that DEADPOOL 2 opens today (and there's a good chance you've already seen it by now). The first film struggled to make it to the big screen under the steadfastedness of Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller, but Miller opted out of the sequel, which opened the doors for new talent…albeit talent that had large shoes to fill for a film that grossed $783 million worldwide. That's a hell of a bar to measure up to and if there's one guy that has the potential to recreate those numbers, given the requirements for such an irreverent and action-filled lunatic of a superhero it's David Leitch. Coming off the success of JOHN WICK and ATOMIC BLONDE, Leitch's beatifully choreographed action aesthetic and gritty, yet refined style seemed like the perfect marriage for the Merc with a Mouth.
When Tim Miller opted out of DEADPOOL 2 I had a discussion on our podcast over who we thought should take over and my immediate thought was the JOHN WICK guys and one week later you were hired. So, I just want to say I'm glad my movie voodoo worked and got you hired, so…
David Leitch: [laughs] Well, Paul, I'm glad your movie voodoo worked, too. It's been a really great experience working on this film. I'm really proud of it.
What fears did you have in taking on Deadpool 2 given that it's such an irreverent and out-of-the-box franchise-what fears did you have in taking that on?
David Leitch: There were a lot of fears, but I think the two characteristics you said were the reasons that gave me…that sort of quelled my fears, y'know, the irreverence and out-of-the-box. I knew that that would allow me to give my imprint as a filmmaker, but still sort of maintain the original DNA of the movie. And it's so…the universe that they created is so open. You know, I'm a huge fan of what Tim Miller did and what Ryan [Reynolds] and the gang did in the first one and it's daunting, it's a global phenomenon, so you're going to direct the sequel and it's like, "Man, that's a gut check right there." How do you create lightining in a bottle again. But, the fact that it's so open to interpretation gave me hope and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. It's a world where you get to paint with so many tones in one film; this sort of emotional stakes and crazy irreverent rated-r comedy, heightened violence, stylized action and fart jokes, I mean, c'mon!
Going off of that, given the 4th-wall breaking, the raunchiness and the overall push-the-envelope nature of the film, how do you decide what was too much or what was not enough?
David Leitch: [laughs] I mean, I think it's hard sometimes, but the movie, as you get into editorial, the movie starts to speak to you…because you don't want to lose the audience. I think it is easy to push too hard or try too hard or try to be too edgy. But, you also want to be original and daring and make bold choices. So, we were self critical and we self edited sometimes when there might be some bolder choices on the cutting-room floor, but I think as a whole the movie works well in the way that we ran the tone.
So, Ryan Reynolds is credited as a writer and a producer on the film and his dedication to the character is unquestionable. How did he help you as a director on this film?
David Leitch: Well, he is credited as a writer and producer and he's all of that and more. He's sort of the beating heart of the Deadpool franchise and the brand and the universe. It was really an incredible collaboration having someone who understands exactly what the Deadpool universe needs and tonally what works. I can't imagine doing the movie without his knowledge of his characters and the brand. It was a really fun collaboration. I'd love to do it again.
You also have Josh Brolin, who is already having a hell of a summer already in the comic book world. What made him the right choice to play Cable?
David Leitch: Josh is an incredible actor. He's also great at creating really unique characters. I think what was amazing about him was that, I had this vision of a quiet, few-words, kind-of Clint Eastwood, guy-from-the-past-who-lives-in-the-future sort of Cable. With that short description, Josh was able to transform that into this perfect, stoic and yet empathetic antagonist and then make the transition from antagonist to friend. And look, with so few scenes and such little dialogue to give this sort of pathos in a performance in a comic book movie, it's pretty effin' incredible.
So, you guys are introducing X-Force in this and you have Cable and you have Domino and you have other characters popping up. How do you find that balance to make this still about Deadpool when you have so many other pieces on the board?
David Leitch: Well, I think you do want to make sure that everybody, at least when you're going into shooting, that you have everybody's arc buttoned up. Y'know, their introduction, what are we setting them up to learn and where are they gonna be at the end of the movie and what have they learned. But, in terms of the bandwidth of the movie you have to stay with Deadpool and the main characters that affect his journey and in that case it was obviously Vanessa and Firefist and Colossus. And so, those are the characters that are like Deadpool has a journey with in this film. And everyone else is learning and you're tying up their ends and Dopinder has a great arc in this film. But, in terms of space it's still Deadpool. It's called Deadpool. You want to hang your hat on Ryan Reynolds.
From John Wick to Atomic Blonde your stunt work is setting a new bar. Did Deadpool 2 open up new ways to challenge your stunt team?From John Wick to Atomic Blonde your stunt work is setting a new bar. Did Deadpool 2 open up new ways to challenge your stunt team?
David Leitch: There is. In terms of some technical things that we did there's some interesting camera/stunt work that we did. There's also some real conventional stuff that we did, I mean there was just so much action that we could go back to the basics and shoot some fights more in the traditional Hong Kong style that we love, that we're known for. And then, I guess the third thing, we got to experiment with some CGI and there's a big fight at the end of the movie with CGI characters and that's exciting, too, because then you're sort of choreographing with a whole new palette.
You're working with CGI, a bigger budget, is that hindrance to you or a benefit?
David Leitch: It's sort of like blessing/curse, problem/opportunity. You approach a movie like JOHN WICK or ATOMIC BLONDE when you have the resources that you have, like the first JOHN WICK, the physical production was like $12 [million] and ATOMIC, physical production was even less, it was $11 million. And you just approach things kind of analogue. The creativity comes from the box that you're in. But with a movie like DEADPOOL, I mean, a lot more resources, but still not as much as the Marvel films. You are getting to use some other tools, you're getting a lot more CG to help enhance what you're doing, you're able to maybe solve a couple creative problems if you have 'em, so you can get more of your initial vision as opposed to having to completely re-choreograph from scratch for better or worse and hopefully for the better. Look, they're both interesting. I do prefer to have-y'know the Deadpool resources was a good sort of sandbox. We're not a massive Marvel movie, but we're not starving.
Charlize Theron has gone on record saying that another entry of ATOMIC BLONDE is in the works. Are you interested in continuing Lorraine's story?
David Leitch: Oh, I would love to continue Lorraine's story. If there's will on all parties…it shall be. I think she's an incredible character and it's a really fun and interesting world and it's an interesting take on the spy genre, sort of like revisionist history look that's centered around a character with an existential crisis and then we wrap it up with some great trappings of music and hardcore action.
It feels like something you could do by era, like a 90's era, a 00's, etc. if you wanted to go that route…
David Leitch: Yeah, totally. What's fun about Deadpool is that it had this sort of incredible sandbox to play in, this expansive sort of creative world that you could go anywhere. The thing I liked about ATOMIC BLONDE was that people really accepted the fact that I had sort of mashed up the genre of noir and made it into punk rock action noir-neon noir!
Neon noir. I like that, it works well!
David Leitch: Yeah, the more resources you have the less willing they are to let you take those risks. So, that's why that was a great price point for ATOMIC BLONDE. But, Deadpool, you have the money to take the risk, because people want you to take the risk, cause that's the DNA of the movie, so that's what was fun about it.
David Leitch: Yeah, I mean, I think that we want to appeal to the fans that love the Fast universe and we definitely want to give them the spectacle that they expect. But again, the thing that makes the Fast movies work is the characters they've created, right? And Dwayne and Jason's characters together are so fun and they're some of my favorite parts of it. I'm excited to put them in crazy situations and make them survive and see where it takes them. In the universe, they come from more the spy world and the agent world and I think we want to lean into their worlds and expand their universe as well and have fun with that. Look, those movies are fun and I'm a huge fan so I'm excited to take my swing at it and do my own take.
Surely, Deadpool 2 will be a massive success. Are you interested in a Deadpool 3?
David Leitch: I would work with Ryan Reynolds at a gas station. I literally love this guy. He's so fun to work with and he's so collaborative and I've really had the best experience working on this film. If we could do it again I'd jump at the chance. We'll see what's up next. I know they have X-FORCE on the dockets and people are getting fired up for that and, um…my phone is always…I'm awaiting a call [laughs] I'm available. I have things on my plate, but the chance to work with Ryan again would be amazing.
Are there any other comic properties that you're interested in tackling?
David Leitch: There's nothing off the top of my head that just jumps at me. You know, once you've done Deadpool, it's hard to go back.
It's kind of a very open universe with very open rules, so I could see that…
David Leitch: Yeah, I do look at it and go, "How do I have this sort of crazy creative freedom again?" And that's not from the studio, it's from the source material. Deadpool in its full conception is so fun, so crazy, so surreal, so self-referential. It's just it's own thing and…man, we had fun!
Were you guys pressured to make it bigger than original?
David Leitch: To be honest, and I think the studio would tell you this and Ryan would tell you this, I think I was the one who felt the pressure to make it bigger, cause I knew we were gonna live in a summer tentpole space. And so, I would always be the one pushing for a little bigger set pieces and push the action to be bigger and lets keep more of the action in the script and lets blow up this sequence. And, I felt that the story needed it, because we had a lot more characters to service, but I also felt that the audience would want it. I mean, it's a summer movie and, y'know, we're coming out after AVENGERS and before SOLO and, you know, there's an expectation for that. But, there wasn't a competition, like a sequel idea, like, "Oh, we gotta be bigger or badder!" No, we were just living in a space where this is the type of the movie that people want to see more. And, by the way the story and script supported it, so why not?
Deadpool has this appeal that existed even before it was a movie. As a director that's bringing him to life, what do you feel is the appeal to Deadpool? Why do people love Deadpool so much?
David Leitch: I think there's a couple of things. People like Deadpool because he's self-deprecating and that also makes him empathetic. But, he's also a badass and he can say whatever he wants. In all of those three things there's a wish fulfillment, like to have the confidence to be so self-deprecating, to have the ability to kick ass and break your arm and choke somebody with it and then to, essentially, be a good person. At the end of the day his motives are flawed, like there's just a lot of wish fulfillment. It's hard not to like that guy.
It's very much like Ryan Reynolds himself…
DEADPOOL 2 is now playing.