Spiderhead Interview: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick talk about their new thriller and Deadpool 3

Spiderhead, the new Netflix film from Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski and starring Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett, is not the type of film you would expect from the screenwriters of Zombieland and Deadpool. More of a dystopian science fiction thriller than a comedy, Spiderhead is a weird and surreal film adapted from the short story by George Saunders. Saunders is known as an author virtually impossible to adapt for film but Spiderhead somehow pulls it off. I got the chance to chat with screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick about the challenge of adapting Saunders, the difference between seeing the film on Netflix versus in a movie theater, and tried to sneak some details about Deadpool 3. Check out our interview below.

Paul Wernick: I see Deadpool over your shoulder, Alex. I see him back there.


Rhett Reese: You propped him up just for this. I know it.


PW: You want to flip your camera, Rhett?


RR: I’ll do it for you, Alex. I don’t, I don’t love to do it, but there’s the man. [Full-size Deadpool statue behind him in a case]


Alex Maidy: Nice! Very cool. So, this is a bizarrely wonderful movie. I remember reading the short story. I’ve been a big fan of George Saunders for years, and it was the last story that I thought could have been adapted into a film…


PW: Like his writing is not exactly film friendly.


RR: Saunders’s work is not a lot of film-friendly stories. He’s brilliant, but not fit for film.


Alex: So how did you find this story to make that work?


RR: Well, it was brought to us and we fell in love with it. And I think our first, our first goal, what I said to Paul was we gotta use… That’s Paul, Paul likes to say, we’re going to use the whole turkey. Like we’re going to use the gizzards, we’re going to use the wishbone, we’re going to use everything from that story. We can, we’re going to try to capture, and then we’ve got work to do because it’s a short story and it doesn’t really have a feature three-act structure to it. So we have to figure out where does the plot go? What happens? How does the protagonist, how did the protagonist and the antagonist, you know, butt heads and who wins and how and all that stuff? But we really did see the potential for a movie though. Like it didn’t from the very beginning. To, uh, we were more afraid of trying to capture his tone and make sure that the writing was up to par with his.


PW: Then we were about flushing out more plot, like we thought, okay, no, there’s, he’s set up so many interesting ideas here. It shouldn’t be too hard to combine them and keep going and have fun. But the question is at the end of the day when people look at it and be like, I could tell about halfway through that it suddenly wasn’t George anymore.

RR: Like that was our big fear, you know? It’s like, what’s, I’m sure. Anyone, whether it’s the, you know, the Game of Thrones guys or anyone who has to sort of leap past the writer is terrified. And, and we were too, so it will be up to audiences to judge.

Alex: I mean, everybody is so good. There’s such a great cast here, but did you envision somebody like Chris Hemsworth playing this role? Or did you envision somebody older? Like what were you looking for when you were first writing that character?

PW: It’s interesting. Steve Jobs was a little bit of the touch point for us in that character, kind of the quote-unquote evil genius, right? The guy who breaks eggs to make an omelet and. In our minds, he was young. Like Chris, he wasn’t kind of the old Jeff Bridges type. He was a brilliant young mind who, you know, is trying to solve the world’s problems. Right. I mean, he thinks he’s doing good by doing what he’s doing.

RR: The drugs that make you feel a certain way. I mean, how wonderful that you could make people laugh and you could make them obedient and make them fall in love with you. Uh, it really is a treasure trove of wonderful potentially wonderful results that would benefit society?

PW: Technology also is a little bit of a young man’s game. And you look at all these billionaires and when they became billionaires, the Zuckerbergs and the Google guys and Elon Musk and everything, they tend to be young. You know, they come out of the gate hard and they change the world quickly.

RR: And Steve jobs, by the time he was in his mid-forties, had absolutely turned the world upside down. And so that was our goal is to find someone who was able to seem smart and amoral and charismatic. And I think Chris just crushed it. He’s got such a great comedic timing and this maniacal darkness to the humor. The character is so much more fleshed out, obviously here than he was in the short story.

Alex: He has so much going on in his backstory, everything when he reveals things about his childhood. Was there anything in, whether it’s his character or any of the other characters that you had added into the original script that didn’t make it into the finished film?

RR: I’d say it was a little more of the opposite. Like that backstory was really Chris. Like Chris wanted us to dig in deep with us on that backstory about his father and sort of were, whether he had been denied love in a way that made him now sort of trying to find it through drugs. I mean, we had introduced the idea in our screenplay of Steve starting to use his own drugs and becoming a junkie on his own material, like both to test it, but then also he starts to get off on it the way anyone might.

PW: And then Chris, his question was, well, why, why was he going to that? Why did he want to do that? So he made us dig further. So it was less a paring down and more of an adding in that makes sense over time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZOO1gffX0

Alex: This is a story that it’s got some scale to it. Some of the visuals are just unbelievable looking at like the landscapes and seeing what’s outside of the prison. Do you think that this is something that is going to be experienced differently on a streaming platform versus being seen on the big screen?

PW: Boy. I don’t know. I mean, again, every frame that, that Joe [Kosinski] captures is something you could hang on your wall. It’s a piece of art. He just, he thinks visually, and he’s got such an architectural eye for it.

RR: Most people, you know, in their homes have at least a 65-inch television. It’s a pretty nice way to see, you know, anything you look at probably looks 10 times better on a big screen, but you won’t be missing out on any of the wonderful visuals that Joe created by watching it at home.

Alex: And the way that plot summaries and things that you see online describe Spiderhead…it’s got the word dystopian in there and it’s got sci-fi thriller. What genre would you really consider this to be?

RR: I think it’s a psychological thriller more than anything. I mean, it is science fiction, but it’s also science fiction that we wanted to feel like it could happen tomorrow, like literally tomorrow. Um, so it is a science fiction movie, but it’s not…I wouldn’t necessarily place it among the other sci-fi movies as much as I would the great psychological thrillers of the past, whether it’s great or not that’s for the audience to decide, but, but a psychological thriller.

PW: You know, our tone tends to be a little hard to pin down. From our other movies, we tend to use like four or five, six different words to describe our movies or what genre they are, as opposed to one or two.

RR: And that can be a fault at some times, but I also think it can make for a very different movie-going experience. And this is what this one is kind of hard. It’s fun. It’s kind of funny. Uh, you know, it’s grounded. It is science fiction. It’s scary. It’s a drama with, you know, real stakes. So it’s kind of hard to force into a box.


Alex: You’ve got so many anticipated projects that are coming up. I’m excited for Twisted Metal. I’m excited about everything that’s coming. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about my buddy back there. Is there anything upcoming with Deadpool 3 that you could share? Any, any news about it?

PW: Well, we’re under strict orders not to speak of it. But, I think the one line that we’re thrilled about is that the band’s back together. We’re having a ton of fun with Ryan, and that’s always a great sign.

RR: The MCU is an amazing sandbox to play in. We’ll throw lots of cliches as well because we’re giving it 110% man or taking it one day at a time. It’s the Bull Durham thing. Like we’re taking it one day at a time. We can’t divulge details but suffice it to say that when Ryan and Paul and I are on Zoom together, we are cackling. So, it’s pretty fun.

Alex: Awesome. Well, I really appreciate your time. I’m really looking forward to everybody checking out the movie. I am beyond impressed that you were able to take George Saunders from the page and turn it into a movie. And I hope this really opens up a lot of people to check out his writing.

RR: We hope so too.

PW: Thank you so much, Alex.

While there was not a lot of news about Deadpool 3, Reese and Wernick showcased just how they may have opened up their careers for more than just action comedies. Spiderhead is an unexpected movie with a solid cast and a twisty plot that should surprise a lot of viewers.

Spiderhead premieres on June 17th on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.