Netflix’s Geeked Week is about to kick off this week and tomorrow, the streaming giant will be showing off some more of “Spiderhead,” a brand new futuristic mindbender from “Top Gun Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski, about convicts who are offered the chance to volunteer as medical subjects to shorten their sentence and then subject to experimental drugs that affect their emotional behavior. Based on the short story “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders, the film is written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, known for the “Zombieland” franchise and all of the “Deadpool” films. While we’ll run our “Spiderhead” conversation with the duo closer to release—the film hits Netflix on June 17— we did get a chance to speak to the writers about “Deadpool” and tried to get some answers on where it’s been.
“Deadpool” in many ways, was likely subject to the difficulties of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox which basically killed any of the Fox movies in development including Channing Tatum’s “Gambit.” While “Deadpool” survived—the only franchise from Fox to crossover—the duo suggested that the merger slowed things down a little bit.
Why the super long wait beyond that? After all, if a “Deadpool” film doesn’t come out until 2024 (the last available 2023 spot seems like it’s taken by “Blade”), that’ll have been six years since “Deadpool 2” (2018).
“Look, it’s, ‘We will sell no wine before it is time.’ That’s our [motto], that’s the old Ernest Gallo, marketing line,” Rhett Reese said making a reference to a 1980s wine commercial featuring Orson Welles, that Paul Wernick quipped badly “dated ourselves.”
“We want to make it great,” Reese continued, explaining the delay a little. “We’re in the laboratory working on it with Ryan Reynolds all the time, and we’re very much entertaining ourselves. So, hopefully, that translates and ultimately will entertain the world. But you know, it’s a marriage between Fox and Disney and it’s two different universes and it’s not easy. But it’s also a wonderful challenge and, you know, high-class problems to be able to merge those, those worlds. So, we’re, we’re enjoying it.”
I tried to ask what possible story-level machinations could have been delaying it beyond the two companies merging. Would R-Rated be a problem in the Marvel world? Are mutants the problem given that Deadpool is a mutant character, but so far, no actual X-Men or mutants have been introduced into the universe and maybe they should come first? And how Deadpool integrates with the MCU: did all that have to be negotiated and figured out before they even started writing a story?
“I mean, yes and no,” Reese answered. ”Obviously, it’s like, it’s two completely different regimes, right? So, it’s two different bureaucracies. It was Fox, all these different people, and now it’s not those people anymore. It’s these [Disney] people and these people do things their way. And we were used to doing things our way, so there are differences, but I think the great part is that Marvel’s been incredibly supportive. They are gonna let Deadpool be Deadpool, you know? It’s not like any particular joke may be the one that they say, ‘you know, that’s too far,’ that could happen, but to this point, it’s been nothing but support.”
What does that support feel like? To hear it from the ‘Deadpool’ scribes, it’s very opening and inviting. “It’s been nothing but, ‘how can we help you?’ ‘What from our universe would you like to use? How, how can we make your life easy?’ And we’re gonna let Deadpool be Deadpool. We’re not… this is not going to be the Disney-fied ‘Deadpool.’ So they’re awesome, and now it’s up to us to come through and justify that faith.”
So, “Deadpool 3” is staying R-Rated I asked point-blank? “Oh, absolutely,” Reese said, indicating nothing’s changed in that regard. “They’re not gonna mess with the tone. I mean, I’d never say never, I guess there’s an outside chance, but we’ve always been told it can be R-[rated], and we’re proceeding as if it’s R. We would like it to be R, we always have, so I don’t think that’ll change.
I’m assuming somewhere in that script, there’s an F-bomb or two, I joked. “I’m shocked you would make such an assumption!” Reese said, laughing with mock indignation. “It’s on the title page!” Wernick jested. “Dead Fucking Pool,” they laughed.
As the architects of the “Deadpool” franchise,” who has loyally stayed on the project for years—in the days when 20th Century Fox didn’t want to make it and it took a leak of footage from Tim Miller’s Blur Studios to convince Fox to make it— Reese and Wernick have been with “Deadpool” since the very beginning. They wrote dozens and dozens of different drafts and never wavered when it seemed the movie would never get made.
So, it was shocking that when “Deadpool 3” was first announced in the trades, in the fall of 2020, as moving forward, their names were nowhere to be found, not as writers or producers. Instead, Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin of “Bob’s Burgers” were named the new writers of the third installment. Reese and Wernick have subsequently come back on the project as writers, but I poked the bear at what seemed like a little bit of discomfort in that situation.
“Yeah, that did happen. And look…,” Reese said with a pause. “It just came down the way it did, but we’re thrilled to be back is the bottom line. We just couldn’t be happier where we are right now in the mad scientist lab creating fun stuff and hopefully, we’ll get a movie out to you guys soon.”
“Deadpool 3” status? Well, Shawn Levy is directing, but given Marvel’s schedule that sounds like 2024 at the earliest, but in the meantime, “Spiderhead” hits Netflix soon, on June 17, so watch for more from this conversation soon.