Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Ryan Reynolds: Better red than dead

Ryan Reynolds talks to Russell Baillie about bringing comic character Deadpool to life on screen.

Ryan Reynolds hasn't had the best luck with comic book movies. The comedic actor has been in a few of them. His Green Lantern of 2011 - directed by expatriate New Zealander Martin Campbell and co-starring Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi - tanked, though not as hard as RIPD did two years later.

But before that there was 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine in which he played bad mad mutant assassin Deadpool, an anti-hero character first created for Marvel's X-Men comics in the early 90s.

Comic fans didn't think much of Deadpool's first screen incarnation against Wolverine. The self-aware snarky psycho of the comic had become just another supervillain.

But Deadpool, the indestructible alter-ego of Wade Wilson, cancer survivor and former special ops soldier, lives again with Reynolds in the tight red onesie. And he has those fans to thank. When test footage of Reynolds in character leaked on to the internet, the buzz was so immediate Fox greenlit the film, which Reynolds had been helping develop for more than a decade, overnight.

Now still powered by considerable advance buzz, Deadpool arrives as the first superhero movie of 2016.

And if a chatty Reynolds on the line from Sydney is to be believed, it may be the funniest, nastiest most original superhero movie in some time.

At the very least, this may well be the best Ryan Reynolds comic book movie yet ...

No I haven't always had the best of luck. But I've never been part of a comic book movie that had a completed script before we started shooting, let alone for six years. We had the script ready six years ago for Deadpool, we've been willing and able for a long time. A lot of times these are greenlit based on a poster. They go "here's the poster. Let's start shooting and while we're shooting let's write a script." You go "hold on a second it's hard to make a good movie that way". It happens, but by and large it's a hard way to make a film.

Ryan Reynolds features on the cover of this week's TimeOut:

Well, if it's any consolation we tried to like Green Lantern in New Zealand because there were lots of New Zealanders involved.

Well it's nice to see the hometown folk do well. Taika is about to direct the Thor movie right? That's great.

So you feel better in red than green?

I definitely feel better in red. It's a character I have wanted to do for so long. But looking back I am glad it wasn't made back then because the superhero genre has become so ubiquitous that had this movie been made 11 years ago I don't think audiences would have been as savvy and as ready for it. From the few test screenings we've done, one of things audiences love is that they see themselves up there. They know the universe, they know the different superheroes and they really feel that Deadpool is their voice - he's breaking the fourth wall, he's addressing the audience directly, he's laughing at other comic book characters, he's laughing at himself. He even makes Ryan Reynolds jokes in the movie. So it's a lot of fun to get to play that stuff.

Ryan Reynolds jokes. Is that a thing?

There's plenty of room for Ryan Reynolds jokes. I am one of the most prolific authors for Ryan Reynolds jokes.

A scene from the movie Deadpool.
A scene from the movie Deadpool.

Was it hard juggling the self-awareness of the character against the usual seriousness of a superhero movie?

It's pretty easy. We started doing test footage for Deadpool almost five years ago now. So off and on I've been playing the character - just not for audience - for five or six years now. On the first day of shooting, we all gathered round - the creative core behind Deadpool - and we looked at each other and said "You know it's been a long road and here we are shooting the first day of the movie that everyone said would never happen". I thought that was a really beautiful moment ... for us to have and share together.

A beautiful moment followed by a scene of you shooting some guys in the head?

Pretty much. That would describe a lot of days of shooting. But yeah.

What's that suit like? It looks a bit Spider-man ...

His looks like a vacation compared to the Deadpool suit. The Deadpool suit is much thicker. It has a lot more kevlar and leather and space age materials and I think Spider-man is largely lycra. That suit is engineered to my body. It was wild to wear something that was tailored to your exact measurements. So much so, that if I had a big dinner, I could feel it the next day.The first time I saw it I wept. I literally wept. To me it was the most faithful adaptation of a comic book to a movie costume I had ever seen done. We were all just gobsmacked.

Apparently you got into trouble for taking it home?

I am yet to have someone show up and try to take it back. I dare them to. I double dare them to.Yeah it was 11 years for me and I am not leaving without a suit. I made it abundantly clear that the suit I am wearing in the last shot will be leaving with me.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. Photo / AP
Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. Photo / AP

By the looks of it, this isn't a big CGI movie.

In order for the studio to say yes to making this movie we weren't afforded the same budget that a typical superhero movie would be. So a lot of what you see in the movie is practical analogue effects. What's behind me in the scene is behind me. We just didn't have the money to create computer generated worlds. In a weird way it was like the greatest gift for us because the movie had a real sense of place in the comic book universe. There was something practical and analogue and weirdly old fashioned about shooting, you know, on streets instead of green screen stages. It made the movie funnier, so much funnier and the action felt so much more real.

So Deadpool has X-Men origins but he's never going to fit in that movie universe is he?

Yeah Deadpool is a much harder character to have interact with the X-Men that we as an audience know. Deadpool knows he is in a comic book. He knows he is in a movie. He knows that Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine. So you really can't upset that world just for the selfish gain of having Deadpool interact with those guys. But in our movie he does interact with X-men. He just doesn't interact with Professor Xavier or Magneto or some of the other key guys.

A scene from the movie Deadpool.
A scene from the movie Deadpool.

So, nervous about how it will go?

Not so much nervous. The diehard Deadpool fans are going to love this - and they already are because we were so strict about sticking to the canon of the character. You are always nervous about the larger audience. We had this great thing that happened - because the studio didn't give us a lot of money, you feel like there isn't this $200 million monolith going into theatres. We have the laser hair removal budget of most superhero movies. You start to feel like "we've done our part". Now it's up to the audience to do theirs.

And if this starts a franchise, this guy could be taking over a large chunk of your life.

In New York we call those uptown problems. You feel like a complete asshole if you complain about that. I can't think of another character I'd like to spend a decade playing.

Who: Ryan Reynolds
What: Deadpool
When: Opens at cinemas February 11

- TimeOut

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