Deadpool was first introduced in the pages of ‘The New Mutants’ nearly thirty years ago, and since then the Merc with a Mouth has cemented his status as one of the most popular characters on Marvel’s bench. But despite this remarkable and enduring popularity, his road to the silver screen was anything but a smooth one.
It can be hard fathom given the stunning success that greeted ‘Deadpool‘ in 2016 (and the newly released sequel that seems to be following suit), but the movie almost didn’t happen. The character first came to the screen – sort of – in 2009’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘, though he was so infamously mishandled as to be rendered unrecognizable. And despite the best efforts of everyone from the character’s creator Rob Liefeld to once and future Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds, the planned solo film languished in what could generously be described as development hell. Though no one could blame the studio (or anyone else involved) for wanting to distance themselves from the ‘X-Men Origins’ disaster, the test footage that leaked in 2014 made it clear that the people who were actually making the film (or trying to, at any rate) had their sights set on making as comic accurate a film as possible. Ultimately the response to that test footage proved crucial to the film finally getting the greenlight. But what took so long?
Speaking to Variety, Liefeld has finally laid out exactly what it was that nearly rendered the cinematic Deadpool a creative stillbirth. And if you’re the sort of fan that follows studio politics, his explanation probably won’t surprise you. As Liefeld explains:
“I’ll jump on the sword. I don’t really work in the movie business, so I’ve always been able to navigate and speak freely. The answer is two words: Tom Rothman. He is now the [chairman] of Sony. I wish him well. He’s a canny operator in the business. But when he gets it in his mind to dismiss something – nothing seemed to push him over the edge. I thought for sure [he would be on board] when he saw how good Deadpool looked and moved [in the test footage] but for whatever reason, we had an opponent to the film.”
Rothman left Fox in 2012, removing that particular obstacle. But despite that, it wasn’t until 2014 that ‘Deadpool’ finally gained real traction at the studio. In addition to the leak of the test footage, that year also saw the release (and stratospheric success) of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which Liefeld credits with convincing Fox to give ‘Deadpool’ the go ahead. This ended what can only be described as a lengthy ordeal for all involved, a development that Liefeld says made him cry “like a baby.” Adds Liefeld, “The script you saw in 2016 was written in 2010.”
Directed by David Leitch, ‘Deadpool 2’ will see Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Stafan Kapicic, and Brianna Hildebrand reprise their roles from the original alongside newcomers Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz and Jack Kesy. The film is now playing in theaters.