From Zombieland to Deadpool, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick find their voice with superhero movies
Deadpool, a comic book film based on a red-suited antihero and starring Ryan Reynolds, crushed all box office expectations after earning over $132 Million over the holiday weekend. Already breaking ticket sales records, the R-Rated feature film has also received a Cinemascore rating of ‘A,’ which could mean that the movie will have legs over the coming weeks, and continue to draw large audiences. Jeff Goldsmith, the producer of The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, invited the film’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to sit down after the screening in our main theater to talk about what it took to make Deadpool a reality.
How did you start out writing screenplays?
Rhett Reese: “I began by grabbing any and all literature that I could on screenwriting, and became hooked on this form of writing immediately afterward.”
How much work had you completed before you were able to secure representation?
Rhett Reese: “I wrote seven spec scripts before finding my first agent.”
You both wrote Zombieland. What was the process for getting that project off the ground?
Rhett Reese: “Zombieland began as a television pilot.”
Paul Wernick: “Bill Murray (one of the stars in Zombieland) doesn’t have an email address. It was a challenge getting in touch with him, but once we did, he provided amazing input on the direction of the story.”
Rhett Reese: “The Zombieland show on Amazon followed closely on the heels of the film. Perhaps a little too closely.”
Deadpool has a sharp bite, and carries a tremendous amount of story through its dialogue. What was the writing process for the film?
Rhett Reese: “We need to preface this by saying that Ryan Reynolds wrote the script with us. We would send him ten pages, and he would get back to us with notes.”
Was it always slated to be an R-Rated film?
Rhett Reese: “We also wrote a PG-13 version of Deadpool, and you’d be surprised by how similar it is to the final cut.”
The leaked test footage of Deadpool ended up being a blessing in disguise. Any ideas on how that happened?
Rhett Reese: “We still have no idea who leaked the test footage.”
You were given a smaller budget for Deadpool than other Marvel properties. Was it a challenge to keep the budget in check?
Paul Wernick: “Yes. In 24 hours we cut $7 Million from the script.”
Deadpool has been in the works for over five years. What kept you working on it for this long?
Rhett Reese: “We were so passionate about the script, and that helped keep it alive, along with Ryan Reynolds. Ryan was extremely loyal to us throughout the entire process.”
How important is outlining to you in the writing process?
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick: “Outlining is incredibly important to us, and we work together to meld our writing voices into one throughout the process.”
What is your writing schedule? Any ways to overcome writer’s block?
Rhett Reese: “Every day I write one page, and get a screenplay in three months. If you have writer’s block, write something anyway.”
What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick: “The montage scene was easily the most difficult part of the movie to write. We mulled over it for weeks before arriving at the solution.”
Check out Jeff Goldsmith’s podcast, The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, to hear the Q&A in its entirety.