Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Original Plans for Tim Miller's DEADPOOL 2

2016’s Deadpool is a film that probably never should’ve happened to begin with. One of the most notable examples of a studio firmly placing a project in development hell (after the negative reception to Deadpool’s first cinematic appearance in X-Men Origins; Wolverine), and only thanks to the unwavering strength of actor Ryan Reynolds, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, director Tim Miller, did this project actually step in front of cameras. 

Shot for a measly $58 million budget (in comparison to Fox’s recent X-Men and Fantastic Four releases, both with a combined production budget of around $300 million), the movie is the cinematic encapsulation of ‘lightning in a bottle’; a film which never really should’ve worked… but yet, does, and does so tremendously.

Upon its release in February 2016, the film became a huge success, soon becoming the highest grossing R-Rated film of all time, and also the highest grossing film in Fox’s X-Men series (a franchise which has existed for over 2 decades). With that in mind, a sequel was always going to be on the cards, and with the combined might of Reynolds, Reese, Wernick and Miller, what could go wrong?

However, in October 2016, it was announced that Tim Miller would not be helming the film’s sequel, with reports citing creative differences between himself, star-and-producer Ryan Reynolds, and the Fox studio executives. Ultimately, John Wick co-director David Leich was brought on to direct the project, which was released in early 2018. 

And while Deadpool 2 was hardly a failure or a flop, it did lack the spark and charm of its predecessor: a serviceable follow-up to an incredible first film. Personally, I was left a little disappointed by the sequel’s offerings, and it caused me to ponder what could’ve been if Tim Miller’s version of Deadpool 2 had been realised.

By the time Miller had officially exited the project in October 2016, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick had already completed their first draft of the project; meaning that while many essential elements of the film existed prior to Miller’s exit, but some interesting discrepancies can be found. For example, it had already been confirmed that both Cable and Domino would make their live-action debut, with the former confirmed in the Ferris Bueller-inspired credit scene from the first movie. That being said, one of the major creative differences between Miller, Reynolds and the studio surrounded who should play these new characters.

In August 2016, it had been reported heavily that Kyle Chandler was the front-runner to portray Cable, while a shortlist of actresses to play the role of Domino included Lizzy Caplan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mackenzie Davis and Sofia Boutella, although the report did also note the studio was also keen to cast a black or latina actress in the role of Domino.

It appears that the potential of Kyle Chandler being cast as Cable proved to be a notable part of Miller and Reynolds’ “creative differences”. Upon the director’s exit from the film, reports surfaced claiming that Reynolds opposed the casting of Chandler as Cable, with Miller being the one pushing for the role, and soon after the director left the project, Chandler’s name became less prominent regarding Cable, with the likes of Brad Pitt, Michael Shannon and the eventual casting, Josh Brolin, being linked instead.

Additionally, it’s been said that Reynolds and Miller had also disagreed on how to approach the sequel altogether, with Miller seeking to make a more stylized follow-up to the original film (one which dealt with Wade’s place in the world as a hero within the larger X-Men universe). while Reynolds wanted to focus on the raunchy-comedy aspect, which had proved so successful first time around. Miller’s version of the film, while a definite departure from the previous film, wasn’t entirely without promise. For instance, while The Wrap reported that "there were two totally different movies on the table, and one of them just wasn’t Deadpool", there are several quotes made by Miller which indicate his vision more so.

In a lot of the press junkets and interviews after the release of the first Deadpool, Miller talked in depth about both what to expect from a sequel, and also why he felt the first movie worked so well. In his mind, the success of Deadpool wasn’t necessarily because of it’s R-Rating or attitude, but simply because "it had a lot of heart... a lot of humor [and] a main character that's different than anything else that was out there." When asked during an interview with Collider about plans for a sequel, Miller asserted that

"what you don’t want to do is all the stupid stuff like ‘Oh, now it has to be twice as big because people are going to be bored!’ or ‘It’s going to have three times the villains!’"

This suggested that while it does appear that he wanted to explore Deadpool’s place in a larger world, he wasn’t going to allow this idea to spiral out of control.

That being said though, The Wrap’s initial reports did state that Miller had demanded a notable increase in budget for the sequel, after having to cut back extensive amounts of CGI and action set-pieces from the original film’s script, as well as having to remove an entire character, in the villainous Dr. Killebrew, whom would serve as the criminal mastermind that the eventual villain Ajax would serve. Miller had noted his displeasure with this, citing Ajax as one of the things he felt didn't work in the first film, something he wished he'd been able to improve on. And with that in mind, it’s understandable as to why he felt a larger budget was required.

In terms of new additions to the series, as well as the aforementioned Cable and Domino, several unlikely cameos appear to have been planned. Recently, Alexander Lozano (who had worked as a concept artist on Deadpool 2) released some unused designs from Miller’s version of the film. These include alternate designs for Cable, Domino (this version noticeably not African-American) and the Juggernaut, and also designs for a character called Blaquesmith, a Deadpool villain with the ability to master every weapon and transform anything into a weapon.

However, the most interesting part of Lozano’s released art are these, rejected concept designs for the Fantastic Four, suggesting that Miller had intended to include the team in his film. It’s interesting to note that the lineup depicted in the artwork is that of the 2015 Fant4stic movie (starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan), now depicted more closely to their comic book counterparts, sporting their iconic costumes. In particular, Lozano discussed a conversation with Tim Miller over the design of the team, in particular the design of Ben Grimm/The Thing, writing that

“Tim [Miller] was very precise when it came to the description of The Thing, he wanted to make sure that I orient myself in the design as close as possible to the comic template to finally give us, the fans, what we always wanted to see on the big screen.”

While the Fantastic Four’s inclusion may have been as little as a cameo to poke fun at Fox’s failed relaunch, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment like the X-Men’s cameo in Deadpool 2, or an extended role in the film, this artwork does suggest that whatever Miller truly sought to do in the sequel to Deadpool was noticeably different from what Reynolds had in mind, and what in turn we actually got.

You see, It’s important to keep in mind here that soon after the release of the first Deadpool movie, Ryan Reynolds renegotiated his contract with Fox, with his new deal offering him a greater say over casting decisions and creative controls. And it’s these new powers, when combined with the different visions that Miller and Reynolds both had, that led to a breakdown of their relationship.

While the first Deadpool movie was a great success, it wasn’t without it’s problems; in a November 2016 interview with Screen Rant, Reynolds noted that “making the movie was very, very difficult[...] there were vaguely scary fights in the post-production process that escalated quickly. Luckily, everybody’s grown up and at the end of the day enjoys and loves each other." It appears that this time round, the pair weren’t as able to put aside their differences, and with Reynolds having an increased amount of sway at Fox, the studio felt more obliged to support their star than the formerly-little known director.

And honestly, I think there’s both advantages and detractors to both Miller’s alleged version of Deadpool 2 and what we actually got. While the promise of a more stylised and introspective sequel would’ve been a nice juxtaposition from the crutch of raunchy humour, and the inclusion of more X-characters and the Fantastic Four would’ve been great to see, it’s also true that Miller’s rumoured casting choices left a little to be desired, especially when you factor in how impressive both Josh Brolin and Zazie Beats were in their respective roles as Cable and Domino.

It should be pointed out that we don’t know for certain what went on behind the scenes that led to Tim Miller’s departure from Deadpool 2, and while this video aims to piece together all of the available information in order to try create a timeline, it’s still largely only what could’ve happened, and not definitive fact. That being said though, I think Miller’s ideas for the film had a lot of promise. While I don’t dislike Deadpool 2, I do think it lacked the same endearing charm and heart that made me adore the original film so much, and while I don’t know how much better Miller’s version would’ve been, I do find it fascinating to look at what has emerged, and what could’ve been Deadpool 2.

Watch the full video here:

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