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Rules Everyone Had To Follow On The Deadpool Set

There are countless stories about what it's like to work on a Marvel Cinematic Universe set. There are many rules that actors have to follow when joining the MCU, from staying tight-lipped about plot details to rigorous training and exercise regimens. However, the "Deadpool" movies have been largely exempt from those rules, given that the first two films of the Ryan Reynolds-led franchise were produced as part of 20th Century Fox's own Marvel-verse, outside the canon of Disney's Marvel Studios.

It wasn't until 2019 that Disney finalized its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, including their Marvel assets, officially allowing Marvel Studios to begin work on films involving the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and more. "Deadpool and Wolverine" will usher the Fox universe into Marvel's continuity, with Ryan Reynolds' mouthy assassin teaming up with Hugh Jackman's iconic Logan for the first time on screen (technically the second time, but we try to forget about that one and Ryan Reynolds regrets filming it). 

From its tendency to showcase brutal violence to its R-rated humor, the "Deadpool" franchise has been an anomaly in Marvel's on-screen history. As a result, there have still been a lot of rules and regulations that actors, crew members, and more have had to follow on the sets of the three films. From writing to make-up design, from stunt choreography to directing, these are rules that were non-negotiable on the "Deadpool" sets. 

Ryan Reynolds wanted a faithful Deadpool adaptation

Ryan Reynolds had been attached to the "Deadpool" project for over a decade before it actually was released. However, it was stuck in development hell for a long time, particularly after two back-to-back comic book movie flops — "Green Lantern" and "R.I.P.D." — almost ruined Reynolds' career. It took leaked test footage for "Deadpool" to actually get green-lit by 20th Century Fox, following a positive reaction from fans online. With a decade of preparation and a lot of fans' excitement on the line, Reynolds was dead-set to live up to impossible expectations.

From the film's tone and writing to the iconic costume itself, Reynolds made staying faithful to the character's comic book origins a massive priority. According to screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Reynolds was instrumental in keeping the first "Deadpool" film's entire production focused on that goal. "One of the nice things about working with Ryan is that he tonally gets it," Reese told MTV News. "If we ever do something that is off the Deadpool path, or if it doesn't feel like Deadpool, he catches it."

Obviously, the film did take some creative liberties, from fleshing out Wade Wilson's romantic relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) to the character's rapport with Blind Al (Leslie Uggams). However, it just goes to show that there were no better hands to put the Deadpool character in than Ryan Reynolds', who has treated each film with a heavy amount of care and passion. 

The gritty aesthetic requires a team effort to achieve

Another priority during production of the first "Deadpool" was making the film appear visually different from any superhero movie, whether it be in the MCU or Fox universe. Part of this came down to the writing, which frames the character's entire origin story around a future action sequence where Deadpool ambushes a criminal syndicate. However, the film also had a significantly lower budget than most superhero movies, coming in at under $60 million (by comparison, 2015's "Fantastic Four," which bombed at the box office, had an estimated budget of $120 million.)

A lot of thought was put into the film's aesthetics, opting to keep it grittier and darker than most superhero movies through practical effects, camera lenses, and minor post-production adjustments. This also meant the production had to adapt to the environments it shot in; for one sequence on the Georgia Viaduct, the location was only available from early morning to mid-afternoon. As cinematographer Ken Seng told Digital Media World, "We just had to keep shooting, rain or shine, because once our permit expired on the bridge, we were never going to get it back."

Thankfully, everyone in production worked together to make sure the shoot didn't have to be delayed due to uncontrollable circumstances. This involved different lighting techniques for whether it was sunny or cloudy. As a result, the film's low budget and gritty tone ended up charming some reviewers.

Stunt choreography and training starts earlier than filming

For any superhero film, stunt training and gym workouts are a necessary part of preparing to embody comic book characters with unrealistic bodies. While actors like Chris Hemsworth got ripped to play Thor by shedding weight and packing on muscle, things were a bit different for Ryan Reynolds and his slimmer, more athletic Deadpool. Because of the film's low budget, action sequences had to be choreographed with the potential for actors to perform their own stunts, while costumes were appropriately designed for the same reason. 

As for Reynolds' own trainer, Don Saladino, preparation was less about bulking up and more about making the actor more capable of doing his own stunts. Saladino told GQ that to become Deadpool, "You have to take ownership over the process; putting in those hours in the gym wherever we can, putting that time into the nutrition."

The stunts were also carefully choreographed in the script itself, contrary to most action films in which a stunt coordinator fleshes out action sequences in pre-production. The stunt coordinators, Philip J. Silvera and Robert Alonzo, were also allotted a month prior to the start of filming to prepare the actors for their stunts, which was made easier by the professionalism of performers like Reynolds and Ed Skrein, who played Ajax. 

Make-up is kept simple and practical

Make-up is a huge part of the "Deadpool" franchise, thanks to Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson being disfigured by an experimental cancer treatment that mutates him and leaves his skin scarred. However, there was a balance to strike, as the filmmakers wanted Reynolds to also appear charming and likable. The end result was a makeup process that took upwards of six hours to apply, involving a bald cap, silicone masks, and layers upon layers of prosthetics. 

It ended up being an even split for Reynolds of wearing no makeup, wearing the disfigured makeup, and donning the Deadpool mask. It was also coordinated ahead of time which scenes would require Reynolds to wear makeup or not, as they were able to do without it for scenes involving the mask. It ended up becoming the policy to have his mask off for emotional scenes, especially for "Deadpool 2." 

But while Ryan Reynolds got used to spending a ton of time in the makeup chair for "Deadpool," makeup designer Bill Corso had a different philosophy regarding the rest of the film's cast. As he told Collider, the make-up for the non-Deadpool characters was "pretty simple. Tim [Miller, the director] wanted to keep it really grounded, the look for this movie is not really fantasy, he wanted to keep a pretty realistic look for everybody." Unfortunately, this meant some actors were disappointed that they didn't get to resemble their characters' designs from the comics.

X-Force was a must-have for Deadpool 2

At the end of "Deadpool," Wade Wilson parodies the post-credits scene of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," while making a pretty big promise to fans of the comics: Cable would be appearing in the sequel. It wasn't until the first film was actually released that 20th Century Fox green-lit the sequel, though now Reynolds and company would have to live up to their promise of including characters from X-Force, a superhero team from the comics featuring Deadpool, Cable, and Domino. 

As Paul Wernick explained during the writing process for "Deadpool 2," the responsibility of including X-Force was weighing heavily on them. He told Collider, "Some of these [Marvel] movies feel overstuffed and almost choking with the need to set up 18 different things that pay off down the road, and we want to avoid that responsibility to the extent that it hurts us."

Thankfully, the creative team's ambition to satisfy fan expectations won out in the end. Josh Brolin appears in "Deadpool 2" as Cable, while Zazie Beets plays a significant role as Domino. As for the rest of X-Force, the film includes a team-up sequence that, in typical Deadpool fashion, ends with them all being immediately killed (save for Deadpool and Domino) minutes after they're introduced.

They couldn't make jokes about the Disney acquisition

The process of writing jokes for "Deadpool" movies was often the subject of debate during the sequel's production. For writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, they were fans of jokes that might only appeal to niche audiences, while Ryan Reynolds preferred jokes that felt universally understood. Gags left on the cutting room floor involved Hitler and 2004's "Fantastic Four," but there was one area that the filmmakers were not allowed to joke about at all.

As Reese and Wernick were writing the script for "Deadpool 2," The Walt Disney Company was in talks to purchase 20th Century Fox, though the deal wouldn't be finalized until 2019. Still, the writers wanted to reference the potential deal, but were quickly shut down by 20th Century Fox. As Reynolds told Entertainment Weekly, "This is a sore spot for me because there's a joke in the movie that is not in the movie now because — I'm probably not even allowed to say this — Fox made me take it out." He did, however, acknowledge that it was probably smart to not include the joke.

The secret upside to not making Disney jokes in "Deadpool 2" is that, now that "Deadpool and Wolverine" is being released under the Disney banner, Reynolds can make all the Mickey Mouse-targeted jokes that he wants. In fact, some of them are in the "Deadpool and Wolverine" trailer and hard to miss.

Ryan Reynolds wanted the writers on set

It's often dependent on the director whether they are comfortable having screenwriters on set for last minute re-writes or joke pitches. While some directors prefer to take full creative control over their projects, even Ryan Reynolds' more underrated movies are more collaborative than other blockbusters. Due to the low budget of the first "Deadpool," 20th Century Fox refused to pay for Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to be around for every day of shooting. So Reynolds ended up paying the two writers out of his own pocket to keep them on set for the entirety of production.

Thankfully, for "Deadpool 2," the creative team had a bigger budget, which meant Fox agreed to pay for Reese and Wernick to be on set. It was also helpful that the sequel's director, David Leitch, was open to their input, though Reese acknowledge how uncommon that is in the industry, telling Esquire: "In this case we just happened to be in this triumvirate situation where our director's very receptive to us being there, we wrote the script with Ryan so he wanted us there, and the studio was happy to pay us to be there."

For ideas that weren't formulated in pre-production or on set, it was also fortunate for the creative team that Deadpool is primarily masked, meaning they could overdub his lines in post-production as a last-minute change. 

David Leitch had a specific vision for each scene

Prior to working on "Deadpool 2," David Leitch had quite the experience in action films, with his previous work including "Atomic Blonde" and the first movie in the "John Wick" series. While Tim Miller, who directed the first "Deadpool," was focused on making a superhero movie that was darker and grittier in visual tone than other Marvel movies, Leitch wanted to embrace more comic book vibrancy with his take on the franchise. 

As part of Leitch's process, he meticulously plans out the color palette for every scene in the film well before they ever get to set, involving a detailed color wheel for the set designers and considering aesthetics while scouting locations. As Leitch said in an interview with SlashFilm about the sequence where Deadpool meets Russell, "It was part of a logistical puzzle ... We were front lit for like a lot of a day there, so for the day scene, it just made a lot more sense to feature and create a hot sun vibe and not have to apologize for some of the harshness of the light and the shadows."

While Leitch was adamant about injecting his own visual flare into the "Deadpool" franchise, it was also important to remain consistent with what came before. Ultimately, it was the goal of the filmmakers to create a film that had more color than the first movie, while still existing in the same universe. 

Kevin Feige vetoed certain jokes in Deadpool and Wolverine

It's understandably a big concern for "Deadpool" fans to see the character officially make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's canon this summer with "Deadpool and Wolverine." As the first R-rated MCU film, there's a lingering question of how much Reynolds and company will actually be able to get away with under the watchful eye of Disney. Thankfully, the first trailer reveals that the character won't be changing much comedically.

However, there was one thing Marvel actually banned from the movie, according to director Shawn Levy, who previously worked with Reynolds on "Free Guy" and "The Adam Project." As he stated in an interview with TotalFilm (via GamesRadar), "I'm so wary of what I can say but certainly there were early conversations about overt drug use," which makes sense considering the character has been seen using a comical amount of cocaine in previous films. 

That being said, Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige's opposition to drug humor didn't stop Reynolds and Levy from poking fun at it in the film, according to the official trailer. When offered cocaine, Deadpool cheekily called drugs "the one thing that Feige says is off-limits."

Practical effects were prioritized over CGI for Deadpool 3

Marvel sets are notorious for being tight-lipped, going so far as to film on primarily green or blue screens and keeping script pages on an iPad actors can only read in a secluded room. Leaks are inevitable as films get closer to release, but in the case of "Deadpool and Wolverine," fans knew a lot about the film prior to its release thanks to paparazzi photos of the exterior set, where Deadpool and Wolverine were seen fighting in front of a 20th Century Fox logo.

While the creative team tried to discourage leaks, this was sadly a consequence of the decision to keep all the special effects in the film as practical as possible. As Shawn Levy told TotalFilm (via IndieWire), "I made a decision very early in prep that even though Deadpool is now in the MCU, I didn't want another Marvel movie shot on a green screen stage with digital set extensions."

However, it's possible that Levy and company have a few tricks still up their sleeves, despite the rampant set leaks throughout production. The film underwent reshoots in spring 2024, reportedly to squeeze in a few extra celebrity cameos and post-credits teases. Rumors have suggested appearances by Wesley Snipes and Taylor Swift, but whether that's true or not, hopefully "Deadpool and Wolverine" is going to blow fans away when they see it in theaters. 

Improvisation wasn't allowed during the writers' strike

"Deadpool and Wolverine" entered principal photography at quite an inconvenient time for the entertainment industry. In May 2023, the Writers' Guild of America went on strike to demand better pay and protections for workers against artificial intelligence. For most productions, a writers' strike can have detrimental effects, as evidenced by many of the worst movies and shows that were products of the 2007-2008 strikes

For a film like "Deadpool and Wolverine," it's even more of a concern. In accordance with strike rules, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were not able to be on set for "Deadpool and Wolverine," meaning they could not be around for needed revisions or joke pitches. While this wouldn't normally affect most actors, it also had an impact on Ryan Reynolds' performance, since the actor is a credited writer on the film, meaning he was not allowed to improvise while on set. 

Although Reynolds could always dub in improvisations during post-production, it was likely an adjustment during the early weeks of filming "Deadpool and Wolverine." However, the actors' union, SAG-AFTRA, ended up striking that summer as well, halting production on the film as a whole until both strikes ended. Thankfully, Levy claims the film was halfway through production by the time the actors went on strike, and they were even able to start editing portions of it in advance while waiting for the studios to agree to pay the writers and actors fairly. 

MCU continuity wasn't a major focus for Shawn Levy

While every movie set has its own unique rules and regulations for actors and crew members to follow, Marvel movie sets can be a lot more restrictive than most, even prior to Disney's ownership of the "Deadpool" franchise. Sometimes, the most surprising rules that movie sets can adopt are the ones that allow them freedom, which is exactly what Shawn Levy tried to accomplish with "Deadpool and Wolverine."

As the director told The Hollywood Reporter, he was not looking to make a film that required audience members to know the characters or even the context of the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe to understand it, saying, "I very much made this film with certainly a healthy respect and gratitude towards the rabid fan base that has peak fluency in the mythology and lore of these characters and this world ... But I didn't want to presume that." 

With news reports of Marvel's struggles behind the scenes and endless reshoots on upcoming projects, it's at least comforting to know that, for all the rules and restrictions placed on the sets of the "Deadpool" films, the ultimate goal is to entertain and have fun.