Rob Liefeld On Deadpool's Long Journey To The Big Screen & Beyond

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(Photo: Rob Liefeld / Mondo)

Ever since the Deadpool movie was first announced, the promotional train has been travelling like a bullet. One of the film’s biggest cheerleaders was, of course, the creator of Deadpool - Rob Liefeld. Rob got his big break in 1991, when comics were on the verge of exploding in the direct market. He created a new anti-hero nobody saw coming. The crimson character was Deadpool, and in a single issue he forever changed superhero storytelling.

Rob and I always have great chats, and this one is no different. With the movie out, fans and critics raving about it, we decided to touch base once more and get into the nitty gritty about why this movie is striking a chord with fans everywhere. 

Here we are, Deadpool is in theaters. Are you still pinching yourself that this is actually happening and people are going to see the glory that is Wade Wilson?

Here's the deal, I have seen the movie multiple times, so I'll tell you what I tell everybody because it's true. I would not be out spending days on end on doing interviews and talking to folks if I did not know that this movie rocked. You just go from the script, to the rough cut, to the test screening, to the fan screening, this movie, I'll use Stan Lee's words when I saw him 2 weeks ago He said to me, "This movie is a game changer. It's a game changer.”

I was like, "Finally, that's what I tell everybody." My funniest story is that Robert Kirkman was coming to the fan screening. He was walking into the lobby and he had never met the writers, Paul and Rhett, and I saw that Robert was approaching us and I wanted them to meet so I said, "Hey guys, I want you to meet Robert Kirkman. You guys have like connective tissue being the 'Zombieland' guys and 'The Walking Dead' guy." 

Kirkman shakes their hands and says, "Let me tell you something, I don't know if this movie could be more hyped than Liefeld's hyped it. He has hyped the shit out of this thing. I've got to tell you, it's going to be a high bar. I'm not going to lie to you, I'm walking in here with the highest expectations because he won't shut up about it.”

I was like, "Oh, well thanks Robert. Thanks for that" 

I think they're like, "Uh, okay. What does it mean." It's just Robert's way, but Robert was telling the truth. 

I think he's like, "All right, all right, shut up about this movie." 

After the film, I'm looking around for Robert. I think , "Okay, let me have it. How delusional am I?”

He said, "Wow. Wow. This movie is great. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. This movie is fantastic. This movie is great.”

My wife and I went to dinner with him, and we actually heard Robert Kirkman talk about Deadpool for an hour. You can go back in time and watch Robert Kirkman tweet, and I think he sent out about 4 to 5 tweets and Robert doesn't tweet ever. He barely ever comes out of his shell, but he was like, "This movie's great. This was the greatest. I'm sorry I'm talking about Deadpool. Deadpool's the greatest.”

I am excited for everybody who worked their butts off on this movie. Tim Miller, Ryan Reynolds, Paul, Rhett and Simon Kinberg. They’re the band of brother's man, and when you see what they came up with and how it's executed, I know the audiences are in for a fantastic experience. It's not the same product that people had been experiencing. I speak as a guy who takes my family to every comic book movie. We go to them multiple times. Opening night, later in the weekend, a third view, we generally do every comic book movie at least the movie theater theatrical release and I love them all. They're all extremely well made, but the Marvel product being among the best of all of them. I chart that back to Iron Man, 2008.

That started a new age of comic book films. They were smarter, they were better produced, the performances were better. 

I would say the dam broke open with Brian Singer's first X-Men and that lasted through 3 X-Men, 3 Spider-Man movies and you started the new Batman in there. Those movies were kind of like the birth of a new age. 

Then that 2008 Iron Man was a game changer. It was smart, ridiculously well directed, well written, and a tour de force performance by Robert Downey Jr. You know, my mom's telling me that she's going to see Iron Man. I'm like, "What?"

"Oh, I just love that Robert Downey Jr." 

Robert Downey Jr. became the face of Marvel, he became the face of Iron Man with 1 movie because people were just blown away. I always liked Iron Man growing up, but I never liked Iron Man as much as I liked the first Iron Man film. Look, it lit the world on fire for Marvel. 

Deadpool, is were it starts again. The new age of movies starts with Deadpool. That's a bold statement, you'll agree with it when you see the movie. It's different, it reflects the age that I grew up in. My buddies and I we would get in the car and we would see movies all weekend. Those were Robocop, Total Recall, Terminator 1 and 2, Alien, Aliens, the Die Hard movies, people forget those were all R rated, the Lethal Weapon movies, those were all R rated, they were more adult, they were more violent, they had adult humor. 

When you see what these guys have done, I'm telling you, it's just a kick. I'm pinching myself to be associated with it in any capacity. Over time, obviously, I have become friends with all these guys. I'm a huge fan and I have affection for all of them. I know what they had on the line and what they put out there and I'm most excited because obviously, Ryan's a movie star. Rhett and Paul are established screen writers. Tim Miller, this is his first movie and I am terrified at the amount of offers he's going to have on Monday morning, after this. I told him, "Stay with us. Stay in the lane. Stay in the lane, Tim." I know no one's going to have a hotter phone than Tim Miller because he's the new quantity. He just delivered the goods. 

Was there any hesitation that it being rated R would have alienated an audience?

Again, because I grew up when all the hits were R rated movies, I'm just coming from my own experience, me and my buddies, and we were all different classes and races, but we united behind all these movies and they were all rated R. People forget. Terminator 2? R rated, not PG-13. What's happened is the comic book movies have become very family friendly and they have met with ridiculous success hitting a broad audience. At some point you go, "You know what? That vanilla ice cream is fantastic. I love vanilla ice cream and it's creamy and it's textured, and oh, it's so sweet." Then somebody comes along and they put chocolate chip in front of you and go, "Oh my gosh. What is chocolate chip?" Or mint chip, take your pick. I just think that Deadpool is mint chip and it's going to be, chocolate chips, but it's going to be chips, it's a new flavor and I think when people taste it, they're going to be like, "Oh, my gosh. Maybe I don't need to have vanilla every time. Maybe I can have more chocolate chip."

Let me also say, before Fox green lit it, there was debate, PG-13, R rated, and that's when the studio was weighing their options. The filmmaker's wanted R, I thought R was the best call. Would I have supported the PG-13 Deadpool movie? Yes, because I think even if you edited that script it would have been good. It wouldn't have been great. This is great because it's a different flavor. It's not what we've been getting. When I say "game changer", I do mean the level of attitude, violence, language. My wife walked out of it and she said, "People are going to go back to see that movie multiple times to hear all the jokes, because some of them are coming at you so fast, you can't get them all. The same way you, Rob, went back to Star Wars as a kid and kept watching the cantina scene to catch new aliens. Focus on that corner on that corner where that alien was because you missed it the first time."

People are going to go back to hear the jokes and to see some of the violence that happened very quick, but you're like, "Oh my gosh, did they just do that?" The great thing about Deadpool, also, it's lean and mean, it moves fast. Again, Iron Man 2008, not a bloated movie. Very lean and mean and that smart script. I just think at some point, that's 2008, now we're 8 years later and I think if you saw Iron Man when you were 10 and now you're 18, Deadpool can be your favorite movie. I have a guy who I know very well, who made it to the fan screening and he is an avid Marvel movie lover, he doesn't think anyone makes the movies as good as Marvel. That's his line, he's everything true nobody does it as well as Marvel.

He came out, and he goes, "Yeah, that's the best comic book movie I ever saw."

I said, "Wait. What are you saying? You don't talk like this."

"No man, that's the best. I'm going to have to put that into Winter Soldier."

I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" You don't understand, with this guy it was, he was betraying his faith.  

It was like, "I'm no longer a vegetarian. I want to eat meat." He lives in breathes that only Marvel movies are good comic book movies and now the confusion on his face and the honesty.

He's like, "I'm going to confess to you. That's the greatest." I think it has an effect on people. There hasn't been an R rated comic book movie in forever. Again, I mark Iron Man 2008 as when things changed and I am telling you, Deadpool will make change again. Deadpool will have influence. It will be an influential movie. I don't know dollars and cents, that's not my job interest. I just know it's going to influence what comes next. 

Do you think the movie would have worked as well had it been released years ago when there was first interest in Deadpool?

No. This is a great question and the bottom line is, everything is of it's time. Sports, entertainment, music and I have always believed that there are certain movies in my career that had I made that movie a year later, it would not have been successful. Had I made it a year earlier it would not have been successful. I really believe in timing, timing is everything in entertainment. When this movie was getting good response and good scores and test audiences were really responding to it, my greatest fear was that they were going to move the date. My greatest fear. I would say things like, "Hey, Tim, Hi it's Rob. How are you doing? We're still on February 12, right?" I'm like, "Hey, I'm going to really try and mask that I have anxiety over this, but I have a lot of anxiety over this. Please tell me it's staying on February 12." 

Tim was like, "Rob, we're locked. We're locked. It's still for February 12." 

A lot of times, you get some good feedback on a film, and Deadpool had a some really great feedback and you go, "Hey, maybe we can move this to a different slot." I've always felt, and look, I used the comps, I believe last year, when Kingsman was released, it shocked people. I keep mentioning all these '80's and '90's R rated movies, I need to mention Kingsman. 

Kingsman was R rated, and it was from Fox. It came out on Valentines day weekend and it was based on a comic book and it opened to like fifty million dollars. I know 50 Shades of Grey was the big movie that week, and everyone knew they were going to go see that, but once this Kingsman, and Kingsman was not, at the time, a great household name comic book.

Deadpool's different. Deadpool's clearly much more recognizable, very popular, Deadpool has a movie star, but otherwise, it's R rated. It's Valentine's weekend. It's Fox studios. I just thought that this movie would click in February and can you move the comp. There's going to be a hunger for this. It's going to be further, it's 7 months from the last comic book film or longer. We've had a nice drought and we get to be first. Deadpool gets to come out first. Again, it's a new flavor. You haven't had this comic book movie in a decade. 

I mean, let's give all credit where it's due, Fox's marketing of this movie and in conjunction with Ryan Reynolds being the best promoter ever. He has been game for everything. I know some of those campaigns were imagined by him. He created a lot of what you're seeing, a lot of that content, and his energy has completely been focused in making sure that this movie has it's own distinct flavor. I think that that is definitely benefiting it coming out in February, it's been seven plus months and I'll be honest, my confidence in the movie has not changed. This is the most packed calendar year ever. It would be a jinx to have moved it from February, I'm so glad their on that date and that everything has been pointing to this date. I just wouldn't want to open Deadpool in August. As good as it is, it's going to thrive in the window that it's in. I go back to, it's going to influence the next level of comic book films.

So we know you went to visit the set, what was it like getting to cameo in the film?

Horrifying? I don't want to sugar coat it. My family knows how much I hate to get my picture taken, but it was a once in a lifetime experience. It's brutish. It's in the vein of a cameo. What a cameo is. I think it's great to be on set, the fact that they snuck me into a scene was wonderful aspect of it, but the excitement of being on set again right when I landed and I went straight to the production offices and there was walls and walls and walls of, I had seen a lot in recent months leading up to the actual production. I had seen, you know, a lot of the storyboards. There's stuff on my iPad that I've been protecting for years that Tim was always generous to show me. Tim is a visionary, he's a great artist and he employs fantastic talents to his Blur Studios, so I had seen a lot of Deadpool action and paintings and conceptual art, but when I got there, in the production offices, so much of what they were going to film was posted on the wall. 

I saw, for the first time, Colossus' final look, because there had been several that they were choosing from. I saw how the other characters looked, I saw more storyboards and I mean they were just swirling around and I'm like, "Oh, my gosh." Then, the next day to go and sit there and watch Deadpool do his thing and Ryan embody the character and go, "Oh, hi Vanessa. Yeah, I created you, too, but not as good as you." It's just a thrill to be able to walk around and see it all come to life. 

On the flip side, again, I like to shine the spotlight where maybe people don't look enough. Ryan has been the producer on this since day one. Ryan wasn't just the actor, and Ryan is in nearly every scene of the film. I mean, he's filming the entire movie, and yet the day afterwards, huddling behind the camera, talking to Tim, talking about the next shot, maybe we need to do this differently. It wasn't just a guy that walked off set and went into his trailer.

He was like, "Hey, let's do this. Let's maybe put the camera here. What do you think about doing it this way?" He was very much working in a producer capacity, as well as an actor.

You just go, "Man, these guys are working their asses off." Some of these sets, for people who've been on movie set's, it's an army. There's an army swirling around you and you just try and not get into anybody's way. Watching everything come to life, I mean literally. 

Then Tim would shoot and then all of the productions go to studios back in California and they would edit together with what he had shot the day before and then he's like, "Hey, you want to check this out?"

I was like, "Oh, my gosh" and I saw some killer sequences with Ryan in the Deadpool costume. 

What people don't understand about Tim Miller, in Blur Studios he has four studios, there's all sorts of offices and there's like a bullpen. It's a 2 story facility and Tim has a book shelf that is the entire back wall and it's a two story book shelf. Like you see people get a ladder to climb up because you're almost going up 2 story's to get them. 

Guy loves his comic books. You can sit down and you can talk Vertigo comics, English comics, Marvel comics. He's a fan. He buys this stuff. He consumes it. You'll see it on the screen. This is a guy who, he's not a gun for hire. 

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So what do you think ComicBook.com readers? Can you just feel the excitement? How many times will you see the movie this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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