'Deadpool 2' Director David Leitch Discusses The X-Force Gag, Adding More Cable, And Embracing The Comic Book Aesthetic [Interview]

David Leitch, the co-founder of 87Eleven, has just finished directing (and co-directing) three of the most notable American action movies of the last few years. The former stuntman brings his eye for action and visually appealing worlds, as shown by Atomic Blonde and (his uncredited work on) John Wick, to Deadpool 2. Leitch not only takes the franchise's action and scope to another level, but also adds a little more personality to Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) and friends, including newcomers Cable (Josh Brolin), Domino (Zazzie Beetz), and Russell (Julian Dennison).

Originally, Leitch was interested in developing the X-Force movie, but after a few weeks of working on his pitch, Deadpool 2 came his way. After a warm reception from audiences and critics, we had the opportunity to speak with Leitch on the movie's opening day about crafting the sequel's action, how the first movie influenced some of his choices, and one X-Men easter egg that was cut from the movie.

Below, check out our David Leitch interview, which contains a few spoilers.

How are you feeling on opening day?

Kinda surreal, but I'm excited. I wanna go check it out tonight with a crowd. I've seen it a million times. This is like just a special moment in time. Like, how many times does this happen in your life? Even better, how many pieces of art do you make? It's pretty cool, so I figured I'd drive around and check out a few places and watch the crowds, have some fun.

That sounds great. With Atomic BlondeJohn Wick, and this movie, you worked with DP Jonathan Sela. All three movies just have a really strong sense of style and color. What did you guys envision for Deadpool 2 and the color palette? 

Jonathan and I worked really closely together, and when you speak of color, it is a big part of what we do together. Not only are we really specific with composition, and we generally shot list and block the scenes pretty precisely before we get the set, but we will do a color wheel for all the set pieces to set a look before we start, and then sort of look at the movie as a whole and set those ideas. It is all sort of premeditated. Sometimes it changes after the first couple days where maybe we're being sent a different look in the DI for this sequence or that sequence, but it's important to us to have color. It is an expression in storytelling.

I'd like to hear more about that color wheel. What colors did you maybe want to emphasize for the action sequences?

I think the perfect example was the meeting Firefist at the orphanage, setting this slightly sepia tone with orange and creating like a hot sun vibe, sort of emblematic of just fire, just power. It was part of a logistical puzzle of picking that location that we picked. 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. Sometimes you work in not only your aesthetics for your storytelling purposes, but sometimes you build an aesthetic for a practical purpose.

Did the aesthetic of the first movie influence you at all? 

You know, we tried to be referential to the first movie, and I though the very first movie was beautiful in its own way. I think there was a lot of moodiness for the apartment and there was a saturation, so the action scenes and a contrast of the blacks, there are a lot of the things we sort of embraced as well. I think it was really for us more of, like, where can we add some more color? We're gonna introduce a lot more characters. They're gonna have their own influences on things. They didn't have that in their movie, but we had obviously Cable's future, and we wanted to set a palette for that. We had some new spaces, like Weasel's back room, which we wanted to have fun with and sort of like an expression he's the ultimate fan boy.

A lot of action movies just feel drained of color and life, so it's just refreshing to see movies as colorful as Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2

Thank you. I think, too, we wanted to embrace the comic book aesthetic and not go too overboard, but finding our own expression of it. We wanna embrace color. If you look at the prison scene, it was sort of yellow and green, which is sort of a motif and like a green light that's washing over everything and you have the yellow jumpsuits. There's a red element in the light and just all that stuff is thought of before and in a way just to make the world interesting and a place you'd want to spend a couple hours, as opposed to a drab, miserable place. You can even have, even with colors, you can have sort of the gravitas of that prison and still feels imposing and daunting, but it also has a palette that is fun to look at.

You've said before you always want to challenge yourself with action, not only resort to old tricks you could probably easily use. With Deadpool 2, how did you want to challenge yourself with the set pieces?

You know, sometimes you have to fall back into the classics and go to your old stuff, but other times, on this movie, and again, I like to choreograph from the point of view of a character, there characters have some really unique powers. I wanted to explore more of Deadpool's healing factor, and so we did those crazy things, like break his back and break his arm. How would, if you could self sacrifice because you could heal immediately, what would you do? The was sort of the standing order to the stunt team to choreograph by.

Then at the action with Domino, it was really fun to explore that power of luck. How do you express that? So we toyed with the idea of the Rube Goldberg sort of machine on steroids or Final Destination, like, bad luck is good luck kind of thing. I think there's a lot of fun with the action that way, but it's really about using the action to define a character in this perspective to define the power.

With John Wick and Lorraine, you'd see the bruises and the damage they'd take. Is it a challenge making action suspenseful with an almost indestructible character?

It is it, it is. You have to figure out a way to make sure that you keep the stakes real, because otherwise action without consequences feels a little lame. So, like figure out how to make the stakes stay alive and we play to the power dampeners as a way to make Wade vulnerable and even outside of that, it's like we went to the extreme. Like at the beginning, he literally blows himself up.

Deadpool 2 review

[Laughs] I'm just curious, because we rarely see lead characters like Deadpool or Lorraine (Charlize Theron) smoking cigarettes in big movies now, was there any pushback on that?

No, I was surprised. I thought we might get called for the cigarette. Atomic Blonde, I call it the art house action film [Laughs]. You know, that's kind of what it was. Smoking never got calls from the studio or whatever, that there was too much smoking. I was surprised that with all of the things we did, I still thought we might get called out for the smoking at the beginning. I love it. I love that shot. I love just how sort of Bill Murray desperate he looks.

With Deadpool's sense of humor I imagine there's a freedom in how far you can push a joke, but do you ever question how far to go? Is there any censoring or pulling back?

There isn't when you are shooting, but then you start the editorial process and start to refine the movie. The movie sort of reveals itself to you, and where it needs to land emotionally, and where it needs to land in subversive comedy and things like that. Then you can start to censor yourself a little bit. There were times where we were like, "Ah that's too much. It's too much." There were times we don't need any more of a joke, like, we have that joke already, and there's an emotional moment, and you don't want to subvert it with a joke. Like, hold on it.

I think there's definitely a fine line. It's not like, hey anything goes. I think there is a place where you wanna leave the audience and with a Deadpool movie, you can at least, in my opinion, is that you enjoyed the subversive comedy, but you didn't alienate. You weren't gonna alienate some people, you don't want to alienate most of your audience.

Was there a scene or joke you maybe pulled back on?

Well I know it sounds good now, but there was sort of the baby Hitler scene at the end and that sort of thing, in the press, the last couple days and, yeah, that was one that I think everyone was like, at the end of the day, the codas we were riding on, just riding high, why do we want to leave them with sort of a question coda, ya know? Maybe its a little bit too much. I think we will get a chance to see that on the blu-ray or the extended cut. I think it's really great and really fun, but that's probably one of them.

I definitely want to ask the X-Force scene, which is such a good joke. What do you remember most about planning and shooting that sequence? 

I was always in love with the premise. I was always in love with the bigger idea of this joke and that we were going to spend 12 minutes of time on a piece of, basically, a joke that didn't move the narrative forward at all and was sort of seeded in marketing and built on expectations of fans. Then, they come to Deadpool and they get a prank pulled on them. I just loved that idea. It just felt very Deadpool, and I'm like, when will I ever get this many resources to do this again? So, for me, it is one of my favorite scenes and one of my favorite things I've done in movies, just to play that joke. Kind of like Deadpool reaching through the screen and tickling the audience.

Time travel and Cable's backstory is handled very simply and smoothly in the movie. Did it take a while to clarify the character, his backstory, and powers?

It did. I'd say we probably started with way less and then it was a little bit of a push by me, in a positive way. I went back and researched the backstory and then I just built it into sort of and then I shared it with Ryan, Rhett, and Paul. Then we went through and said, okay, what are ones we can really identify and like give to a bigger fanboy audience that also won't bog down narratives and will lead to things we can explore in the future. So, we did land on the Techno Virus and that imagery in his body and see it connecting to him and his neck. The long short of it, the Techno Virus was the one thing, then I had some Easter eggs in his apartment, in the future obviously, that we didn't get to see and hit the cutting room floor. There was a painting of Cyclops, so when the place burned, you saw the painting burn, the portrait of his father. The last one was his daughter Hope, obviously. We talk about her at the end. We just sort of acknowledged that.

What did your first cut look like? How long was it?

Probably only 15 minutes longer, so like 2:15 or something like that. It wasn't that much longer. There's a lot. It was a tight script. We shot the script. There was some embellishment, and we trimmed out a few scenes. The movie that's in the theaters is really what the movie should be, and it was the perfect length, and I think the audience stays active as viewers. It's fun and it's entertaining. It doesn't get bogged down. There are some great scenes that will probably be on the blu-ray. Sometimes you got to let some fun go for the greater good, and that's fine. You just got to be disciplined.

***

Deadpool 2 is now in theaters.