David Leitch 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.

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