​'Deadpool & Wolverine' creators share insights in Shanghai

In a vast 1,000-seat theater in Shanghai, the core creative trio for the new superhero movie "Deadpool & Wolverine," the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), appeared amid cheers.

Director Shawn Levy, alongside megastar actors Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, shared behind-the-scenes stories about how this unconventional project came together, eliciting constant laughter and applause from the Shanghai audience.

Actor Hugh Jackman, director Shawn Levy and actor Ryan Reynolds pose for a group photo with the audience at a special event held in Shanghai to promote their new film "Deadpool & Wolverine," July 2, 2024. [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company]

Shanghai is the first stop on their global promotional tour, with the movie set to be released simultaneously in both China and North America on July 26. The trio all expressed their excitement on stage about being back in the "beautiful" Chinese city, as they called it, for press and fan events.

"I was shocked and incredibly excited that China welcomes Deadpool particularly like this. This is my favorite Deadpool movie that I've ever been a part of," Reynolds said. Meanwhile, Jackman noted, "The movie has been such a labor of love. And it has been such a privilege for me to be on screen with Ryan but also to work with two of my best friends on a movie that is ultimately about friendship and really about joy."

Before the trio stepped on stage, the audience was treated to a 35-minute clip of the film, getting a first taste of the action-packed dark comedy that features the dynamics between Deadpool and Wolverine, frenemies that are also fan-favorite Marvel characters. What triggered the loudest laughter during the screening was the intense cynical irony and self-mockery bluntly expressed by Deadpool in the movie, including jokes about Disney and 20th Century Fox.

In 2019, The Walt Disney Company completed its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, now known as 20th Century Studios, and this paved the way to integrate Deadpool, and possibly more X-Men, into the MCU. Ryan Reynolds, also a producer of the film, recalled how he and Levy for years pitched ideas about developing a Deadpool film to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and were continuously turned down. But just before they made one last attempt, Hugh Jackman made a destiny-altering call to Reynolds.

Jackman revealed that he was on a 2.5-hour drive to Long Island, New York with his children, thinking about how to encourage them to dream big. He then asked himself what he would want to do if he could do anything and the idea of a Wolverine and Deadpool movie came to mind. He pulled over, called Reynolds to ask about progress and then simply said: "I'm in."

After learning this, Kevin Feige immediately agreed, but with one condition: Wolverine must wear yellow, the suit loyal to the original comic books.

Actors Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman and director Shawn Levy checking a playback on set in a behind-the-scene photo taken during the making of "Deadpool & Wolverine." [Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios]

Thus, when Reynolds and Jackman walked onto the set in their full suits, red and yellow respectively, at Pinewood Studios on June 1, 2023 for the first day of filming, they watched as all of the crew turned into excited fans — a moment that had been anticipated for more than two decades, Reynolds told China.org.cn.

In the critically acclaimed "Logan" (2017), Wolverine seemingly meets his end, serving as a perfect farewell to the role. However, Jackman elaborated on why he decided to return, explaining that "Deadpool & Wolverine," uncovered new dimensions of Wolverine that he hadn't explored before and aspects of the character that audiences hadn't yet seen.

"As someone who has been playing the character for 25 years, there was something that I had read in the comic books that I connected with. I've been scratching around trying to uncover it and it wasn't until this movie, and these guys wrote this script, that I realized this is the thing I've been trying to get out," Jackman explained.

Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds worked together in writing the script for "Deadpool & Wolverine," integrating the mythology of the MCU and elements of the multiverse. This is Levy's first MCU movie and their second film collaborating following the action comedy "Free Guy." Levy believes the biggest distinguishing trait of "Deadpool & Wolverine" lies in the duo of the title characters. "There is a different chemistry when you put them together, and it is a recipe for comedy. Eventually, when you see the whole movie, it's a recipe for friendship."

According to the director, Marvel this time gave them total freedom to write and create the movie. "It is a MCU movie, so it is filled with action, adventure and big themes, but it remains very faithful to the Deadpool tone, which is audacious, irreverent and always surprising. However, at the end of the day, this movie is as warm-hearted as any movie I've ever made."

Looking at Jackman, the director added: "We spent the most time writing the Logan scenes because we wanted to honor this 25-year-old legacy, and this actor."

Director Shawn Levy, actors Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman hugging on set during the first day of filming "Deadpool & Wolverine." [Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios]

Jackman emotionally recalled on the first day the creative trio turned up on set a photographer captured a moment when they hugged and put their heads together. "It was so beautiful. Because we are genuinely best friends in life, so we are making a movie together and embarking on this journey together. It felt like a dream come true."