WRITERS ON WRITING: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick on Deadpool and the Industry

Roe Moore‘s vast experience has taken her both in front of the camera and behind the scenes on familiar television shows like Lucha Underground and Wives with Knives as well as indie film favorites like Entertainment and The Escort. She’s worked as a script supervisor alongside many highly acclaimed directors. As founder and producer of PiePie Productions, she has produced multiple award-winning projects including short film Dark Specter and narrative web content for Funny-or-Die. Roe was recently awarded a women’s Filmmaker-in-Residence with Her Film Project. Twitter: @Roe_Moore

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G.I. Joe, Zombieland, and Deadpool. They’ve got knowledge to share!

WRITERS ON WRITING: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick on 'Deadpool' and the Industry by Roe Moore | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Rhett and Paul on the set of Deadpool

February, 2016: the moment the industry changed its views on the comic book film genre. Deadpool (starring Ryan Reynolds) made an unexpected yet tremendous splash as a R-rated superhero film. The creative minds behind the script, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, have worked together for many decades on multiple successes and shared with me their experiences and a few tidbits of industry insight and advice.

Their partnership goes all the way back to their high school days, but it wasn’t always in screenwriting. Rhett became a screenwriter and worked on children’s movies while Paul went into news producing. The two finally joined forces and created a reality television show, The Joe Shmoe Show, and sold it at a time when – let’s be honest – anyone could sell a reality show. After finding success with the show, Rhett talked Paul into returning to traditional screenwriting and the rest became history.

In the words of Paul, working together is so great, it’s like “we finish each other’s…” …as he waited for Rhett… “…Sandwiches? …sentences?” Their method for working together includes: brainstorming the story in the room together; they write the script separately; and then trade the scenes back and forth until they’re done tinkering with it and put a stamp of approval. Through this process of constantly sending it back and forth, it brings out the best of their creative genius.


Script EXTRA: How Do Writing Partnerships Work?


Working on Deadpool

quoteIn 2009, Rhett and Paul were enjoying the success of Zombieland when their agent called for the opportunity. At that time, they had never heard of Deadpool (ironically). They did their research on the 90’s comics and took in the tone, the fourth-wall breaks, and everything that the comic did ingeniously.

In their pitch, their idea bombed! Rather than pitching the origin story, Rhett and Paul decided to pitch a present-day script. The saving grace that sealed the deal happened when their agent sent Ryan Reynolds a dramatic script they wrote for HBO. From there, lunch meetings ensued, discussions on how to create the origin story happened, and the contract was signed.

While the film was in production, Rhett and Paul were invited to work on set each day. They mentioned it was the easiest script to write and didn’t face writer’s blocks like previous projects. Rhett mentioned, “Ryan speaks to us on a near daily basis in our heads on what the character’s saying…and we really did have the gift of having Ryan’s voice in our head throughout the process.” They’re excited to have this gift for the upcoming sequel as well.

Industry Advice

The best advice for writers is to know there are many obstacles in getting your script to the screen. In their words, there will always be assassins lurking around the corner to take down your scripts. They have had multiple scripts that have not made it into production due to these assassins. Because of this, each of them mentioned having multiple scripts going at one time because you never know which one will hit. In addition, they recommend writers take a long-term view on their career. Those who have perseverance will have a successful career.

To break through writer’s block, Rhett looks to his inspirations of Woody Allen and Breaking Bad while Paul looks to Aaron Sorkin and buying shoes on the internet. Yes, shoes. Writer’s block is something everyone has as well as procrastination. It’s about powering through and finding the pleasure in the writing.

The two are very busy with the sequels to both Zombieland and Deadpool. Look for their next upcoming film Life in May, 2017.

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