Deadpool 2 might just be the funniest superhero movie, but it’s also the most action-packed and violent movie about a Marvel character, give or take Logan. While many of the laughs come from Ryan Reynold’s self-aware and not overly serious take on the Merc With a Mouth, the action is thrilling because each punch feels like it matters. When somebody gets brained with a brick, it feels like, well, somebody just got brained with a brick. Exciting, brutal action is part of what makes Deadpool 2 a thrill to watch, and director David Leitch has had some practice. He began his career as a stuntman, and went on to direct John Wick and Atomic Blonde before tackling Deadpool 2.
“Those are two great sort of starting ground as a director,” Leitch says of John Wick and Atomic Blonde during an interview with Inverse the week of Deadpool 2’s premiere. He learned from those two scrappy action flicks, grappling with budget and time constraints before moving to the big leagues. But, even if Deadpool 2 is a much bigger movie than John Wick (look at how much marketing there is for this movie), it’s no Infinity War.
“Deadpool, in terms of a comic book movie, doesn’t have the budget that the big Marvel movies have,” Leitch says. “So it was good to be able to leverage that sort of indie spirit into this tentpole movie and hopefully get it all on the screen.”
The superhero setpieces, along with characters like the metallic mutant Colossus and Julian Dennison’s pyrokinetic Firefist, are certainly flashier than the gun-toting killers of Leitch’s previous work. Due to his stunt background, though, he tried to keep the action grounded, employing practical stunts and effects whenever possible.
“With a comic book movie, there’s so much CG — some of the characters are GC and the environments are CG,” he explains. “The sort of aesthetic from the first Deadpool had been set already, and there’s a lot of CG in that. But, for the most part, I tried to bring back some of old-school martial arts fighting.”
Nailing the action is important to Leitch, who is one of the founders of the highly regarded stunt company 87Eleven Action Design. In many big blockbusters, directing duties for action scenes are handed over to what are known as second-unit directors. Leitch himself was a second-unit director for Captain America: Civil War. However, while Leitch says second-unit directors can work wonders, especially if they’re communicating with the first-unit director, he wasn’t about to abdicate his action directing responsibilities for Deadpool now that he was the head honcho.
“I used to be one of those guys who directed those for other people,” he says. “So, it’s now my movie, I don’t like to give those reins away, and it’s really important for me to keep my brand tied to the action.”
Action is Leitch’s well-established brand. But, comedy? Deadpool 2 was the first true comedy he says he’s ever directed, outside of a couple small personal projects or indie ventures made for friends. Leitch says he’s a comedy buff, but admits that comedy direction required him to master some new tools, especially since “expectations were massive” for Deadpool 2
“You really have to work on the timing and you really get that with great actors around you, like Ryan, who knows that in spades,” he says.
“Comedy’s hard,” he continues. “Dying is easy, comedy’s hard, is that the line?”
He appears to have pulled it off well enough. Deadpool 2 has tons of gut-busting jokes and plenty of scenes where Deadpool and Co. effortlessly kill villainous goons in expertly choreographed fights. Dying and comedy both appear pretty easy in Leitch’s capable hands.
Deadpool 2 opens on May 18.