'Deadpool & Wolverine' is (almost) ready to shake up the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Shawn Levy is no novice when it comes to rumors around his projects. Years on “Stranger Things” taught him how to tune out the noise. Yet even he’s found himself astonished by the sheer volume of speculation around “Deadpool & Wolverine.”

“The rumors around this movie are overwhelming," Levy said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “But so is the anticipation, which is a nice situation.”

Anticipation might be an understatement for a movie that is poised to be the theatrical event of the summer, when it opens on July 26. The first trailer, which aired during the Super Bowl, was viewed a record 365 million times online in its first 24 hours. The second, which dropped this week, broke another record – for the most “F-bombs” in the MCU (six in less than three minutes).

Much of that excitement is because this film marks the first time Ryan Reynolds’ foul-mouthed Deadpool/Wade Wilson and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine are being folded into Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both properties existed previously under the 21st Century Fox banner.

When Disney acquired the studio’s film and TV assets in early 2019, Wolverine had already died in “Logan,” a third “Deadpool” was in development and Marvel was still firmly in the PG-13 business, a rating that allows for only one F-bomb.

On a call with investors as the deal was going through, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger was already reassuring people that a Disney Deadpool would remain R-rated. Soon after, Reynolds also posted a photo on social media showing his character with Mickey Mouse ears on a yellow school bus labeled “Disney." The meta humor, it seemed, was also firmly intact.

But what would the story be? Levy was announced as the film’s director in early 2022, coming in as a fan of Reynolds’ snarky tone and fourth wall breaking.

“There was no way I was going to reinvent a wheel, a tonal wheel, that works so beautifully,” Levy said. “Both Disney and Marvel, up and down the food chain, empowered Ryan and I to make this movie exactly as we dreamed.”


Things really started to really take shape when Jackman signed on that fall, however. It would mark the first time that the characters would be together in a movie since 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” In the years since, Reynolds and Jackman have staged a very tongue in cheek, very funny “feud” with one another on social media, dancing around the idea of sharing the big screen again.

The dream seemed to have died after “Logan” and Jackman’s retirement as Wolverine. But death is never exactly final in the multiverse, and, they promised, this film would not interfere with “Logan.”

“It’s a really interesting duo,” Levy said. “They’re built for huge conflict with each other because they’re so different individually. But that makes for a very interesting story, because the best two hander stories, whether it’s ‘Midnight Run’ or ‘48 Hours’ or ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles,’ yes, it’s littered with conflict. But it’s ultimately about something more as well and that’s what audiences will see.”

The dynamic was also fueled by the real-life friendship between Levy, Jackman and Reynolds that goes back a decade off screen and includes films like “Free Guy” and “Real Steel.”

“The real benefit of being friends off set is that you can try crazy stuff without fear of falling. Because some of it won’t work and that will be momentarily embarrassing, but if you’re among friends, it’s okay to make a fool of yourself in the pursuit of something surprising and something unexpected,” Levy said. “This movie is filled with moments, both comedic and character based, that we didn’t expect and were the result of a freedom that that came from being friends.”


The Marvel multiverse has gotten a bit overwhelming in recent years for the more casual fans who may have seen most of the films but only dabbled in the Disney+ offerings that regularly introduce new concepts and characters that eventually find their way into the films. “Deadpool & Wolverine,” for instance, uses the Time Variance Authority (TVA) — a major part of “Loki” but new to the movies — to help get Deadpool to the MCU. But Levy promises that enjoyment of “Deadpool & Wolverine” requires no bingeing or studying beforehand.

“I was a good student in school. I’ll do my homework as an adult. But I am definitely not looking to do homework when I go to the movies,” Levy said.

“I very much made this film with certainly a healthy respect and gratitude towards the rabid fan base that has peak fluency in the mythology and lore of these characters and this world. But I didn’t want to presume that. This movie is built for entertainment, with no obligation to come prepared with prior research.”


Like many productions, “Deadpool & Wolverine” was affected by the strikes. It was “pencils down” when the writers walked out, including for Reynolds who is credited on the script, and a complete shutdown when the actors went to the picket lines.

“The impact was real,” Levy said. “For me as the director, and the producer, the multi-month pause happened right in the middle of filming. All I could do was edit and review the footage. But it taught me about my movie, and it really revealed what was working and what the movie wanted to be.”

When they resumed shooting post-strike, Levy wasn’t panicked about rushing to the finish. Instead, he felt like he’d come back with a deeper knowledge of what they needed to do.

“It really focused our work and I think improved our work in the second half,” Levy said. “That’s not a luxury we ever get in live-action filmmaking.”


So, what about what’s IN the film? Well, that’s something that Levy can’t really talk about. For one, he’s busy finishing the movie (“it’s coming together nicely,” he said). Also, “Deadpool & Wolverine” doesn’t need to tease out plotlines to stoke enthusiasm, what when there are near daily articles speculating about a Taylor Swift cameo (and a Wikipedia page that’s nearly 5,000 words). It’s unclear what the Venn Diagram overlap is for Swifties and Marvel fans but one thing is apparent: United, they’re a powerful bunch.

Marvel has had some Phase 5 bumps, with films like “The Marvels” underperforming financially and others underwhelming critics. And outside of the MCU, the industry is feeling the pains of so-called “superhero fatigue” that has sent DC back to the drawing boards to start anew. But “Deadpool & Wolverine” is not to be underestimated.

It could be the first MCU movie since “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to crack $1 billion, which would also put it in the running to become the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. That title currently belongs to “Joker” with its $1.08 billion.

“Audiences are hungry for a great time at the movies,” Levy said. “They want to be delighted, transported and entertained. And when they are given that, whether it’s ‘Barbie,’ ‘Oppenheimer’ or any number of other recent movies, they show up.”

He added: “The movie is built for audience delight. I think that (they’re) in for a very fun ride.”


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