“Deadpool 2” scored $125 million in its opening weekend, a rarity for an R-rated film.
The Fox sequel’s early success is in large part due to the two years-plus worth of promotion by the man behind the mask and layers of scar tissue prosthetics: Ryan Reynolds.
Following on the $786 million success of 2016’s raunchy send-up of superhero movies, “Deadpool 2” has posted an opening weekend higher than the starts for “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” or any of the films featuring those goody-two-shoes X-Men that Wade Wilson can’t stand.
Comic book movie fans are clearly excited to see Deadpool come back. But the truth is, he never really left. Reynolds, who shares a writing credit on the sequel, has kept him in the public consciousness on social media.
“There are some actors that have become so well-known in their superhero roles that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing them,” said comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is an obvious example, but Ryan Reynolds has gone even further with the work he’s done on social media.”
In “Deadpool,” Reynolds won over audiences with his snarky, fourth-wall-shattering jokes that referenced other superhero films. In a moviegoing culture where superheroes are king, that quality earned the character perpetual relevance. Reynolds has taken advantage of that over the last two years by constantly firing out tweets about whatever big superhero movie had just come out, often with the same meta-humor his mutant alter-ego is known for.
That has allowed Reynolds to keep Deadpool constantly in the spotlight, giving fans just enough to look forward to the next time he’s back in cinemas… but not too much that it wears out its welcome.
And like the movies, Reynolds will tackle any pop culture topic or breaking movie news story. “Avengers: Infinity War” has the biggest box office opening of all-time? Here’s Reynolds tweeting out Deadpool’s rejection letter from Tony Stark:
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) April 29, 2018
Hugh Jackman’s finishing his career as Wolverine? Let’s make him Deadpool’s frenemy. The guy Fox picked to star alongside him as Cable is the same guy who plays Thanos? Let’s use that for a joke about Reynolds’ past as a ‘90s teen heartthrob.
Beyond the tweets, Reynolds has squeezed back into the flattering red uniform for things other than the sequel, and the results have been wildly unexpected. Before screenings of “Logan” last year, Fox treated fans to an extended teaser hyping “DP2,” as Wade Wilson tries to change into his outfit in a phone booth Superman-style and fails miserably.
Later, he filmed a sketch parodying “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” And the Blu-Ray release of the first “Deadpool” made fun of erectile dysfunction commercials, noting that if watching “Deadpool” results in an erection lasting longer than six hours, “You’re welcome.”
The skits became so popular that even some suits from Fox got in on the fun. Movie theater owners who attended Fox’s presentation at CinemaCon last month were treated to a video of Deadpool in a Vegas hotel room that clearly was the setting for a wild party the previous night. He encourages them to screen his sequel in their theaters, and hopes they enjoy the convention while “cheating on your spouse on the company dime.”
Suddenly, from behind Deadpool rose Fox’s distribution chief Chris Aronson, looking seriously hung over and wearing Hugh Jackman’s outfit from “The Greatest Showman.” “Looks like Comcast really dodged the bullet,” joked Deadpool.
Merger jokes aside, Aronson told TheWrap that Reynolds has always been up for doing these promotional sketches, and that he was a blast to work with when working on the CinemaCon promo.
“We came up with the idea and pitched it to Ryan, and he was absolutely up for it,” Aronson said. “He’s always involved with all the jokes in these skits. He took the idea, and he sat down with writers and went to work with it. We’ve been so fortunate to have him here making this character such a blast to watch.”
That involvement in the character is what makes Reynolds so uniquely inextricable from Deadpool. Other actors from Downey to Jackman have put their indelible mark on the superheroes they have played. But the irreverent humor and charisma that has made Deadpool into such a huge draw comes directly from Reynolds, so much so that he shares screenplay credit for the sequel with the original film’s writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Like a comedian testing out new material on tour, Reynolds has kept Deadpool fresh through social media. He’s always armed with a joke about the latest blockbuster that feels like something either he or his character might say, to the point where the line between actor and character have become blurred. And if you’ve seen “Deadpool 2” this weekend, you know that line-blurring leads to hilarious results in the film’s post-credits scene, where Reynolds turns Deadpool’s acerbic wit, quite literally, on himself.
But we won’t spoil it for you. Thanos Wade Wilson demands our silence.