The setting is the flight deck of a crashed airship, and there’s a brawl on board that has turned the old wreck into a combat zone. The guy in the red mask is Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who is employing his superhuman abilities — and katana swords named Bea and Arthur — against the ax-wielding Ajax (Ed Skrein), a sadistic lab assistant who ruined his life.
Based on the libertine Marvel character, Deadpool (out in theaters Feb. 12) promises to be a dynamic collision between comic-book action and lewd R-rated humor. Anticipation is high, thanks in part to footage that broke out at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con showing a debauched semi-hero many fans had never seen before. “Deadpool is nothing but tangents,” director Tim Miller says, “and our attitude was just ‘Let’s embrace him.’” And a tight embrace it was, explains Reynolds, who’d dreamed of playing this unfiltered version of the mouthy mercenary for more than a decade. “[The set] was an alternate-joke factory,” he says. “For one joke in the movie we wrote 16 versions.”
The climactic fight scene, however, was no laughing matter. “Ryan’s like Muhammad Ali, dancing around, whispering in my ear,” Skrein says. “And I’m George Foreman. Every blow is like a haymaker and I just want to take his head off.”
Reynolds describes Deadpool as a lean little jackal — though he had second thoughts upon encountering Skrein on set. “Ed got yoked for the movie,” he says. “I saw his arms and got pretty upset at myself for not working out harder.”