Deadpool might be his first feature film, but Tim Miller knows his way around town. And he’s not afraid to ask for help when he doesn’t. He was an Oscar-nominee in the Animated Short Film category 10 years ago (for the amusing haiku Gopher Broke), and before Ryan Reynolds and his red suit got a hold of him, Miller was best known for designing the staggering, liquidy opening credits sequence for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Miller shared his thoughts on Fincher, comic books, and the necessary reality of fake action scenes.
On David Fincher
“When I was making Deadpool, I said to him that I was having trouble with the camera coverage and getting exactly what I needed to edit. And he was making fun of me. He said, ‘The only job of a director is where to put the camera and for how long. The rest is just churn.’
“I said something to him about how I had to get comfortable with other people on the set knowing my job even better than I do. And he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve kind of forgotten how it felt to not know all their jobs as well as they do.’ He was kidding. Half-kidding.”
“I don’t compare what I do to his genius, but Fight Club was an influence on Deadpool. So was Seven. The real world grittiness in those films. In Deadpool we stayed far away from the shiny, clean X-Men world. It’s really the seedy underbelly of what’s been shown in other superhero films. The stripclub in Deadpool is not a set. It’s Number 5 Orange in Vancouver.”
On working with a leaner budget
“If we do another Deadpool, we’d love to have more money for visual effects. But I don’t think anybody does good with an excess of time or money. We had a short shooting schedule and were editing the movie as we shot. The first original cut was 1 hour 54 minutes. That’s pretty close to final cut.”
On comic books
“The reason I love comics and have collected them for 37 years is because I always wanted to be an illustrator and a writer – and comics are really the perfect blend of those two mediums. I love heroic tales and I love honor and courage and all that other s—.”
On narrative purity
“You have to be true to what you originally fell in love with. When Fox made Daredevil, one of the things they changed was that Matt gets his powers because he’s having an argument with his dad and he’s running around and a forklift overturns and he gets hit with this acid. But in the comics, Matt sees a blind man walking across the street and a truck comes and he pushes the old man out of the way and he gets blinded. So he’s a hero before he’s a hero. And there was no reason to change that origin. It weakened the character and it took away something pretty valuable and intrinsic.”
On falling out of love with Indiana Jones
“What works for me in Indiana Jones is the fact that I can project myself onto the character. Maybe if I was cool enough, I could do what he does. But I can’t do that if the story breaks the rules of reality in too large of a degree. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was nothing he did, aside from the ride on the submarine, that was patently impossible. But Temple of Doom starts with him falling out of a plane in a rubber lift raft. And I’m out. No matter how cool you are, you can’t do that.”
On realistic violence
“Kingsman was released when we were making Deadpool. And we were talking after seeing it about how I bet a lot of people will think that Deadpool is all like the fight scene in the church in Kingsman. But then they’re going to be disappointed. None of it feels unrealistic, beyond the obvious fact that this is a guy with superpowers. At one point there was an ending to Deadpool that was all guns. But I’d seen that before, so we got rid of them all.”
On Max Mad: Fury Road
“It was visually spectacular. But the stuff I didn’t like was the giant guitar playing dude. Why does a warlord have that? But George Miller has got a kind of French action film camp style, which is very grounded and makes sense. Fast and Furious tries to be grounded and have realistic emotional arcs, but that’s all put inside this movie which makes no sense”.
On Captain America: The Winter Soldier
“That was the closest tonally, in terms of recent superhero films, to how grounded I wanted Deadpool to feel. People behaved in very reasonable ways. The action scenes weren’t overly gratuitous. That was a benchmark for me. I was working on the next Captain America, the third one, and they were letting me help design some of the big action scenes. That’s when I got the call about Deadpool. And [codirector] Joe Russo was like, ‘Dude, f— our film! Go do it.'”