[This story contains mild spoilers about some of the jokes in Deadpool 2.]
The first Deadpool movie came together relatively under the radar, with star Ryan Reynolds, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and director Tim Miller working to make the film fans wanted to see. The project only had a reported budget of $58 million but, after its release on Feb. 12, 2016, it grossed $783 million worldwide, including $363 million in North America, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time worldwide, and second-highest domestically (behind Passion of the Christ), something Deadpool himself jokes about in the sequel. The first movie was also critically acclaimed, with an 83 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for Golden Globe, DGA, PGA, WGA awards and won a People's Choice award and two Critics' Choice, Teen Choice and MTV Movie awards.
The sequel, which arrives in the tentpole-stuffed summer movie season, brings with it a $110 million budget and great expectations for the follow-up to be as entertaining and as much of a hit as the original — and so far looks to be succeeding on both counts: It has an 84 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $18.6 million from Thursday night previews, on track for a projected $130 million to $150 million opening weekend.
But while making the movie, how did the Deadpool 2 team feel about the sequel pressure?
"This tie is not as tight as the noose I've had around my neck," Wernick quipped to The Hollywood Reporter at a fan screening of the sequel earlier this week.
Reese added, "I've had flop sweat on my forehead for two-and-a-half years, so it's a terrifying thing."
And newcomer to the franchise Josh Brolin later confessed, "I always feel pressure. I don't care what it is. I can be doing black-box theater in New York, and I feel pressure. I'm a fully anxiety-ridden guy. I like the pressure of acting and of telling a story. I don't necessarily feel the global pressure that Ryan does, and I think from what he's said, it's kind of a nice thing to have on set because I'm already kind of perpetually embarrassed anyway so I just kind of put it out there on the line and hope that they can grab stuff that works."
Producer Simon Kinberg pinpointed just what was challenging about Deadpool 2, saying that he felt pressure "not just from the success of the first one but the fact that it won on originality and freshness and it's hard to replicate or sequelize something where the fundamental DNA is freshness and originality."
And while Deadpool 2 director David Leitch was intimidated to join the juggernaut, he felt like he could put his stamp on the sequel.
"I think it was really daunting and humbling to be offered the job because I was a huge fan of the original and what Tim Miller and Ryan did," Leitch said. "But I knew there was space in the universe because it's so creative that I could have my voice and still deliver something with the DNA of the original."
Reynolds, on the other hand, argued that his team started working on the follow-up so close to the original that he didn't have time to be too anxious.
"We were working on Deadpool 2 while we were shooting Deadpool 1 and we had no preconceived, pie-in-the-sky notion that we'd ever get an opportunity to shoot Deadpool 2 so the main tenets of Deadpool 2 were kind of hatched when there was no pressure," he told THR. "It might have worked out differently had it been much later and the pressure was on. We just wanted to tell this story and we all as a group — myself, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Leitch — love Deadpool."
Deadpool's trademark snark remains intact in the sequel, with the Merc with the Mouth even poking fun at the social and political realities of 2018.
In one scene, in which Deadpool is surrounded by pictures of elderly, white men, he jokes that he should've brought his "rape whistle."
While Reynolds played coy about the inspiration for the timely quip, coming after a wave of sexual misconduct claims against powerful men in Hollywood, saying "take it however you want to take it," Reese confirmed it was a reference to the #MeToo movement, adding that Reynolds thought of the joke the day they filmed the scene.
"We looked around," he explained. "Production design just put up a bunch of pictures of old white guys and we just thought, 'How do we make fun of that?'"
Kinberg added, "[Ryan] is up to every moment, second on the Internet, feeling the zeitgeist of the moment and wanting to put that in the film. We're living in a time that is a transformative, positive time for empowering women and also understanding the horrible stuff that's happened in the past."
Still that's not the film's only #MeToo connection. Actor TJ Miller remains in the film even though he was accused of sexual assault in December and some people called for him to be removed from the movie. The cast and crew have remained relatively tight-lipped about Miller's involvement in the sequel, with Reynolds declining to talk about it with The New York Times, although he did tell The Times that Miller would not be in the follow-up X-Force film.
Another Deadpool joke makes fun of President Trump's son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, but Reese dismissed the possibility that the remark could alienate Trump-supporting fans.
"The movie's not very political," he told THR. "There's the occasional joke. I think no matter who would be in the White House, there'd be a joke about someone."
Watch the videos below to see which members of the X-Men the cast would like their characters to interact with and to find out Morena Baccarin's reaction to Vanessa's storyline, including a hint to stay until the bitter end, through the credits, of Deadpool 2.