Spiderhead Writers Explain The Movie’s Connection To Deadpool

Nothing about Netflix’s dark sci-fi drama spider head immediately, obviously announces it as “from the writers of Dead Pool and deadpool 2.” The film, based on the dark 2010 short story by George Saunders Escape from Spider’s Headstarring Chris Hemsworth (the MCU Thor) as Steve Abnesti, a pharmaceutical rep who tests new exotic drugs on semi-willing convicts in the high-tech Spiderhead prison. Jeff (Miles Teller) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) are prisoners who have their regrets but stick to the show because Spiderhead is more like a graceful island resort than a conventional prison, and they are test subjects in a series of twisted experiments. . There’s not a lot of Deadpool-style banter, laughter or violence.

But for screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, longtime partners on projects like the two Zombieland films, 6 underground, Life, G.I. Joe – Retaliationand both Deadpool movies (with a third on the way), spider head it was a passion project. “The New Yorker and Condé Nast were looking to exploit material in their magazine so they wouldn’t go the way of the dinosaurs,” Wernick told Polygon. “We immediately fell in love with him.” Top Gun: Maverick director Joe Kosinski was eventually hired to direct, and Netflix picked up the project, which is available to stream now.

We talked to the writing team about where spider head and Dead Pool know, why writing a sci-fi drama was just a little different than writing a comic book action movie, and what Chris Hemsworth does every night in Wernick’s dreams.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Image: Netflix

Polygon: One of the two little details that really stood out to me in this movie was Chris Hemsworth’s little solo dance in his bedroom. Was this scripted?

Paulo Wernick: Dance came from our wildest dreams. When we close our eyes at night and put a smile on our face, we see Chris Hemsworth dancing seductively alone.

Rhett Reese: [laughs] Okay, speak for yourself. I don’t necessarily dream about it every night. But Chris brought it. We chose this yacht rock soundtrack, where Steve has this ridiculous taste in music. the scene was just [written] Like, Oh yes, he relaxes while he’s high, listening to his music. Chris really improvised this whole thing, and we think it’s going to be a total meme-slash-gif, him dancing, because it’s a great little dance. It’s so funny. He is very good. And yet he’s not good enough. You could buy it in character – it’s not very good.

Wernick: Oh stop it. He is very good.

The other standout detail was the Etch A Sketch that Jeff uses to create and destroy art. Where did this idea come from?

Reese: Etch A Sketch had been in the script since when. I loved my Etch A Sketch as a kid. We like the thematic nature of something where you can make choices and then [whisking noises] just rescue it, start over with a blank slate, which you can’t do in life. So we like that. Jeff would love to shake up his life and start with a blank slate, and yet he can’t, so he does it through this Etch A Sketch. We just think it’s really cool.

After writing the scripts for Deadpool and Zombieland, does writing something more dramatic like this feel like a different discipline?

Reese: To use a bad metaphor, it feels like we’re doing a different exercise in the gym, but on the same muscles, to hit them in a different way. So it’s not that different, it’s half a step different. It’s just shadows, right? I mean, our tone is always a little dark. Often we will have violence and comedy mixed together, and yet heart and love. I feel like it falls into that general area. It has a love story, it has real emotions. Sometimes it’s funny, it’s just a little darker. So I think it’s up to the audience to decide if we’ve captured a new and interesting tone. We’re not interested in making the same movie over and over again.

How did you approach adaptation?

Reese: The most important thing was that we captured George’s tale. We really tried to preserve every piece that we could, to get it on screen. The first half to two-thirds of the film is pretty much the tale.

Wernick: We use every bit of that turkey, because it’s George, and he’s so shiny.

Reese: So the challenge became invention. We had to jump beyond that and figure out a plot. What does Steve really want more than anything else? We thought, Well, maybe that could be obedience. And if it’s obedience, how does he get there? Well, maybe you’ll get there by convincing someone to hurt someone they love. So we need a love interest.

And then those things start to pile up on top of each other, and you start to see the shape of the rest of your plot. You start to see a protagonist who is trying to redeem himself, you start to see an antagonist who has a real goal that is now being pushed forward. We wanted to see him find a destiny that was a consequence of his actions. So a lot of invention on the backend, a lot of loyalty and fidelity on the frontend.

A tattooed Spiderhead inmate reads December 10 by George Saunder, an inside joke in Spiderhead

Image: Netflix

One of the biggest things you cut was the damn verbosity that allows people to express themselves poetically. Did you find it didn’t work so well in dialogue?

Reese: It actually came out a little bit in the edit. We had written some silly stuff where Miles is getting poetic about Victorian society and stuff like that, taken from the tale. I think there was a slightly absurd quality that probably cost that. And so we were trimming time here and there, and sometimes how those little babies and darlings go away. If you go back and look at our original script, we definitely had a little more of him suddenly speaking like a humanities professor who is locked up in the ivory tower.

Wernick: Miles hit that too. [That dialogue was] hard to spit. Also, we wanted Miles to play Everyman. We wanted Jeff to be the audience’s path to the film, and when he was getting philosophical, he felt like he was becoming a little unreachable.

Reese: There was also a bit of logic, you know: If my character doesn’t know Victorian society, doesn’t know these vocabulary words, why would he be saying them? In general, if you weren’t in the [movie]that’s because it came out after our first draft, because we threw up everything from that short story in the first draft, to be honest.

Did this project come up with you, or were you brought in? Whose baby was it?

Wernick: Condé Nast came to us. The short story had been in The New Yorker for about 10 years, just before it was in George’s compilation december tenth.

Reese: We write in the specification. We weren’t paid to write the script. We packed into it to drive it for a while. This didn’t happen for a number of reasons – we had to go do Dead Pool. And so Joe Kosinski ended up walking in. We created this bundle and sold it to Netflix. They bought it, they had faith in it. And so we were finally paid off many years later. I mean, it’s been a 10-year process, but there have been a few times in our career where we love something so much that we’re like, Look, we don’t care if we get paid, let’s just write it. If we get paid on the backend, that’s gravy, we just have to write this script.

Given this timeline, I’m assuming you weren’t thinking about these actors when you wrote. Has anything else along the way been reworked specifically for them?

Wernick: When they were officially cast, we talked to them about character, backstory and motivation, and just the general style of acting and what they bring to it. It’s a brilliant group of actors who came together to bring this to life. [Steve’s] backstory and why he is the way he is, that was a big thing, we sat down with Chris and kicked for a long time. Each actor brings a unique perspective to the role, which allows us to dig a little deeper. They ask the hard questions about why, how and how. It always makes the script better, always.

The place where this seems to come specifically from the Deadpool and Zombieland writers is in the darker, insensitive things that Chris Hemsworth’s character says, his little barbs at people. Did you talk about leaning more on humor, or stepping back?

Wernick: One in particular was interesting: “She’s not that good”, or what was it?

Reese: This came from the tale. “She’s not the best.”

Wernick: There was a whole debate about this particular line, whether it was too flippant, too silly at such a dark time. And Chris really fought for it. He felt he exposed a really fucked up side of Abnesti that he wanted to explore. You are not dealing with a normal person who experiences normal emotions. That was a debate that we had a little bit, whether it was inappropriate. But we always bring in an element of darkness and humor and reduce what the audience can expect, just because it keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Or at least that is our intention.

Reese: Yeah, and I think his inadequacy, we think it came from a place where this is a guy who’s not used to facing a lot of consequences for the things that come out of his mouth. He can get away with saying anything, and he has a skewed worldview. These inappropriate characters can be the most fun. Deadpool is very inappropriate everywhere, and people love the transgressive nature of it. He is someone who is pushing the limits of saying things where you think, I wouldn’t have said it then. It might be funny, it might make you a little surprised. So we like writing characters like that, for sure.

Wernick: I think people think a lot about what our characters say but are afraid to say it. As we say that, it makes it a little more juicy for the audience to think Oh man, yes, I would be thinking that, but I wouldn’t have the guts to say it.

spider head is streaming on Netflix now.

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