In between writing what seems like a million different projects, Rhett Reese very generously took the time to sit down and answer a few questions for us in advance of his attendance at the October Conference.
First, a little background on Reese:
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote and executive-produced Zombieland for Columbia Pictures. They first collaborated by creating, writing, and executive-producing The Joe Schmo Show for Spike TV. The series drew Spike’s highest ratings in history. Joe Schmo was named to numerous Best Of lists, including TIME Magazine’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2003 and Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best TV Shows Ever on DVD. Reese and Wernick followed up with Joe Schmo 2, and then Invasion Iowa, a high-concept comedy hybrid starring William Shatner.
Reese and Wernick currently have projects in development at Twentieth Century Fox (Deadpool), Universal Pictures (Earth vs. Moon), Columbia Pictures (Zombieland 2), Paramount Pictures (G.I. Joe 2), HBO (Watch), and Walt Disney Pictures (Cowboy Ninja Viking).
Reese has written screenplays for Pixar Animation Studios (Monsters, Inc.), Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation (Dinosaur), Warner Brothers (Clifford’s Really Big Movie), and Nickelodeon, among others. His first novel, Anxiety, is now available for Kindle and iPad.
AFF: You and Paul Wernick have a load of projects in development currently. What is the process like, juggling all these different projects?
RR: An old friend of mine once called his job a nervous breakdown with a paycheck. Does that apply? In all seriousness, we do our best to schedule our jobs to minimize overlap between projects. Occasionally you’ll have to do a quick rewrite while you’re working on a first draft of something else, but we take pains to make sure we’re not writing two first drafts at once. There’s a real danger in spreading yourself too thin.
AFF: Ryan Reynold’s has been the keeper of the DEADPOOL flame for many
years. What is it like working with him on this project? With his knowledge
and passion for Deadpool, is it a blessing or a hindrance?
RR: Ryan is a joy to work with. He’s my favorite famous person because you would never, ever, ever know it by how he acts. He’s thoughtful and selfless and responsive and kind. He makes me want to cut myself. With regard to Deadpool, he’s the perfect keeper of the flame, because the tone and sense of humor of the comic are in his DNA. He just knows WWDD (what would Deadpool do) in any given situation, which is invaluable. We trust his story instincts completely.
AFF: What do you do with a character who’s beloved for being “in the now”
– in that you don’t care how he came to be, or where he goes after this, you
just love following him around. How do you create an arc for that character,
given that his chief lure is his total shallowness?
RR: Our script actually is an origin story. We were adamant that it not be your father’s origin story, however, so it jumps back and forth between past and present. We spent hours upon hours trying to find interesting ways to jump from the present, which feels very much ‘in the now,’ to the past and back again. Deadpool seems shallow, but in fact, he’s pretty deep. His trauma is visible in the scars on his skin, but it also comes through less obviously in the way he talks, the way he acts, the relationships he has. Shallowness can be a defense against depth, does that make sense?
AFF: You originally wrote Zombieland as a TV series. Following the success of the movie, would you like to return to that idea, and if so, how would it differ from the movies?
RR: We would love for Zombieland to be a TV series someday! There are vestiges of the serialized nature of the planned television show on display in the movie (the Rules for Surviving Zombieland , the Zombie Kill of the Week, etc.). The movie doesn’t really ‘end’ as much as it does suggest new adventures on the way. We’d love to go to those new places!
AFF: With the success of action adventure films and the progression of technology, do you see the nature of screenwriting changing where multimedia experience is required?
RR: I don’t think screenwriting will change much at all due to advances in technology. Back in the late nineties, I was told not to worry about technology – to write big and let the VFX guys sort it all out. That would still be good advice today.
AFF: Will this be your first time to Austin? What are you most looking forward to – are there fellow panelists you already know? Anyone you’re looking forward to meeting?
RR: I have never been to Austin, but I’ve heard many terrific things. This should be a blast! I’ve been friends with Rita Hsiao and Glenn Berger for years… hope to be able to spend a lot of time with them. I don’t know many others in attendance. Feature writers tend to be solitary beasts. You can go years and years hearing the name of another writer and never come across him/her. So this is a tremendous opportunity to place faces and personalities with names. And find whole new reasons to be jealous of others!