Nothing about Netflix’s darkish science fiction drama Spiderhead instantly, clearly advertises it as “from the writers of Deadpool and Deadpool 2.” The movie, based mostly on George Saunders’ grim 2010 quick story Escape from Spiderhead, stars Chris Hemsworth (the MCU’s Thor) as Steve Abnesti, a pharmaceutical rep testing unique new medicine on semi-willing convicts in the high-tech Spiderhead jail. Jeff (Miles Teller) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) are prisoners who every have their regrets, however keep on with this system as a result of Spiderhead is extra like a gracious island resort than a standard jail, aside from them being guinea pigs in a sequence of twisted experiments. There isn’t numerous Deadpool-style banter, laughs, or violence.
But for screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, longtime writing companions on initiatives like the 2 Zombieland films, 6 Underground, Life, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and each Deadpool films (with a 3rd on the way in which), Spiderhead was a ardour venture. “The New Yorker and Condé Nast were looking to exploit the material in their magazine so that they don’t go the way of the dinosaurs,” Wernick tells Polygon. “We immediately fell in love with it.” Top Gun: Maverick director Joe Kosinski was ultimately introduced on to direct, and Netflix picked up the venture, which is obtainable to stream now.
We spoke to the writing group about the place Spiderhead and Deadpool meet, why writing a sci-fi drama was solely barely completely different from writing a comic book motion film, and what Chris Hemsworth does each evening in Wernick’s dreams.
This interview has been edited for readability and concision.
Polygon: One of the 2 little particulars that basically stood out to me in this film was Chris Hemsworth’s little solo dance in his room. Was that scripted?
Paul Wernick: The dancing got here from our wildest dreams. When we shut our eyes at evening and put a smile on our face, we see Chris Hemsworth dancing seductively by himself.
Rhett Reese: [laughs] OK, converse for your self. I don’t essentially dream about that each evening. But Chris introduced that in. We made the selection to go along with this yacht-rock soundtrack, the place Steve has this ridiculous style in music. The scene was simply [written] like, Oh yeah, he unwinds whereas he’s on his drug, listening to his music. Chris actually ad-libbed that entire factor, and we predict it’s going to be a complete meme-slash-gif, him dancing, as a result of it’s an important little dance. It’s so humorous. He’s actually good. And but he’s simply not ok. You may purchase it in the character — it’s not too good.
Wernick: Oh, cease it. He’s lots good.
The different standout element was the Etch A Sketch Jeff makes use of to create and destroy artwork. Where did that concept come in?
Reese: The Etch A Sketch was in the script from manner again when. I simply used to like my Etch A Sketch as a child. We favored the thematic nature of one thing the place you can make selections after which [whisking noises] simply redeem it, begin over with a clean slate, which you’ll’t do in life. So we favored that. Jeff would very very similar to to shake up his life and begin with a clean slate, and but he can’t, so he does it via this Etch A Sketch. We simply thought it was very cool.
After writing Deadpool and Zombieland scripts, does scripting one thing extra dramatic like this really feel like a unique self-discipline?
Reese: To use a foul metaphor, it seems like we’re doing a unique train on the gymnasium, however on the identical muscle mass, to hit them from a unique manner. So it’s not that completely different, it’s form of a half-step completely different. It’s simply shades, proper? I imply, our tone is all the time a bit murky. Oftentimes we’ll have violence and comedy blended collectively, and but coronary heart and love. I really feel like this falls into that normal space. It’s received a love story, it’s received actual feelings. At instances, it’s humorous, it’s just a bit darker. So I assume it’s actually as much as the viewers to determine whether or not we captured a brand new and fascinating tone. We’re not in simply making the identical film again and again.
How did you strategy the difference?
Reese: The most vital factor was that we captured George’s quick story. We actually tried to protect each piece that we may, to get it up on the display screen. The first half to two-thirds of the film is just about the quick story.
Wernick: We used each little bit of that turkey, as a result of it’s George, and he’s so sensible.
Reese: So the problem turned the invention. We needed to leap previous that and work out a plot. What is Steve actually after greater than anything? We thought, Well, possibly that may very well be obedience. And if it’s obedience, how does he get there? Well, possibly you get there by convincing somebody to harm somebody they love. So then we’d like a love curiosity.
And so this stuff begin to pile on prime of one another, and also you begin to see the form of the remainder of your plot. You begin to see a protagonist who’s making an attempt to redeem himself, you begin to see an antagonist who has an actual aim that’s now being forwarded. We needed to see him meet a destiny that was a consequence of his actions. So numerous invention on the again finish, numerous loyalty and faithfulness on the entrance finish.
One of the larger stuff you reduce was the verbosity drug that lets folks categorical themselves poetically. Did you discover that didn’t work as effectively in dialogue?
Reese: It truly got here out a bit bit in the edit. We had written some foolish stuff the place Miles is waxing poetic about Victorian society and stuff like that, lifted from the quick story. I feel there was a slight absurd high quality to it that in all probability price it. And then we have been trimming for time right here and there, and generally like these little infants and darlings go away. If you return and take a look at our authentic screenplay, we positively had a bit bit extra of him abruptly speaking like a humanities professor who’s locked in the ivory tower.
Wernick: Miles bumped on that as effectively. [That dialogue was] arduous to spit out. Also, we needed Miles to play the Everyman. We needed Jeff to be the viewers’s manner into the film, and when he was waxing philosophical, he felt he was making himself a bit bit inaccessible.
Reese: There was additionally a bit little bit of logic, you realize: If my character doesn’t learn about Victorian society, doesn’t know these vocabulary phrases, why would he be saying them? In normal, if it wasn’t in the [movie], that’s as a result of it got here out after our first draft, as a result of we simply vomited all the pieces from that quick story into the primary draft, to be trustworthy.
Did this venture originate with you, or have been you introduced in? Whose child was it?
Wernick: Condé Nast got here to us. The quick story was in The New Yorker about 10 years in the past, proper earlier than it was in George’s compilation Tenth of December.
Reese: We wrote it on spec. We weren’t paid to write down the screenplay. We packaged ourselves onto it to direct it for some time. That didn’t come collectively for numerous causes — we needed to go do Deadpool. And so Joe Kosinski ended up approaching. We created this package deal and offered it to Netflix. They purchased it, they’d religion in it. And so we lastly received paid a few years later. I imply, it’s been a 10-year course of, however there have been just a few instances in our profession the place we love one thing a lot that we’re like, Look, we don’t care if we receives a commission, we’re simply gonna write it. If we receives a commission on the again finish, that’s gravy, we simply have to write down this script.
Given that timeline, I’m assuming you weren’t considering of those actors if you wrote it. Was anything alongside the way in which retooled particularly for them?
Wernick: When they have been formally solid, we had conversations with them about character and backstory and motivation, and simply normal type of performing and what they create to it. It’s a superb group of actors who’ve come collectively to deliver this to life. [Steve’s] backstory and why he’s the way in which he’s, that was an vital factor we sat with Chris and kicked round for a really very long time. Each actor brings such a singular perspective to the position, so it permits us to dig in a bit bit deeper. They ask the robust questions on why and the way and the way come. It all the time makes the script higher, all the time.
The place the place this appears most prefer it’s coming particularly from the writers of Deadpool and Zombieland is in the darker, extra flippantly callous issues Chris Hemsworth’s character says, his little barbs at folks. Did you speak about whether or not to lean tougher on humor, or dial it again?
Wernick: One specific one was fascinating: “She’s not that good,” or what was it?
Reese: That did come from the quick story. “She’s not the best.”
Wernick: There was a complete debate about that individual line, whether or not it was too flippant, too foolish in such a darkish second. And Chris actually fought for it. He felt it uncovered a very fucked-up aspect of Abnesti that he needed to discover. You’re not coping with a traditional one who experiences regular feelings. That was a debate we kicked round for a bit bit, whether or not it was inappropriate. But we all the time deliver a component of darkness and humor and undercutting what the viewers would possibly count on, simply because it retains the viewers on the sting of their seat. Or no less than that’s our intention.
Reese: Yeah, and I feel his inappropriateness, we thought it got here from a spot the place it is a man who’s not used to dealing with numerous penalties for the issues that come out of his mouth. He can form of get away with saying something, and he has a twisted worldview. Those inappropriate characters will be probably the most enjoyable. Deadpool may be very inappropriate all over, and folks love the transgressive nature of that. He’s somebody who’s pushing the boundaries of claiming issues the place you assume, I wouldn’t have mentioned that in that second. It will be humorous, it could possibly make you be bowled over a bit bit. So we take pleasure in writing characters like that, for certain.
Wernick: I feel folks assume numerous what our characters say, however they’re afraid to say it. By us saying it, it simply makes it a bit bit juicier for the viewers to assume Oh man, yeah, I might be considering that, however I wouldn’t have the stones to say it.
Spiderhead is streaming on Netflix now.