Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Deadpool is covered by Fox’s X-Men movie deal with Marvel Comics.
As we have discovered when discussing whether Marvel actually owns the rights to do an Incredible Hulk movie, one of the most confusing things about superhero movies is who, exactly, owns the rights to certain characters. We know that, generally speaking, 20th Century Fox owns the production rights to the X-Men and their respective characters, such as Wolverine. We also know that Sony owns the production rights to Spider-Man and his respective characters, such as Venom. Marvel Studios and Disney own most of the other rights (with some interesting disclaimers, like the aforementioned Hulk confusion). There are times, though, when there is debate over who has the rights to certain characters. The most famous instance of this debate came when Marvel Studios/Disney and Fox both claimed rights over the character of Quicksilver, as he was a notable member of the Avengers (so Marvel Studios thinks they should have him) but he also is a mutant who debuted in the pages of X-Men (so 20th Century Fox would want him). They worked out a compromise there.
Another area that is apparently very confusing are the movie rights to Deadpool, who just starred in a 20th Century Fox movie that included a crossover with Fox’s X-Men movie characters.
So most fans just presume that Deadpool is part of Fox’s general deal with Marvel for the movie rights to the X-Men. Is that true, though? A fan wrote in to ask me this question, by the way, but I can’t find their e-mail anywhere, so if they wish to e-mail me later for credit, I’ll add it in for them.
The simple answer is no, Deadpool’s production and distribution rights were not included with the X-Men in the famous deal between Marvel and Fox that gave Fox pretty much perpetual rights to make movies based on the X-Men and members of the X-Men like Wolverine. Deadpool’s movie rights were sold to Artisan Entertainment in 2000 as part of a widespread deal involving over a dozen Marvel characters. Remember, in the pre-Marvel Studios days, Marvel would let pretty much anyone who thought they could make a movie based on a Marvel character make a movie based on a Marvel character. For instance, Black Widow almost had her own solo movie before any of her fellow Avengers.
Artisan was purchased by Lion’s Gate in 2003 and the Deadpool deal seemed to be going nowhere. In 2004, however, New Line Cinema, makers of the Blade series of movies, took an interest in the character. David S. Goyer, screenwriter on the Blade movies, including the then-newly released Blade: Trinity (co-starring Ryan Reynolds), spoke about doing a Deadpool movie:
I want to do something else with Ryan Reynolds because I really loved working with him and New Line wants to do something else with Ryan Reynolds and Marvel wants to do something with Ryan because there aren’t a lot of actors anymore that can do credible action and be funny and that are also good actors
The New Line version of Deadpool would specifically NOT be connected to the Fox films, as Goyer noted:
We would completely reinvent it. We can’t connect it to Weapon X or anything like that. We’ll see.
The New Line Cinema interest went nowhere and in 2005, 20th Century Fox got involved and eventually signed a deal for Deadpool’s movie rights and included him in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
These movie rights deals are typically based on a “if you don’t use them in X time period, then you lose the rights” situation, and that is likely the case for Deadpool, as well. However, Fox used him in a 2009 film and now a 2016 film and it appears clear that they have no interest in letting his rights lapse. As X-Men writer/producer Simon Kinberg noted well before Deadpool even came out:
There’s definitely a sort of overall plan that we’ve all been talking about for the X-Men universe now and Deadpool obviously fits into that. So yeah, I guess I would say it’s part of certainly an overall timeline and thought process that goes into these films, some of which is inspired by the comics and some which is inspired by seeing what Marvel’s done with telling a larger tapestry and linking all those movies together, even as they stand independently as well. The same kind of thought is going to go into these X-Men movies at Fox.
So while technically Deadpool isn’t included with the X-Men movie rights, it’s sort of an academic question at this point, as Fox will have his rights as long as they keep making movies with him in them and they A. clearly plan to do so and B. they are treating him as part of the X-Men universe.
But yes, while it is an academic question, the answer to the question (and therefore, the legend) is….
CBR’s own Albert Ching wrote an extensive piece looking into Deadpool’s movie journey that delved into this stuff in greater detail, but I STILL see people cite the whole “Deadpool is part of Fox’s X-Men deal” stuff, so I felt it was worth featuring this as its own legend.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.