Feature FilmIdeas/Commentary

‘Deadpool’ Shattered Box Office Records, But Here’s What No One Is Talking About

The $135 million opening weekend of Deadpool shattered a ton of of box office records, among them, biggest R-rated movie opening of all-time, biggest February opening, and biggest opening for Fox. The film notched an extra $125 million from international markets for a massive $260 million global launch, a pretty good start for a film that Fox didn’t even want to make.

There was one other record that hasn’t been mentioned as much: the biggest opening ever for a first-time feature film director. And even less acknowledged: the film’s director, Tim Miller (picture above, right), is a guy who’s spent his entire career creating animation.

Miller is one of the owners of Culver City, California-based Blur, the 21-year-old commercial studio known for its in-game cinematics on titles like “Mass Effect 2,” “Halo Wars 2,” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic.” Blur’s feature film experience runs deep, too, including the prologue sequence for the Marvel sequel, Thor: The Dark World, not to mention the titles for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Heaven & Hell sequence of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Films are a team effort, and you have to give kudos to the film’s star Ryan Reynolds, scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and the hundreds of other crew who contributed. But at the end of the day, it’s the director’s name on the film, and Miller, who has a self-professed $400-a-week comic book habit, deserves the lion’s share of credit for creating an unapologetically quirky superhero film at a fraction of the budget ($58 million) of other big-studio superhero films.

And don’t think that Miller’s experience working in animation didn’t have anything to do with his ability to deliver a vfx-heavy film at a reasonable cost. (Deadpool incorporated the work of 8 vfx shops, including Millers’ own Blur as well as Digital Domain, Atomic Fiction, Digiscope, Image Engine, Luma Pictures, Rodeo FX, and Weta Digital.) Animation directors have to fabricate entire worlds from scratch, which is why they understand almost better than anyone in Hollywood how much labor is involved in creating every element in a frame of film. Motion capture artist Greg LaSalle alludes to Miller’s animation savviness in this interview when he explains how the CG character Colossus was inserted into the film at the tail end of production after the shots and editing had been locked down.

For his part, Miller credits not just his animation knowledge, but his experience running an animation studio for helping him survive his first live-action feature. “This production is about the size of business my company does in a year sort of crammed into a six month period,” he told Collider. “So, I think just managing people and not having them hate you, utterly, a little bit maybe, but not completely, that was a big help.”

In that same interview, Miller talked about how directing Deadpool was fairly similar to mo-cap work he’s directed for animation, with perhaps a few key differences:

Ryan [Reynolds] is running this whole pizza scene in an apartment and it’s a three page scene and I could come over and go, “Could you look a little more depressed there and a little happier here and a little doubtful there,” and Ryan would just fold that into this into the whole performance in a way that, if it was an animator, I would’ve had to wait four weeks to see it, and Ryan does it thirty seconds later.

Over the next few days, we’ll be reading and hearing plenty about the outsized success of Deadpool at the box office, and a lot of people in Hollywood will attempt to take credit for its success. So, let’s not forget that the man at the helm, the director who delivered the goods, is one of our very own.

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