Kevin Feige on Hugh Jackman’s Yellow Wolverine Suit and the MCU Going R-Rated With Cocaine and Sex Jokes in ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’

Kevin Feige had but one request.

The Marvel Studios president was talking to writer-director Shawn Levy about plans for the studio’s upcoming blockbuster “Deadpool & Wolverine,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman.

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This was a couple of years ago, and Jackman had just confirmed his grand return as Wolverine after retiring the character in 2017’s emotional sendoff “Logan.” The 55-year-old Australian had played the gruff mutant with adamantium claws and regenerative abilities in nine films across two decades to much acclaim and, according to Feige, one glaring oversight. Jackman had never appeared in the character’s canonically mustard-colored costume.

“When we told Kevin that Hugh was in, the first thing I remember him saying was, ‘OK, but he’s finally wearing the yellow suit,'” Levy recalls. Not that Feige had to convince anyone. The director says, “We immediately responded, ‘Hell fucking yes.'”

Feige, whose long history with Marvel began as an associate producer on the first “X-Men” movie, remembers a time when studio executives wouldn’t allow A-listers to go near something as “bright and silly” as fluorescent Spandex — instead opting for black leather.

“Hugh Jackman having never appeared in the character’s most iconic suit is like being Superman in 10 movies and never wearing the Superman costume,” he says. “It’s a testament to Wolverine that it didn’t necessarily matter; the character is more than the costume.”

Now that he’s the boss, though, he gets to right that wrong. “When I realized Hugh was in, I went from studio mode to ‘you know you gotta get in the yellow outfit, right?'”

“Deadpool & Wolverine,” which opens in theaters on July 26, is notable for reasons beyond Jackman’s inaugural appearance in Wolverine’s uniform. It’s the first time that mutants (those Marvel characters were previously licensed to 20th Century Fox) will appear in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s the only installment in the franchise to land an R-rating.

The comic book adventure — a sequel to 2016’s “Deadpool” and 2018’s “Deadpool 2” as well as the 34th installment in the MCU — follows Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool a.k.a. the Merc With a Mouth as he leaves behind the mercenary life to become a used car salesman. But all that changes when he’s recruited by the organization known as the Time Variance Authority — which exists outside of time and space to monitor the multiverse — to help with a new mission. He teams with a reluctant Wolverine to save the Merc’s home universe and change the history of the MCU.

Feige spoke to Variety for a cover story about “Deadpool & Wolverine” and chatted about the early struggles to get the film off the ground, as well as the truth about that cocaine joke in the trailer.

It’s been five years since Disney acquired Fox, and “Deadpool & Wolverine” is the first standalone movie that dips into the new library of Marvel IP. What excited you most about integrating mutants into the MCU?

It felt almost like destiny. I’ve been at Marvel for over 20 years now. All those Fox characters were ones I’d never dreamed of having back purely under the fold of Marvel Studios. So when that happened, it was a giant surprise and a huge opportunity. The Fantastic Four and X-Men alone make a colossal portion of our comic universe that we now have access to for films and shows.

Ryan Reynolds told me that before Hugh Jackman joined the movie, the writers had one final pitch for you. And if you hadn’t said “yes,” they were ready to back away. Did you feel like the project was at that stage?

Oh, absolutely. We didn’t want to do a third one just to do it. We certainly didn’t want to take what Ryan had done so well in the first two “Deadpool” films and screw it up. There weren’t reasons for being. It seemed like it was time for either the rubber to hit the road or, as Ryan says, take the foot off the gas and retool. As I’m sure they told you, that was the exact same day that Hugh called Ryan and said, “I really want to come back.”

What conversations did you have with Shawn and Ryan about bringing mutants into the MCU?

Almost everything was on the table. From Ryan’s point of view, this movie was all about No. 1, Deadpool and Wolverine together for the first time, and No. 2, the exploration of Deadpool and his cast of characters when they have access to this entire other timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Deadpool makes a joke in the trailer about you saying cocaine is the one thing that’s off-limits. Did you really say that?

I didn’t say they couldn’t. But we were talking about everybody always being afraid of Disney-fying things. This is the biggest entertainment company in the world for 100 years. You should be so lucky to Disney-fy everything! But what people mean by that is shaving down the rough edges. We were open to everything. I had said there were some things that we could evolve. After about the 28th time you do a joke, sometimes it’s not as funny. Maybe I’m slightly prudish when it comes to drug use. But I was like “Eh, it’s not that funny” in passing. Ryan, of course, stores everything in his brain for later use as excellent jokes. And he added it to the script.

Ryan is known for obscure jokes and deep-cut references. Was there anything you had to Google after working with him?

No, there wasn’t. I know what you’re alluding to, and I’m not going to get into it. I’m an adult. I know all the references.

I actually wasn’t referring to anything in specific! Hugh and Shawn told me they didn’t understand some of Ryan’s jokes in the script.

There’s a line in the red band trailer — you don’t have to write this in the article for crying out loud! — about pegging. I know what pegging is; it’s in the first “Deadpool” movie. But there were people that I worked with and for who didn’t know what it was. I had to explain it to them.

This might be the first R-rated movie for many Marvel fans. How young is too young to see this movie?

That comes down to parental guidance. It may seem strange to say, but it is an immensely wholesome movie — with a lot of bad words and gore.

The filmmaking team chose to shoot in practical locations, which exposed the production to paparazzi. Is the tradeoff worth it since they don’t get the same privacy as they would on a soundstage?

That was very important to us. We didn’t want this to be a green screen box for all of the locations. We want it to be out in the real world, and that always comes with potential tradeoffs. We were in a lot of secure locations and places that were far away from prying eyes — with the exception of drones. It was a new experience for me to have paparazzi drones flying over flying over set. Sometimes things look cool in a behind-the-scenes photo, but most often, they don’t look great. I think people are savvy enough over the years to know that’s not what it will look like in the movie. That being said, Wolverine in that yellow outfit looks cool from any angle, drone or shot through the trees.

What is it that works so well about the pairing of Ryan and Hugh?

It’s their friendship in real life. Sequels and big-budget franchise films have a lot of pressure and money and expectations. They work best when most of that subsides to the background and it’s just a bunch of friends making something cool.

How central will mutants be to the MCU moving forward?

I wouldn’t say when but we’ve already hinted over the past few years at certain people possessing what will one day be known as the mutant gene. We’ll be very excited when we tap into it.

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