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It took an illegal act to get Deadpool made

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How leaked footage, and a tiny budget, allowed it all to happen

The R-rated Deadpool film was released today, and surprise! It's worth seeing. The film spent a significant amount of time in the show business version of development hell, and it took someone leaking early test footage before the movie itself was given a green light and a budget.

So who the hell leaked it?

"I've been trying to get it made for 11 years, which is crazy," star Ryan Reynolds said in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. "We developed the script six years ago, wrote this fantastic script, it leaked online, Deadpool fans went nuts for it, so the studio granted us a small amount of money to make test footage. This test footage that we shot then sat on the shelf for four years, as it does, they didn't do anything with it, then just a little under two years ago it leaked, accidentally, onto the internet."

We, like just about every other outlet concerned with pop culture, ran the story. Everyone loved the footage, and the film went into full production.

"Here's the thing, the fans freaked out and overwhelmed Fox, and Fox basically had to greenlight the movie," Reynolds said. "The problem is the footage was owned by Fox so it was kind of illegal ... I know that one of us did it."

The list of suspects is short: Ryan Reynolds himself claimed it was either Tim Miller, who directed the film, Rhett Reese or Paul Wernick, the film's writers ... or himself. He says he's "70 percent sure" he didn't do it.

The creative team behind the movie isn't shy about their love of the leaked footage, however.

"Oh my god, we were absolutely thrilled," Paul Wernick, one of the film's writers, told Variety. "If you go back and look at our emails after the test footage was made in 2012, we had said back and forth, 'How do we leak this? How do we get the groundswell support from our fans?' When it finally leaked in 2014 and got the reaction we hoped for, we were like, 'Here it goes!' This is confirmation we are not crazy to be passionate about this. There’s a whole fanbase of people clamoring for this movie."

That leak was, in fact, crucial. It was the film's last chance to be made.

"Had it not gotten that reaction, it would have been a disaster and the project would have been dead," Wernick continued. "We knew it in our bones this would be the reaction. We were thrilled and still to this day don’t know who did it. There is a very short list of suspects."

"The problem is the footage was owned by Fox so it was kind of illegal"

This isn't even the first time Reynolds has seemed glad the footage leaked.

"I was excited, because you can look back at an email chain from all of us, the core group involved in Deadpool, saying 'We should leak this, f—-,' like three years ago," Reynolds said in an interview with Yahoo Movies from early last year. "Saying, 'Hey, if this thing is going to stagnate, one of us should just say 'Whoops, I slipped it online by accident.'' And nobody seemed to want to nut up and do that, myself included. Someone did it for us, years later, when we all completely assumed it was dead in the water."

He then claimed he wasn't the one who leaked the footage.

"I would have, if I had known it would have caused [the film being made]!" he said. "Honestly, we all thought Tim Miller, the director, had leaked it. But I have since investigated that enough, in quiet moments when he was beyond the point of being penalized by anybody, and he said that he really didn’t do it. The initial [leak] came from Fox they think — someone recorded the footage on their iPhone and then released it. And then once that happened, somebody hacked into Blur Studios and got the original footage in high-res and put it online."

So it seems like the story is changing a bit in the telling, but who cares now? The footage was released, people loved it, and the film was made. Releasing an R-rated superhero film is still a bit of a risk, and the budget proved to be tight.

"We had to carve something like $7-8 million out of the budget in a 48-hour window," Reese told io9. "And we, as a group, just put our heads together, got creative, and said ‘How do we cut what is essentially nine pages out of a 110 page script?’"

Variety is reporting the film was made for $58 million, which is a remarkably lean budget for a film in this genre. Whoever did leak the footage? We salute you.