Interview: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Writers of ‘LIFE’ and ‘Deadpool’
Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
HQ: Where did you originally get the idea for Life?
Reese: It originally came from David Ellison, the head of Skydance. He came to us with an idea that asked “what would happen if you brought a sample of life back from Mars to the International Space Station for study… and that sample was exposed to an atmosphere where it started to divide, grow and attack the crew.” Everything beyond that was the product of our research and our invention in creating the screenplay, and ultimately the movie.
HQ: How much research went into making Life as scientifically accurate as possible?
Wernick: We spent a ton of time on it. We wanted to make this movie as grounded as possible so that [the film] could happen today, and not 100+ years in the future. We do have Mars Rovers that are capturing soil samples, the International Space Station and all that goes into the technology and dynamic of that. NASA, the internet and Twitter is a pretty extensive body of information to draw upon. We used every resource we could while writing the screenplay.
Reese: Once we had a completed screenplay, we sat with scientists, geneticists, astrophysicists, and anyone with a PHD in the backend of their name that would take the time to sit with us to try and make [Life] as grounded and real as possible. That was the intention with the weightlessness in space in an effort to distinguish ourselves from the Aliens of the world.
HQ: How was working on Life different from your previous writing experiences?
Reese: It was different in that it was very smooth. Usually, our path to getting a movie made is very difficult, but in this case, we wrote the script, we sent a package of Hanes tighty-whitie underwear to Skydance with the script and a note that said “you’re gonna need this.” They loved it.
Wernick: And that was our first draft. The whole thing took about a year and a half, which was crazy by the standards that we’re used to. Deadpool, which took six years to make, where you’re just grinding, trying desperately to get the boulder to the top of the hill. In this case, it was incredibly smooth and everyone got along great.
HQ: Did you write Rory’s character with Ryan Reynolds in mind?
Reese: We always imagine Ryan in our movies – we have a great relationship with him that goes back to 2009… so many years of a wonderful creative partnership. He’s our muse and we always imagine him in every one of our movies. Movies like this generally don’t attract A+ talent, but [Reynolds, Gyllenhaal, Ferguson] really responded to the script.
HQ: Was it challenging writing a Reynolds character who isn’t Deadpool?
Wernick: Very different. He shares a little bit of DNA: the cockiness and the sense of humor, but that’s about it – it was fun to work with Ryan in a completely different capacity.
HQ: How important was it for you to establish such an epic feeling to the film with such intimate characters?
Reese: It’s both epic and intimate which is what we like about it. It’s intimate in that most of it takes place in this reasonably small space, but it’s epic that the entire earth is at stake. We felt like it was really a nice intersection of those two things.