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Ten Minutes With: “Deadpool 1 & 2” Production Designer Sean Haworth

Time flies, or at least that’s what the proverbial “they” say.  Yet, it feels like a millennium since “Deadpool” rolled into theaters in February, 2016.  The film was a surprise hit and is primed to remain among the list of 2016’s top ten total grossing films (and that’s including the soon to be released “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Rogue One” A Star Wars Story.”)  It’s great to know that “Deadpool 2” is currently in production, with an anticipated release January 12, 2018.

Included in the returning “Deadpool” alumni is production designer Sean Haworth.  Recently, Variety 411 had the chance to meet Haworth after he participated on a production design panel, sharing select details about his work on films including “Tron”, “Ender’s Game” and “Captain America.”   While Haworth could not share any information about the “Deadpool 2” production design, he did elaborate on the design construction and strategy on this Variety 411’ers favorite “Deadpool” scenes.

Variety 411:  I wanted to ask you about the work you did in the scrap yard scene and the work that you did merging that world with VFX, because clearly there are VFX shots.  But it seems like there were a lot of really practical locations and practical affects that are involved.  Maybe it is a little more practical than I am thinking?

Sean Haworth: In that (scene) we had to be very selective about what we were going to do practically and what we were going to do in CG.  We had a lot of story boards and pre-vis worked out, but it was a lot of breaking everything down and deciding ‘well, this we can do in camera, this we can do in post-production and CG.”   There were a lot of hybrids where we would only build to a certain height and then digitally extend. But the fun part was I had a very close relationship with the director and the VFX producer and supervisor.  At the beginning it was just the four of us.  We had a clear idea where my work was going to end and theirs was going to take over – as far as what made the most sense for the movie, for the budget, for the time we had, and what would complement (the hybrid set) in the best way.  I remember when I first sat down it was just me and Tim (Miller, “Deadpool” director) and we did a lot of overviews of the whole scrap yard and what could be built.  And we (decided on the location for the) gimble and the titling deck.  Then Jonathan (Rothbart, VFX Supervisor) started a few weeks later and basically complimented that or said “This doesn’t make sense, we should do it this way.”  But the thing that was surprising is – after the movie was all done, I went back and looked at the original sketches , and it was pretty darn close to what we had first said when we sat down the first week and came up with it.

411: That must have felt very reassuring for you.

SH: Yes.  Sometimes you are involved early on with all the visual effects and post production approach.  A lot of times you are not, but this is one of the cases where I was on early enough and had a real great rapport with the VFX team.

411: One thing I really must discuss with you is the opening shot, and the design elements that went into the taxi cab.  The way that sequence is composed, the whole story is basically told through the course of that car crash, where all these elements that compose the interior fly towards you.  What was it like working on something like that?  Do you have a really good discussion about how everything should happen as it unfolds in the camera and with the VFX?

SH:  Yes, and in that case stunt work, and working with stunts and in camera, was crucial from the start because the space was so confined.  Tim always had a clear idea of what he wanted for that sequence and he had already done some tests on his own, just to get the job in the first place.    It was up to us to figure out “OK how do we do this practically”  So we had a lot of discussions as to what element was needed, how it was going to be done in camera, and how the car was going to split and come apart so we could actually get the camera in and shoot it properly.  It was a very tight space.  Then we said “OK well, how do we get the actor actually thrown from the back seat to the trunk, how do we rotate around the actors and not see the glass or the pillars?”  It became more of a technical issue of how to pull the roof off, how the seat was going to come apart, you know, how do we get the camera below the floor boards.  It was a lot of work and a lot of planning.

But it was creative in the sense that it was “How do we get the practicals to actually do it.”  We did a lot of rehearsals with that, too.  Then we realized there were some things you could not do.  There was not enough room to throw the actors backwards and into the dash, so we had to reconfigure the stunts.  We actually mocked up the interior of the cab, just so the stunt guys could rehearse in it.  They could practice, then come back to us and say, “OK, we need this to be filed away, and we need the whole dash to be made in rubber.”  We created a rubber dash that we could interchange, so that when he gets slammed into it he has a rubber version of it.  Then VFX would come back and say “well, we have to put the graphics in for the radio, can you provide the graphics for the radio?”  There were times when we could not get the shot or the angle we wanted, so we literally had to get the actors in a green screen with no interior at all.  It became a lot of little pieces that came together.  It was a lot of fun.

411: How many versions of that set did you actually make?  Especially recognizing that it was deconstructed and shot in bits and pieces.

SH: Oh God, well we had…we never shot practically in the room.  It was all shot in green screens since we had very complicated set.  We had a practical set that was very complicated with projection screens to mimic light moving.  We imposed the background so we had green screens for all that.  We had a unit doing all the plate photography in Detroit -all the exteriors you see are all from Detroit.  Then we had another completely CG environment with CG actors to do all the stunts that couldn’t be re-created practically.  We also had different versions of cars that could come apart any number of ways:  we could remove the roof, the pillars, the vents, all the frame, the bottom pans – you could get the camera underneath the bottom looking up through the legs and up at the actors, it was a very, very tight spot to work in .  We had a lot of different combinations for a lot of different takes.

411:  And you will be working on “Deadpool 2”?

SH: Yes, I am going to go back.  It’s going to be fun because it is the same team. Tim wants everybody back, we’re probably going to go back to Vancouver, and we will have…oh, wait, I can’t say any more.

(Both laugh.)

411: Did you get to choose a lot of your crew, or are there specific people that you worked with before that you were able to bring with you?

SH: No, this is one of the cases where I came to Vancouver and I didn’t know anybody, so I had a couple of weeks to interview everybody and find the right people.  I had some colleagues that had worked up there so we shared a lot of information.  I found an amazing crew and everybody who is available is coming back.  It will be fun because there won’t be any start up time; we will be hitting the ground running.  Tim pretty much know everybody by name.  Tim is a fun director to work with, so we will be continuing right where we left off.