MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Deadpool is covered by Fox's X-Men movie deal with Marvel.
As we discovered when discussing whether Marvel actually owns the rights to produce an Incredible Hulk film, one of the more confusing aspects of superhero movies is who, exactly, owns the rights to certain characters.
We know that, generally speaking, 20th Century Fox owns the production rights to the X-Men and their respective characters, such as Wolverine. We also know that Sony owns the production rights to Spider-Man and his respective characters, such as Venom. Marvel Studios and Disney own most of the other rights (with some interesting disclaimers, like the aforementioned Hulk confusion). There are times, however, when there’s debate about which studio holds the film rights to which character. The most famous instance of this arose with Quicksilver, who, along with his sister the Scarlet Witch, debuted in the pages of “The X-Men” but was also a notable member of the Avengers: Existing in a bit of a film-rights “gray area,” Quicksilver appeared in both Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and Fox’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past" (he'll be seen again this year in the sequel "X-Men: Apocalypse").
Another apparent area of confusion involves the film rights to Deadpool, whose blockbuster new feature includes a crossover with Fox’s X-Men characters. Most fans simply presume the Merc With a Mouth is part of Fox's overall deal with Marvel for the rights to the X-Men. Is that true, though? (A fan sent in this question, but I can't find the email. If they’ll contact me, I’ll be glad to add their name to the article.)
The simple answer is no, Deadpool's rights were not included with the X-Men in the deal that effectively granted Fox perpetual rights to make movies based on the X-Men and ancillary characters. Deadpool's rights were sold in 2000 to Artisan Entertainment as part of a larger agreement that encompassed more than a dozen Marvel characters. In the pre-Marvel Studios days, Marvel would strike a deal with pretty much anyone who thought they could produce a film based on one if its characters. For instance, Black Widow almost had her own solo movie before any of her fellow Avengers.
Artisan was purchased in 2003 by Lionsgate, and the Deadpool project appeared to be going nowhere. The following year, however, New Line Cinema, which produced the “Blade” movies, took an interest in the character. David S. Goyer, who wrote the “Blade” films, including the then just-released “Blade: Trinity” (co-starring Ryan Reynolds), spoke in 2004 about tackling a Deadpool movie:
I want to do something else with Ryan Reynolds because I really loved working with him and New Line wants to do something else with Ryan Reynolds and Marvel wants to do something with Ryan because there aren't a lot of actors anymore that can do credible action and be funny and that are also good actors
The New Line version of Deadpool would specifically not be connected to the Fox films, as Goyer noted:
We would completely reinvent it. We can't connect it to Weapon X or anything like that. We'll see.
New Line’s interest went nowhere, and in 2005, Fox became involved, and eventually signed a deal for Deadpool's movie rights. The character was included in 2009's “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” where he was portrayed by Reynolds.
These movie rights deals typically come with a ticking clock: If a movie isn’t put into active production within a specified period, the rights revert to the original owner. That was likely the case with Deadpool, too. However, Fox used the character in a 2009 film and now a 2016 film, and it appears clear the studio has no interest in allowing his rights lapse. As “X-Men” writer/producer Simon Kinberg noted well before “Deadpool” premiered: :
There’s definitely a sort of overall plan that we’ve all been talking about for the X-Men universe now and Deadpool obviously fits into that. So yeah, I guess I would say it's part of certainly an overall timeline and thought process that goes into these films, some of which is inspired by the comics and some which is inspired by seeing what Marvel’s done with telling a larger tapestry and linking all those movies together, even as they stand independently as well. The same kind of thought is going to go into these X-Men movies at Fox.
So while technically Deadpool isn't included with the X-Men movie rights, it's sort of an academic question at this point, as Fox will have his rights as long as they keep making movies with him in them, and they A. clearly plan to do so, and B. are treating him as part of the X-Men universe.
But yes, while it is an academic question, the answer to the question (and therefore, the legend) is....
CBR's own Albert Ching wrote an extensive piece looking into Deadpool's movie journey that delved into this information in greater detail. However, I still see people cite Deadpool as part of Fox’s X-Men deal, so I felt it was worth featuring this as its own legend. Thanks also go out to the reader who wrote asking me this question in the first place.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.