Ryan Reynolds canceled surgery on his arm to fly to China and charm “Deadpool” fans in Beijing on Sunday ahead of the franchise’s unexpected China theatrical debut.
Just last week, Fox suddenly announced that a re-cut, PG-13 “Deadpool 2” would hit Chinese theaters starting this Friday – the first time the notoriously blood-splattered and foul-mouthed series has passed the country’s strict censorship standards. The expurgated version was initially released in the US in December as a Christmas-tinged, family-friendly offering called “Once Upon a Deadpool,” which earned about $6 million at home and a little less than $1 million abroad. The original R-rated version debuted stateside nearly eight months ago.
The Beijing visit by Reynolds, who is Canadian, came at a time when Sino-Canadian relations are at a historic low following the December arrest of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, with China detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation. A third Canadian was sentenced to death at a sudden retrial of his drug-smuggling case in a move that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called “arbitrary” and cause for “extreme concern.”
None of that seemed to faze Reynolds. “It’s been a dream of mine for years to bring ‘Deadpool’ to China and Chinese audiences, so for me this is, uh, heaven on earth,” he told his Beijing fans on a whirlwind one-day promotional visit.
He had injured his left arm shooting the film and was scheduled to have surgery in New York on Sunday morning, but skipped the appointment. “This was more important. I was not going to miss coming to China,” he said.
But conquering the Middle Kingdom may be an uphill battle even for the revamped, censor-approved “Deadpool.” Most Chinese fans of the franchise will have already seen both the first film and its sequel by now through other means online, and much of the films’ celebrated humor is so culturally specific to the US that newcomers may easily find themselves lost in translation.
Superfan Alex Zhang, 17, had already seen the R-rated version of “Deadpool 2” months ago online, but planned to buy tickets to the new film out of devotion to “tall, handsome and strong” Reynolds, she told Variety, giggling behind her smog mask. “Of course I’ll go see it in theaters anyway. We have to see it – we can’t let the box office figures look too shabby!”
But Samantha Hu, a 21-year-old college student at the Communication University of China who’d seen all the “Deadpool” films, admitted that most Chinese viewers “probably just won’t get it.”
“There’s parts of the everyday banter that I don’t even really get, and often the translation isn’t really spot on, making it even harder to understand. But I always feel really happy when I’m able to grasp one of the jokes,” she said.
The film will be released with a Chinese name that translates to “Deadpool 2: I Love My Family,” a title that harks back to a classic Chinese TV show of the same name from the ’90s that follows the story of a family in Beijing.
Being shown a movie in a sanitized form intended for American children rankles, Hu said. “It’s kind of a letdown. It’s frustrating that in China, the things grownups actually want to see don’t get imported, though I’m still glad the film’s here at all.”
“Deadpool’s” Chinese fans have dubbed the character “Little Jianjian,” which Fox has loosely translated to “Little B—y B—,” though perhaps “despicable little guy” would also be appropriate, given the hard-to-define, negative-yet-endearing sense of “jian,” a trendy word at the moment.
At a presser, Reynolds laughed at the moniker. “I feel like my wife gave that to me first, but I guess China can get the credit.”
He called it the “perfect Deadpool nickname,” saying: “It could have been something much weirder, like ‘Hunting Wolf Blood-Chucker.’ I’ll take Little B—-y B—- any day; it’s the most fitting. In fact, ‘Deadpool 3’ should be called ‘Deadpool 3: Little B—-y B—-.”
Onstage, he posed with a Chinese opera headdress, hand drums and bright red sticks of candied hawthorns, a traditional Beijing snack, before China-specific movie posters featuring the same.
His team was already at work on “Deadpool 3,” he added, but didn’t directly address whether it would be made with Chinese censors in mind. He did say, however, that in the third installment, they were “looking to go in a completely different direction,” saying that “often, they reboot or change a character maybe like four movies too late.”