If you shopped for a Blu-ray copy of Predator, Fight Club, or Office Space at Walmart last week, you might have noticed an unfamiliar character dressed in red spandex with two katana swords strapped to his back. That’s Deadpool, and he’s not in any of those movies.
The Marvel anti-hero crashed the covers of classic Fox films in Walmart stores across the US last week to promote his new movie Deadpool 2, which hit US theaters over the weekend. The film had the second biggest R-rated opening ever, behind the original Deadpool, with $125 million at the domestic box office and another $176 million abroad, according to ComScore. This, while Avengers: Infinity War was still in theaters and just ahead of the next Star Wars release, no less. It’s thanks in part to the brilliant and shameless stunts Twentieth Century Fox pulled to promote the “merc with a mouth.”
Since taking on the role of Deadpool in 2016, actor Ryan Reynolds has adopted the character’s persona in real life. When he’s not tweeting sarcastically about parenthood, tickle fights, or chimichangas, he’s trolling Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman on Twitter or trading playground insults with co-star Josh Brolin on the BBC Radio 1.
The scrappy marketing campaign for the original film featured movie posters billing the bloody action flick as a romantic Valentine’s Day comedy, a Tinder profile for the mercenary, a Yule Log—err, “Pool Log”—with a flaming bag of poop, and other elements that hit on nearly every platform one can think of.
Marketing for Deadpool 2 began more than a year ago when Reynolds, in his Deadpool garb, impersonated Bob Ross to tease the movie. For Thanksgiving, Deadpool graced Good Housekeeping magazine as a special guest editor. He “learned” Portuguese ahead of the Comic Con Experience in Brazil. He released funny cards for Valentine’s Day in February, and an Easter coloring book in April, among other stunts. And fellow Canadian treasure Celine Dion was tapped for the movie’s soundtrack and music video.
Deadpool also appeared in ads for Espolòn tequila, Trolli gummy candy, 7-11 stores, and other brands. The marketing onslaught made it impossible not to have seen at least one ad for the movie.
Reynolds, as himself, performed an unsettling rendition of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie while dressed as a unicorn on South Korean TV, as well. This was presumably to promote Deadpool 2. But who really knows with this guy?