For the first time, a web series about fake movie trailers reached beyond movie buffs and comic book fanboys to the producers, studios and stars that make the real films.
ScreenJunkies' Honest Trailers, which has close to 1 billion views since its start in 2012, is now starting to leverage that burgeoning Hollywood relationship.
The Defy Media brand, which releases parody trailers months after a theatrical release, is out with its Honest Trailer for the surprise 20th Century Fox hit Deadpool. But this time it features the star himself, Ryan Reynolds, as the foul-mouthed fourth-wall-breaking Marvel superhero who plugs the film's DVD release.
For Andy Signore, Defy's svp of content and creator of ScreenJunkies, it was always his goal to get a celebrity to appear in one of the Honest Trailers, he just never thought it would happen. "And then Deadpool came around," he told Adweek.
Because the movie is chock-full of meta-humor and inside jokes about the superhero film industry, it ended up being the perfect marriage. "They're doing gags that we do," Signore said. "How do we try and one-up them?" The answer: get the star to poke fun at his own film.
In the weeks following the film's February release, Signore and the Honest Trailer crew began tweeting at Reynolds, the film's writers, and even started talking to Fox. One day Reynolds responded: "Hey man, what's up with this honest trailer nonsense?" Signore remembers. Despite being parodied in his first turn at being a superhero, the 2009 flop Green Lantern, Reynolds is a fan of the series.
While on location in Europe, Reynolds worked with Signore to record his voiceover. "He was very involved," Signore said. "Ryan does a really funny epic voice himself. He's doing Deadpool doing his epic voice."
And as its influence grows, Honest Trailers has become a part of the filmmaking conversation.
Deadpool director Tim Miller said their original idea for the post-credits scene—a staple of Marvel films—was to create their own Honest Trailer. "They didn't love it, they thought it sort of felt flat," explains Signore. The opening credits, however, were inspired by a fake-name gag that are part of all Honest Trailers.
Anthony and Joe Russo, directors for the two most-recent Captain America installments, admitted that knowing an Honest Trailer would be made about their films forced them to make sure their scripts were airtight. "We would just comb through the script over and over again and go, 'how do we shore up this logic?'" the brothers told Collider about writing The Winter Soldier. "It was a very helpful exercise for us."
"The fact that the Russo brothers try to Honest Trailer-proof their movies blows my mind," said Signore. And the brothers have thrown down the gauntlet to the Honest Trailer crew for Captain America: Civil War, which just had the fifth-biggest opening weekend ever. "They've said it to us now a couple times, 'Good luck trying to find something.'"