Why Spiderhead took 10 years to make

“It was a short story that had appeared in The New Yorker they wanted to use as a feature film,” explains Reese. “And we fell in love with it. We fell in love with it so much that we told them we would be willing to write a spec script based on the material, without getting paid, with the intention of directing it ourselves.”

Then, as Reese puts it, “Life kind of got in the way.”

The pair tried to get the film going with them attached as directors, but then Deadpool became an active concern, with the first film and 2018’s Deadpool 2 consume a lot of the writers’ time over the next few years (they also worked on To live and Zombieland: Double Tap intermediate).

“We finally had to decide to step down as directors and find a director and that became the great Joe Kosinski,” Reese says. “Thank god we didn’t direct it, it would have been like watching a hand puppet show or something. It would have been terrible. But at least we wrote it to specification and eventually sold it to Netflix. Once Joe got attached and we started to get a path to a cast, Netflix eventually bought the script.

The cast includes Miles Teller (following in his third collaboration with Kosinski) Only the brave and Top Gun: Maverick) as Jeff, an inmate riddled with guilt over his crime, but who becomes increasingly suspicious of the drug experiments he has agreed to in exchange for a much higher standard of incarceration. Chris Hemsworth directs those experiments while Steve is Abnesti (renamed a bit after the story), bringing to the role a disturbingly superficial cheerfulness, stifling self-image and the threat of a monstrous ego.

“Chris is brilliant in the movie,” says Paul Wernick of the MCU star, whose… Thor: Love and Thunder coming next month. “We feel like he’s taken a very whiny, villainous role and made himself the hero of his own play. He doesn’t think he’s the villain. Actors, and Chris in particular, really want to dig into the backstory – why is he like that? – so we came in [Abnesti’s] father and childhood, and Chris was super collaborative throughout the process. The public has never seen Chris play such a part, I don’t think, and I think they will be pleasantly surprised.”