“Deadpool & Wolverine” Director Shawn Levy Reveals Who Encouraged Him to Meet Ryan Reynolds: Hugh Jackman (Exclusive)

Long before Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy joined forces for the upcoming ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ costar Hugh Jackman predicted they’d hit it off

<p>Michael Loccisano/WireImage</p> (Left-right:) Hugh Jackman, Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds in 2022

Michael Loccisano/WireImage

(Left-right:) Hugh Jackman, Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds in 2022

Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy are more than just actor and director to each other. As the Deadpool & Wolverine director tells PEOPLE, “Ryan and I have become extremely close friends.”

How much time does the dynamic duo spend together? “A lot,” says Levy, 55, at CinemaCon on April 11. “More than I've spent with any male friend since literally high school.”

The two Canadian filmmakers live in New York City “half a block from each other," he says, "so it's all very intertwined — which makes it very convenient for two guys who work as hard as we do.”

Reynolds, 47, has collaborated as both star and producer with Levy on 2021’s Free Guy, 2022’s The Adam Project and now Deadpool & Wolverine, reprising his role as the irreverent Marvel Comics character.

Related: Ryan Reynolds Celebrates 'Deadpool' 's Fifth Anniversary with Letter to Fan that 'Never Got Mailed'

His costar, it turns out, foretold the long and prosperous friendship between Levy and Reynolds. “You know who predicted it?” the director and co-writer reveals. “Hugh Jackman.”

<p>Bav Media / SplashNews</p> (Left-right:) Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds filming "Deadpool & Wolverine"

Bav Media / SplashNews

(Left-right:) Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds filming "Deadpool & Wolverine"

On the set of his 2011 movie Real Steel starring Jackman, recalls Levy, “Hugh said, ‘For what it's worth, if you ever meet and work with Ryan Reynolds, you're never going to stop.’"

“That was 2010,” he adds with a grin. “Hugh Jackman, the prophet — a little known special talent.”

What does Levy remember about meeting Reynolds and watching Jackman’s prophecy come true? “I met Ryan about a movie we didn't end up making together — that I'll never name — and we just had an ease with each other,” he tells PEOPLE. “But it really, really manifested on our first time [sitting] down to talk about Free Guy.”

He continues: “It was a script that was about video gaming, but we had other themes and messages in mind. And we just connected in terms of wanting to give audiences a movie that transports them, makes them laugh, and isn’t embarrassed about being big-hearted.”

Related: Taylor Swift Has All-Star Hangout with Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman and Deadpool Director

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Deadpool & Wolverine features Reynolds’ masked anti-hero forging a testy friendship with Jackman’s mutant — a character he first played in 2000’s 20th Century Fox movie X-Men and had retired in 2017 before agreeing to join the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Levy says that the philosophy he and Reynolds bonded over and brought to Free Guy continued with their new collaboration. “Maybe it’s our shared Canadian-ness,” he quips. Deadpool & Wolverine “is funny as hell. It is audacious. It is action-packed and gnarly. But it's ultimately a character journey of these two characters and it's big-hearted in the telling of that story.”

<p>Getty</p> (Left-right:) Shawn Levy; Ryan Reynolds; Hugh Jackman


(Left-right:) Shawn Levy; Ryan Reynolds; Hugh Jackman

Before receiving the Director of the Year Award from CinemaCon in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace April 11, Levy previewed a sequence of footage from Deadpool & Wolverine. The crowd glimpsed Reynolds’ Wade Wilson attempting to create a normal life before being convinced by Matthew Macfadyen's Time Variance Authority agent to undergo a mission — one that relates to Disney’s Marvel properties themselves.

Related: Hugh Jackman Shares Gym Selfie Video While Training for Deadpool 3: 'Becoming Wolverine Again'

Following 2018’s Deadpool 2, the sequel marks Deadpool’s first official MCU entry. The previous installments were produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox prior to Disney's purchase of the studio and rights to Deadpool and other X-Men characters.

As of April, Levy is still amid the editing process for Deadpool & Wolverine. He and Reynolds, he tells PEOPLE, “will talk about Deadpool as someone else. ‘Hey buddy, we can extend that shot of Deadpool here.’ He's like, ‘No, I think we got to be on Deadpool a little longer.’

Shawn Levy and Geena Davis at the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards on April 11
Shawn Levy and Geena Davis at the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards on April 11

“Because in the suit, in the mask, on screen, it becomes something else. It becomes, frankly for me, something bigger and more iconic. So we do occasionally use third person.”

The character’s larger-than-life presence will return to the big screen in Deadpool & Wolverine, in theaters July 26.

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