Taylor Swift’s surprising new role – saviour of Marvel

A scene from Deadpool & Wolverine
A scene from Deadpool & Wolverine - Jay Maidment

It’s been a cruel summer at the box office but hopes are nonetheless high for Ryan Reynolds’s new Deadpool & Wolverine movie, which is on course for an £80 million opening weekend when it opens on July 26. However, that figure could be even more stellar should rumours of a Taylor Swift cameo in the superhero satire prove accurate.

Speculation has been building that Swift could join the Marvel universe – the chatter fuelled by her friendship with Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively, recently seen helping Swift cheer on her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, at the Super Bowl.

For Swifties and Marvel fans alike, the idea of the singer joining the MCU is too delicious for words. Having reinvented stadium pop with her Eras tour and singlehandedly fuelled the boom in vinyl sales, just imagine the influence Swift could wield over the ailing MCU. Forget Iron Man – picture the response to a Titanium Taylor. It would be the biggest thing to hit the multiplex since Swift’s own Eras tour film (which has generated £210 million and counting – more than the total box office of Marvel’s last film, The Marvels).

Whispers that Swift might be involved in Deadpool & Wolverine have swirled around obscure corners of the internet since last year. They went mainstream this month when a new trailer for the sequel, which brings together Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, featured a shot of a woman’s legs in costume from the thighs down. Then came a poster in which Deadpool and Wolverine hold hands while wearing friendship bracelets.

Swifties seized upon the thighs as proof that the singer was set for a secret cameo – either as the sarcasm-fuelled Lady Deadpool or Marvel’s own super-powered popstar, Dazzler (in her recent iterations, a dead ringer for Swift). The friendship poster was meanwhile seen as an explicit nod to the Taylor Swift expanded universe. Since the beginning of the Eras tour last year, Swift fans have taken to wearing home-made bracelets to her concerts, with the lettering arranged to spell out a favourite Swift lyric.

An added consideration is her close real-world connection with Reynolds and Lively, with whom she bonded after meeting in Australia in 2015. A year later, Swift attended a Halloween fancy dress party as Deadpool – wearing an outfit from the movie borrowed from Reynolds.

On 2020’s Folklore album she went so far as name-drops Reynolds and Lively’s older children, James and Inez, with the lyrics on the song Betty. When the couple had a third child, they returned the compliment by naming her Betty. Lively also directed the video to Swift’s single, I Bet You Think About Me in 2021 (from her re-recorded version of the Red LP). If Reynolds wanted Swift in Deadpool, all he would have to do was ping her on WhatsApp.

Swift is also friendly with director Shawn Levy. Last year, he, Swift, Reynolds, Lively and Jackman all attended a Kansas City Chiefs game, where Kelce was playing.

Levy was asked about Swift appearing in Deadpool in April – and appeared to rule her out, albeit with the caveat that it was better to put such questions to Reynolds. “I regret that I was not quicker to shut it down the first time, so I’m going to default to my very true situation, which is as much as we love each other, the fear of death is so intense in me regarding Ryan and how he desperately wants to avoid talking about all of these proliferating rumours.”

One suggestion is that Swift is to play Lady Deadpool – an alternative timeline version of Reynolds’s wise-cracking, edgelord anti-hero. But there is a competing theory that Lady Deadpool is to be portrayed by Reynolds’s wife, Blake Lively. He hinted as much in a video caption accompanying the latest trailer, writing, “I hope everyone gets to work with their best friend at least once in their lifetime… I know I can’t wait to finally do it.”

Another hypothesis is that Swift has been cast X-Men heroine Dazzler. The character, real name is Alison Blaire, is a mutant whose mastery over sound lets her turn sonic vibrations into lasers, strobes, and holograms. She is, in other words, a one-person arena pop machine. Dazzler even has a Clark Kent-style real-world career as a singer, dancer, and actor.

Reynolds, star and producer of the Deadpool franchise, has been coy about potential secret a-listers appearances (in all some 25 “surprise” superheroes from across the MCU are said to feature in Deadpool & Wolverine, with Jennifer Garner’s Elektra already confirmed). Asked directly if Swift would be in the film, he declined to say “yay” or “nay”.

“Straight-up dishonesty isn’t on the cards,” he said. “Movies like this, there’s so much speculation about so many people that might end up in the film. I saw one that was convinced Elvis was in the movie. Anything can happen, and that’s sort of what I love about this universe. Surprises are the essence of Deadpool.”

Deadpool & Wolverine’s director, Shawn Levy, has been equally vague. Levy told a podcast that Swift’s cameo sounded “like a great idea”. He added that one guest turn in the film “blew his mind” because it was “easy” to book.

Swift, it should be noted, has never expressed a desire to be in the Marvel Universe – and her acting roles have generally been in quirkier films, such as the dreadful Cats adaptation and David O’Russell’s Amsterdam from 2022. Why, then, have these rumours continued to ricochet around the internet?

A big contributory factor, surely, is that Swift herself has encouraged her fans to scan her work for “Easter Eggs” – below-the-radar clues that, pieced together, usually add up to something worth their attention.

Consider her repeated references to the number 13: Swift was born on December 13, turned 13 on Friday the 13th and her first number one, Our Song, has a 13-second intro.

She carried her fascination with “13” into her latest LP, The Tortured Poets Department – on April 6, she shared a video of a typewriter typing, “13 days until the Tortured Poets Department”. She also revealed the existence of the new album at the Grammys this year – during an acceptance speech for her 13th gong.

The gang back together: Taylor Swift, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds at an NFL football game
The gang back together: Taylor Swift, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds at an NFL football game - Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

None of that has anything to do with Deadpool. Still, Swifties have trained themselves to parse her work and life for hints of future projects, which has added to speculation about her potential involvement in Deadpool & Wolverine.

So could Swift-in-the-MCU come to pass? Sadly, it would appear a long-shot. Claims that Swift is to play a caped crusader in the Marvel spin-off was shut down recently by sources close to the film speaking to Entertainment Weekly. The odds are that Taylor Swift and Marvel are never, ever getting together.

Still, amid all the feverish theorising on message boards and social media, what’s telling is how much plausibility has been attached to the rumours. True or not, the chatter is certainly good for Marvel.

Master of her domain: Swift performing on her Eras Tour in Liverpool
Master of her domain: Swift performing on her Eras Tour in Liverpool - Gareth Cattermole/TAS24

The reason is simple. If ever a franchise could do with Swift’s golden touch, it is the ailing MCU. Yes, Deadpool & Wolverine is an outlier and will almost certainly mop up. However, other recent Marvel films have underperformed, and there is the broader issue of superhero fatigue. After years of pummelling us at the box office, this summer superheroes are conspicuously absent. We’ll have to wait until October for the Lady Gaga-Joaquin Phoenix Joker sequel, while Deadpool & Wolverine is the solitary Marvel-Disney release in 2024.

Usually, when a pop star goes into acting – such as Harry Styles’s abortive attempts to cut it as a leading man – it’s because they are the ones looking for something. Perhaps they want to branch into a career that does not involve churning out hit after hit or constant touring. Maybe they believe the screen is the best showcase for their talents.

In Swift’s case, none of that is true. She is master of her domain and does not require the approval of Marvel or of anyone else. If anything, it’s the other way around. Marvel was once an unstoppable force. But now it’s suffered through a string of flops and needs a miracle to help repair its losing streak. The truth is that it needs Taylor Swift a lot more than Swift needs the MCU. Without lifting a finger, she may have given Marvel the hit it badly needs.