DC comics is home to iconic superheroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman & The Flash all of who team up in next years ‘Justice League’ movie, but the good guys can’t have all the fun, behind every hero there’s a bad guy waiting to outsmart them. ‘Suicide Squad’ gathers many classic villains from the comics for the first time in a movie written and directed by David Ayer. Amongst the team of super villains is The Joker (Jared Leto), Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) & Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
As a comic book fan, what is it about the’ Suicide Squad’ that resonates with you and sparked you on this journey to make the film?
They’re complex; they’re bad guys. Bad guys do cool stuff and play by a different set of rules. I think bad guys are always the coolest characters in movies because good guys are so predictable. You know in any given situation what the good guy is going to do so it’s hard to get ahead of the audience. But the bad guy is always going to be a wild card. Plus, the good guys are already loved and embraced by the world. The bad guys have a little bit of baggage they’ve got to work through [laughs].
In writing the screenplay, how did you balance decades’ worth of DC Comics and your own vision for this story and these characters? While I was writing, I always kept the characters’ differences and behaviors in mind, but the comics are always first, in a way. That’s where everything comes from – it’s the source material – so I did a lot of research. I had stacks and stacks of comic books in my office, and I studied them like an archeologist, just trying to understand who these characters are, where they’re coming from, and how they reflect the times in which they were created.
What’s interesting is that the heyday of ‘Suicide Squad’ is the paranoid Cold War ‘80s, and that paradigm also seemed to fit into today’s world. You have these bad guys being used by the government, and you can see our government today leaning on not so traditional ways to solve its problems.
I can see how Deadshot would not work well with others, but he falls into the role of the leader to the Squad – almost by default. What did Will Smith bring to the role, and how much of that group dynamic was informed by his presence as an actor? Will is Deadshot, on and off the screen. He has such a fantastic history as an actor and has been in so many amazing projects. The cast really looked up to him that way. And on set, he has this wonderful energy. He was definitely the more level-headed, rational one of the group.
Will is a natural leader and really feels like the Squad’s leader as Deadshot, but everything is always reluctant with him. Deadshot is going to get anything he wants in the world, so the journey for him is figuring out how to get along with people to be that leader. And Will is incredible in this. He does fantastic work.
Can you talk about bringing such a big cast together and how the actors brought these characters to life? It really feels like a high-powered cast and one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a while. The great thing about this cast is that they’re all perfectly tuned to each of their roles and have incredible chemistry together. These aren’t easy characters to portray, but as a director, I like to cast actors who already have the characters within them. That is incredibly important to me, and the cast really came together beautifully.
Today, it’s unimaginable that anybody else but Margot [Robbie] could be Harley Quinn, but that’s what I saw at the time. Margot was one of the first to be cast, and it was just hand-in-glove. She did an incredible job, and really became that character. Viola Davis is unbelievable and has phenomenal range, and Amanda Waller is a character who is formidable in her own right and, you can argue, might even be a sociopath. Yet now, again, it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role.
Cara Delevingne was also one of the earliest people I cast. I had this vision of a beautiful Enchantress with an angelic face who is really up to no good, and Cara is just perfect for the role because she is those things. Adam Beach just leaps off the screen as Slipknot. And as Boomerang, Jai Courtney delivers a performance that is unlike anything you’ve seen from him before. I gave Jai license to really be bad, and I think, for the whole cast, it was just a fantastic opportunity to step outside of the boundaries of what is considered normal.
Most of the characters in ‘Suicide Squad make their movie debut in your film, but The Joker has been a big screen fixture for decades. What went through your mind as you approached casting this role, and how did Jared Leto make this new iteration of The Joker come alive onscreen? It’s a terrifying process. This is a character that is the best known bad guy – the best known villain – in fiction, hands down, which is incredible. The Joker has been around since 1941 or so and is truly a cultural icon. You’re stepping into huge shoes – and I think you can only do that with reverence and trepidation – and Jared really is the ideal guy to do it.
He’s the classic method actor. He studied various people and historical figures and did vast, vast amounts of research across many different fields to assemble this character. You have to be absolutely courageous as an actor to take on a job like that. In that regard, he has my full respect. And then to have the hard work pay off, to have that miracle happen, and to watch this new Joker come to life was just spectacular for me as a filmmaker. It’s incredibly faithful to canon – you just see a second of him on screen and you know who it is – yet this is a Joker we haven’t seen. I mean, it takes such courage to do that, and I’m really proud of how well Jared pulled it off.
While comic books have traditionally been a male-dominated genre, the female characters in ‘Suicide Squad’ are as fierce, complex and powerful as their male counterparts. Is that something you set out consciously to do? It’s funny because I didn’t really categorize anybody in that way. These are cool, badass characters that happen to be ladies, if you can call them that. Obviously, Harley Quinn is just distorted, insane and has her own unique way of thinking, but she’s powerful. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is just commanding and clearly in charge. She just dominates every room that she’s in. Cara as the Enchantress and Karen Fukuhara as Katana – they’re physical, scary, powerful and tough.
It’s just something that’s part of our world today – there are some tough women out there in positions of leadership, and our movies need to show that too.
Super Heroes have been embedded in our culture for decades as aspirational figures, but what do you think it is about Super-Villains, particularly the characters in ‘Suicide Squad’, that we connect to so deeply? We have a strong mythological connection to the good guy. The heroic tradition goes back thousands of years – but the anti-hero goes back just as long. In comics, so many Super Heroes are heroes to begin with. They’re brave, loyal, selfless – qualities you don’t necessarily associate with the bad guys. These are the last people you’d ever expect to be heroes, but they rise to the occasion.
That’s what’s fun about this story – you get to meet this crazy family, watch them go on this journey together, and discover – as they discover – that they’re capable of incredible things. In some ways, it’s the classic hero’s path, but I think it’s what separates us from a lot of movies in this genre – that journey. For me, there’s just something more accessible, exciting and universal about it.