The scrutiny surrounding Suicide Squad has been intense in a way the few other films have seen. And feeding that attention were the steady stream of revelations about the onset antics the cast and crew got up to. At a press event, we got the chance to talk to director David Ayer and the Suicide Squad cast about it all.
While the outside world may have been poring over every image, every scrap of footage, and every interview, the cast and crew was creating characters and forging a real-life team.
“My character is the watchdog role, so I’m always there on the outskirts trying to get everyone in line,” said Karen Fukuhara, who plays Katana, whose sword takes the souls of its victims. In Suicide Squad, Katana is brought in by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to help him ride herd on the criminals that make up the Suicide Squad. “At the beginning of the movie I did feel a little like an outsider, but by the end of it we all become this kind of family. Offscreen, but also onscreen,” she continued.
Almost everyone talked about the freedom they were given on the film. “Well to me it’s really spectacular to be able to have source material and then you get to create,” said Will Smith about playing Deadshot. “Versus what Jared had to do, which I think was the hardest job of all, to take something that had already been committed to film.”
Jai Hernandez echoed that idea when he talked about El Diablo, which is based on the New 52 version of the character. In Suicide Squad, El Diablo acts as the only member of the team who shows remorse from the beginning of the mission. “I think he’s one of the lesser-known members of the DC universe so there was a little bit more freedom and liberty to sort of develop his backstory and all that,” said Hernandez.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc) agreed, “The great thing about playing a character that’s never been on screen before is there’s a certain amount of creative license to put your own twig on it.”
Which was something everyone did. Akinnuoye-Agbaje went to the Everglades to see how real crocodiles moved and incorporated that into his Killer Croc performance. “And David [Ayer] said he wanted him to be a cannibal, so I did research on real life cannibal and listened to confessionals of Issei Sagawa as they painted me for five hours every day,” he said.
Of course, Ayer also needed every actor to become part of a team, and quickly. As a movie, Suicide Squad has the characters bond over the course of a single mission. Ayer had a similar plan for the cast. “You know I had a lot of really talented actors who had to come together really fast and play a team. I was in the military and how does the military turn you into a team? They put you through a boot camp,” said Ayer.
“Boot camp” apparently worked. Akinnuoye-Agbaje said there was hours of physical training every day, sparring together, rehearsals, and therapy. “You had to bring out pretty much everything you could on the floor,” he said. “And that was important. It bonded us as a squad and it put you in the zone as a character.”
“There’s a lot of psychological pressure that was applied. There’s physical pressure to apply. But that pressure forges the team,” said Ayer of it.
“The rehearsal process was really different than any one I’ve ever done,” added Smith.
When I brought up that this process has become the biggest story of this movie, Ayer said, “Oh jeez. I mean, it’s just, you know, standard rehearsal process, it’s what you do.”
Which may be how he saw it, and the cast may have appreciated it, but nothing about this film went unscrutinized. Not that the cast noticed.
You’re somewhat aware of the buzz when it starts to happen when you’re making the movie, but I don’t think it necessarily informs your experience of doing that. It’s cool to know that people are thinking about it and talking about it,” said Courtney.
“That heat wasn’t there in the beginning, it was just a job we had to do. And our only task was to stay loyal to the material we had and do a good job for our director and each other,” he finished.
One of the other stories that came out was about the number of reshoots the film needed. “All the reshoot stuff was funny because it kind of shows a little naïveté about how the film process works,” said Ayer. “Because it’s a huge movie, it’s a standard thing.”
And of the fan reaction to it all? Said Ayer, “It’s kind of amazing. Look, I’m a fan. And I’m making the movie for other fans, so everything we make I know it’s going to be analyzed, I know it’s going to be cut apart, there’s going to be some punches.