On the set of Suicide Squad with the worst heroes ever
Six years ago, it’s doubtful anyone but the most diehard and devout comic book reader would have any idea what a Suicide Squad was.
The name alone is one that has so many dark implications. “Suicide”—the act of taking one’s own life—is deemed such a negative term it’s surprising Warner Bros. would go ahead and make a superhero movie with that title. (In the more kid-friendly DC cartoons, they had been renamed “Task Force X” to dilute the concept’s darker connotations.) Even as a fan of the Suicide Squad in comics, I never fully understood the reasoning for Warners and DC making a movie about a group of super villains, especially at this point in time.
That’s partially why last year when SuperHeroHype was invited to go to the set of what would be Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s third movie in their post-“Dark Knight” DC Universe, I quickly volunteered. Having spoken to director David Ayer (Fury) a number of times in the past helped clinch my interest, because he’s an interesting guy as well as a talented filmmaker. (This is the guy who wrote Training Day, after all.)
The problem with these set visits is that most of the time, by the time you read our report, you will have seen any number of trailers, and you’re likely to know about as much or more about Suicide Squad as a movie than what we would learn almost a year earlier on set. Even so, this puts the journalists into the position where we have to act like detectives and figure out everything we possibly can about the plot, the characters and the tone just from talking to those involved… and that’s not to say that what we’re ever being told is the truth, so it’s also about dissecting what we’re told.
A Little Background
The Suicide Squad concept was first introduced during the Silver Age of DC Comics, but it wasn’t until the pages of the 1986 DC Comics mini-series “Legends” where writer John Ostrander took the name and decided the government of the DC Universe, at the time represented by one Amanda Waller, would put together a group of vigilantes and super-villains and force them to do missions together, wearing explosive collars so that Waller could keep them in line. They would literally be sent on impossible “suicide” missions and no one was safe. Everyone was expendable.
Will Smith is going to be playing Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot, the Batman enemy who has consistently been part of the Suicide Squad both during Ostrander’s run and in the past few years in which the group has had a resurgence. For the movie, they cast superstar Will Smith, who will be playing part in an ensemble movie for the first time in many years.
Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie (who just appeared as Jane in the recent The Legend of Tarzan) is a character fairly new to the world of Suicide Squad, having been brought in with 2011’s New 52 reboot by DC Comics. As a character, she was first created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for “Batman: The Animated Series” and after the popularity of her comic debut in “Batman: Mad Love,” she was eventually pulled into the regular DC Universe. Harley is famously known as the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who fell in love with the Joker and became his accomplice, despite his abusive and manipulative behavior towards her. What’s cool about David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is that the Joker, as played by Jared Leto, plays a major part in the storyline.
What’s amazing is that this will be the first time we’ll see many characters from the comics in any sort of live-action form. Sure, many of them have been portrayed in the cartoons like Killer Croc, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) for the movie, but we would finally be able to see other characters who have been around the DC Comics Universe for the first time, whether it’s June Moone aka Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) or Flash baddie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) or former Outsider Katana (Karan Fukuhara). Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman is playing Rick Flag, a character who has been involved with the Suicide Squad from its original inception and who has been associated with the group ever since, plus there’s lesser known villains like El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Slipknot (Adam Beach).
Beyond that, there are a few mystery characters in the movie, played by the likes of Common, Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors) and Scott Eastwood (whose headshot was prominently featured on the wall with no description of whom he plays.) Apparently, all these villains are in the prison Belle Reve as the film begins, possibly tricked by the Joker into getting captured, and then they’re enlisted by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) to take the Joker down.
No Fighting in the War Room
Suicide Squad had been shooting in Toronto, both on the streets of the city and at Pinewood Studios, for a number of weeks when we arrived, and they were in the middle of shooting a huge action scene where the Suicide Squad are facing off with… well, they wouldn’t tell us whom, they could be aliens or mercenaries or a mix of both. Because of the monsoon-like rains that had hit the city, they wouldn’t be filming on the main set that night and instead were shooting a smaller scene on the covered set.
With that in mind, our first stop was something they were calling the “war room,” a typical conference room in the production offices that was lined with photos and concept art from the movie. At the time, the production had just released the picture of the entire team posing in costume, but the room had full-scale pictures of each individual member by unit photographer Clay Enos. (He was one of many things that the production shared the movies directed Zack Snyder, who would be mentioned later.)
Suicide Squad costume designer Kate Hawley really had her work cut out for her with the film having so many characters and costumes, many of which we could see more detailed in the pictures around the room. Not only are there a lot of members of the Suicide Squad, but the Joker’s henchmen are also all dressed in different costumes. For instance, there was one Joker henchman who just had a giant eyeball for a head. Oddly, the adversaries the Suicide Squad is facing also have eyeball-like masks (or faces) and are dressed in military gear, but the Joker’s henchman are more playful looking with their costumes.
The pictures allowed us to see that Deadshot’s rifle has the words “I Am the Light-The Way” stencilled on it, and that Captain Boomerang’s namesake weapons have handles presumably to make them easier to throw and catch. We also saw a more final version of Enchantress’ costume as she’s carrying a sword and shield and is wearing what we learned later was a Mayan-influenced headdress. She still looked quite bedraggled, since it’s probably shortly after coming out of the cave where June Moon gets her powers, but we were told there is an evolution on how Enchantress looks over the course of the film.
We could also see details like that Harley’s shirt says “Daddy’s Lil Monster,” something which might not have been evident in the first group pic, but we also learned that Quinn has a number of different costumes. The Belle Reve prison that plays a large part in the formation of the Squad had already mostly been taken down, but we did get to see concept art of many of the cells including the entrance, which was emblazoned with the logo “Till Death Do Us Part.”
In the War Room, we had a chance to speak with producers Chuck Roven (“The Dark Knight Trilogy”) and Richard Suckle (“Scooby-Doo”) at length, with Roven telling us that they had begun talk about a connected universe while making Man of Steel with Zack Snyder. “Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ was a closed universe, only Batman was in it, so when we were discussing the making of ‘Man of Steel,’ which the Nolans also produced along with me, it was with the long-range thinking that we were gonna expand the universe and really open up the DC Universe to include certainly the most significant heroes and villains, in terms of the Justice League and the villains that those members of the Justice League were fighting against. We knew that it was going to be on the horizon, from the time that we finished ‘Man of Steel’ and started embarking on what the next movies were going to be. We didn’t know exactly what was going to reach a mature stage, and David Ayer came in and pitched a really amazing take. We pretty much greenlit the picture, subject to us reading the script and making sure that we could make it for the right budget.”
“David was pretty deep into finishing ‘Fury,’” Suckle added. “He came in and pitched out the story for his vision of the ‘Suicide Squad’ at the time, and it was really serendipitous as you guys were in your process of ‘Batman v Superman’ and part and parcel of the conversations of just expanding the DC universe, which has been a big agenda for Warner Bros.”
At the time of our set visit–almost nine months before the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice–they weren’t able to say how Suicide Squad might connect, and until people start seeing the movie, we still won’t know. Before we talked to some of the cast, we were taken to Studio 4 at Pinewood where they were busy building the interior of a train station that would be the location for a large third act battle that they were still working out.