Will Smith… or Won’t He?
Will Smith wasn’t able to come to the set that day, so we couldn’t find out directly from the actor what interested him in the role of Floyd Lawson, aka Deadshot, but Ayer had some insights for us: “I think for Will, he wanted to play in this world and this just seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I mean, Deadshot’s a great character. What’s great about these characters is that they’re pretty well known–to the fans they’re very well known–but there’s a vast audience that doesn’t know these characters, so it’s also an opportunity to sort of visually reinvent them and also to tell these stories of who they are. Deadshot, all these characters in the Suicide Squad world have this complexity about them. My pitch when I went to the studio about this was, they’re villains that don’t know they’re bad guys. They don’t know they’re bad guys. They’re just people who have made some really bad decisions in life and ended up in a bad place and are trying to do everything we want to do which is live, love, be happy. A guy like Will, who typically plays these very positive characters, to put him in a role with a little grey and a little complexity is perfect because he’s so sympathetic and he’s got such a good heart as a person, it comes across the screen. It just made sense.”
Although a lot of attention has been paid to the Joker and Harley Quinn, Ayer thought that Deadshot is one of the movie’s primary focuses. “I think it’s really Will’s movie in a lot of ways. I kind of built it around him and his character journey is a fantastic way to move the audience through this. Part of what I do as a filmmaker is find the film’s viewpoint and he’s a fantastic way to tell a story.”
“The head of the Suicide Squad, in terms of the true members of the Squad, is Deadshot,” Roven said. “Even when David was writing, I would say he really wrote it for Will. He had his eye on Will from the beginning and Will had seen David’s movies and was a big fan of his movies and it really came out of that, I think.”
“He was the first choice and they had known each other before collaborating on this film, so it predated that and their desire to find something and then this seemed to be a really good opportunity for them to work together,” Roven’s producing partner added.
See Ya Later, Adewale…
One of the characters likely to have a big impact on those who watch Suicide Squad is the first live incarnation of Killer Croc, played by an actor intimately familiar with what it takes to bring a comic book character to life, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known for playing Adebisi on HBO’s “Oz” and Mr. Eko on “Lost,” but who also got to play the beast Kurse in Thor: The Dark World. He was one of the first actors we were able to speak with on set, since he was actually filming some scenes in Killer Croc’s jail cell, and he did the interview in the Bronx accent he was taking on to play Croc.
“I discussed with David Ayer how we wanted to reincarnate the first vision of Croc in the movie,” he told us. “We wanted to ground him, really make him real. You’ll see that with the color of skin-tones that were used, which were blended in with my own, so that it was almost as if it was a disfiguration, a man that inherited a disease that gave him croc-like features and looks.”
“One of the reasons they went to a lot of detail in how to craft the mask was so that I could really do as many natural facial contortions as possible. Also, we decided not to use contacts so that you could really get to see the being, the soul, beneath the mask. We found that that really helps draw you into him as a being, as a creature. It’s different on several counts but mainly because of the level of detail that has gone into creating the sophistication of the mask and how real it is for me to be able to do the contortions.
“One of the great things about this character is the level of the prosthetics, the realness of it,” Adewale says about playing Killer Croc. “One of the things I had to do was practice a lot in the mirror with the prosthetic mask. I normally do that, but one of the reasons is to get a read on how much I have to push underneath the mask with my facial contortions or how much to pull it back. With this particular prosthetic it’s so real to life and so glued down on my face that it really mimics pretty much every facial expression I could do normally without over-exerting myself. And that’s one of the big differences between what I’ve done before. Kurse is full-bodied. This tends to be a lot more flexible and give you a lot more creative ingenuity in what you can do with your face.
“I did a lot of home research, to the point that I went down to the everglades down in Fort Lauderdale, watched the gators down there, spent hours videoing them, went in the ring with them,” the actor said about preparing to play Croc to the incredulous group. “Yeah, there’s a tourist thing. You can actually go in there. It’s really not that dangerous. They’re probably sedated. But just to touch them and feel them, and actually feel the texture of their skin, and the blood flow through them—its actually quite soft, especially on the belly—and to know that when approach them from a certain angle, because of their eyes they can’t actually see you. So you can actually get very close under here, but if you go in here you’re going to lose a hand.”
“Also, I studied a lot of video on how they kill,” the actor said to the rapt audience of journalists. “I was very intent on bringing the characteristics of a crocodile to him. So you’ll see in the movie, we’ve got these great signature moves, like what we call the death throw, where he latches on to his prey and they twist. We’re doing that not only on the ground, but in the water, so there’s a lot of movements. Even the way I walk, I walk like I’m moving through water. So he has this sinuous twist. When I was studying and training in the mirror, I did various walks but the minute I did that the whole prosthetic came alive and took another dimension. It was very creepy, but it was very, very animalistic. So we have this kind of sinuous walk like he’s walking through water even when he’s walking on ground. All of this came from watching them, studying them.”
Adewale also told us about Croc’s fighting style, which may be different from what we’re used to. “If you see crocs, they can be quite slow and sluggish, but the moment they move it’s very surprising how fast they are. And that’s how we were doing it. When he attacks he’s just like… “ With that, Adewale lunged at the neck of yours truly, which got a good laugh out of the other journalists. “And then he’s got you. It is really quite scary, and then seeing him bite somebody’s face off.” (Since this was intended as a PG-13 film, we were curious at the time how much of that we might see.)
One of the Belle Reve locations that was still intact was Croc’s cell, which is down in the lower levels of Belle Reve prison and it pretty much looks like a section of the sewer (and probably is). The entire place was rusty and dank with bones (leftovers from Croc’s meals) everywhere and there was an undercarriage to the set that was filled with water.
While it was fairly primitive, we did notice a number of cat statues on shelves around Croc’s cell which seemed odd. “I think it’s pretty much how he expresses himself,” Adewale explained when asked. “He’s very primal, carnal. He’s a creature, and those felines, those are his brethren, and so, if he’s making sculptures that reflect that. It may be a pet that he may have had when he was a child. Things like that. I was thinking today, after the battle he may sculpt people that he’s taken down, you know as symbols or trophies. He’s very creative. Again, another aspect that you’re going to see to him, just when you think you’ve got him pegged, he does something very surprising and makes these beautiful sculpted pieces. It’s a testament to the gentle, creative side of him. David is very much about bringing that out and juxtaposing it with the visceral, vicious, barbaric creature that he has to be when he needs to be. To me as an actor that’s some of the most exciting stuff to do because you have so much creative license. He’s a man who has become a croc. You can bring all these elements.”
There isn’t much else to say about the scene we watched them film that day as Adewale (in full Croc make-up and wardrobe) was basically standing in the cell as they drop something into the water, which we later learned was an entire dead goat wrapped in plastic—we only learned this because the crew was busy shrink-wrapping the plastic onto another goat while we interviewed Ayer. Yes, kids, it was Killer Croc’s feeding time and apparently he’s really into goat.
Raising the Flag
Although there will be other more well-known characters or played by more prominent actors, Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman is playing Rick Flag, the field leader of the Suicide Squad and a character that’s been connected with the team since its very first incarnation. Kinnaman himself has slowly been integrating into Hollywood after having great success in Sweden, most notably playing the title character in the 2014 remake of RoboCop—which also shot at Pinewood in Toronto.
On the day we spoke to Kinnaman, he was basically just training, but his body showed clear wounds from the large battle sequence they had been filming, mostly scars from shotgun casings that hit him. Earlier in the day, producer Rick Suckle first explained to us why Rick Flag was in the movie. “He is Amanda Waller’s right hand and is given a particular job–which is very much a part of the canon of the Suicide Squad–to keep the members of the Squad together, because they are a very dysfunctional family and not unlike the canon, they’re being asked to do something that they don’t really have much of a choice in, so I’d say it’s very close to what was created.”
“In the beginning it’s definitely less than ideal, to say the least,” Kinnaman says about the team he’s forced into leading. “I think this is just something he’s forced into, the same way the whole squad is. In that way, they’re all in the same boat in one way or another. He doesn’t have a threat hanging over him like the others do, but over the course of the movie allegiances shift and I think he starts to question his whole moral foundation and his whole look upon what duty is, and who is honorable and who is worth leading, and who is worth following.”
Amanda Waller is a Bad-Ass
While we didn’t get to talk to Viola Davis, her director had some thoughts on casting her. “She’s like a no-brainer,” Ayer says decisively. “If you think about Amanda Waller, she has to be scarier than the super villains that she manages. Viola is incredible. For me, I think I have the best time when she’s on set because she’s so Machiavellian and so devious and yet we’ve worked on this incredibly realistic, plausible character history. Where does she come from? Why is she like the person she’s become? In the source material, she grew up in Cabrini-Green and lost her kids to street violence. I’ve always imagined her as a person who’s bootstrapped themselves through the Federal Government and just simply out of force of will and the ability and capabilities, risen up to this incredible position of power. It’s like she’s a character who demands and commands respect but again is incredible grounded. What I’m trying to do is have each character have their own trajectory and their own history and their own heart and their own need.”
“She’s awesome,” Kinnaman agrees, as the actor and character who works closest with Davis’ Waller. “She’s phenomenal actress and she’s scary. She’s a cold, cold woman in this one. She doesn’t play around. She’s the kind of actress that switches it on, and we have fun around the scenes and joking around, but when the camera starts rolling she’s like (makes a serious face).”
Some Enchantress Evening
Enchantress is an interesting character for DC to be introducing into their movies. Not to be confused with the Thor villainess of the same name, DC’s Enchantress first appeared in the ‘60s in the anthology comic “Strange Adventures” as the alter-ego of one June Moone, an artist who stumbles upon a secret chamber in a castle where she’s given her powers by a mystic. She disappeared for a while until she was revived by John Ostrander for his original Suicide Squad. In recent years, she’s been more a part of the New 52 comic “Justice League Dark,” which itself is in development for the big screen treatment. (It should be interesting to see if the character appears in that movie as well.)
The movie is following suit for the most part, having June exploring a cave where she’s given her mystical powers, and she’s played by British actress and model Cara Delevingne. She also wasn’t on set that day, but director David Ayer said that Enchantress “leaves a large shadow across the scope of this film” and was hesitant to say much more about her.
“If you look at her origin, she emerges from this cavern,” he did tell us. “I imagine her as almost like this Paleolithic Goddess who was at one point sort of worshipped by primitive man. Again, it’s another character who has her own past and her own history. Her storyline and her evolution as a character figures very importantly into this construct.”
We already knew from visiting the costume shop that June will go through a number of transformations as the Enchantress, so she may already be a more interesting character in the movie than she has been in comics.
The Devil and the Steel
Two other Suicide Squad characters getting less attention (at least so far) are El Diablo and Katana, who add to the ethnic diversity of the team. El Diablo, aka Chato Santana, isn’t a particularly known character even among comic readers, but he’s been one of the more recent members of the Suicide Squad from the New 52, played in the movie by Jay Hernandez (Hostel). Katana (real name: Tatsu Yamashiro), played by Karen Fukuhara in the movie, was first introduced as a member of Batman and the Outsiders and has never been a Suicide Squad member in the comics, so presumably her inclusion was one of Ayer wanting to have a cool Japanese samurai woman in his movie. (Both of them will be appearing in the upcoming DC Comics Rebirth version of the group, maybe because Warners and DC saw how well that worked for Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics.)
While Ayer didn’t specifically talk about Katana, he did tell us why he decided to include El Diablo in the mix: “There really hasn’t been too many opportunities for a Hispanic kind of villain/superhero comic book character. He plays pretty important into this. That’s something that’s important to me, so I kind of cherry-picked him to pull him into this.”
“I grew up in L.A., and I’ve had friends that have sort of gone down that path and joined gangs and been in prison, so I’ve witnessed it firsthand,” Hernandez would tell us during his interview. “It’s kind of interesting because throughout my career, I’ve essentially avoided doing anything in that sort of arena, because it was just kind of the obvious choice and just something I didn’t want to perpetuate these types of stereotypes that were sort of pervasive just in media in general. What you see in terms of news and the characters you do see in Hollywood a lot of times when it’s a Hispanic guy from Los Angeles, that’s the root that the character tends to go, right? So I avoided it to a large degree for the majority of my career, but this is like a whole different thing, and it’s at a time in my life where I’ve played a lot of different characters that were positive characters that were what I was trying to do just in terms of giving people something other to look at other than those types of images. When I read the script and talked to David about it, I thought it was very gutsy; it was very unique. It’s a powerful storyline, and I just felt like it was a kind of an hour to be able to do that in a movie of this caliber to this degree.”
24-year-old Fukuhara isn’t very well known to American audiences, having done most of her work on Japan’s Disney Channel, but she also was a martial arts champion when cast to play Katana. She told us a bit about how she prepared to play the role. “I read through the Katana comics and then the Birds of Prey comic. I come from a very Japanese family so it wasn’t that hard to understand her as a person. In a way, she’s very traditionally Japanese, culture-wise and I think I grew up with that. That’s not necessarily me as a person, but I’ve seen it in Japanese dramas, Japanese books, things like that. I had knowledge on who she kind of is. It wasn’t too hard. I (already) had a lot of martial arts training in Karate. I did Kyokushin Karate for about four or five years, and then a different branch for three years, so I had a good amount of martial arts training. I didn’t have any sword training before. I took a couple private lessons for the audition. The audition consisted of a monologue and a martial arts demonstration and a sword fighting demonstration.”
As much as Fukuhara required hours of daily training for her sword-fighting as Katana, there’s also the aspect of the soul of her husband residing in the sword like in the comics, although we didn’t get any idea how that might be shown in the film.
El Diablo’s powers, on the other hand, are far more visual since he can produce and manipulate fire. “There’s some sort of practical aspects to the fire, and then there’s obviously going to be a layer of computer-generated graphics,” Hernandez told us about how those powers are created. “I think it’s gonna be a combination of both, but I think part of the reason why they use practical is for us as actors and also for light. I may be wrong about some of this, but trying to sort of create that digitally would be pretty complicated. So I think if they have a layer of the light in the scene, it does help sell it.”