ON SET WITH THE SUI­CIDE SQUAD

Dc’s most wanted on why it’s good to be bad

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Front page -

When Bat­man V Su­per­man was re­leased ear­lier this year it didn’t just prom­ise an epic clash of the ti­tans, it was also the launch pad for an Ex­tended Uni­verse road-mapped right through to 2020. Things didn’t ex­actly go to plan. Af­ter a crit­i­cal beatdown and toxic word of mouth, BvS made a rel­a­tively un­der­whelm­ing $872 mil­lion at the box of­fice, well short of the ex­pected bil­lion dol­lar bench­mark, lead­ing many to won­der what DC could do to earn back the good­will they squan­dered. The an­swer was al­ready in the can.

joker in the pack?

It’s July 2015 and SFX is at Pinewood Toronto Stu­dios, base of op­er­a­tions for David Ayer’s big-screen Sui­cide Squad adap­ta­tion. The fa­cil­ity’s hu­mon­gous sound­stages are cur­rently home to sev­eral of the tai­lor-made cells for Belle Reve pen­i­ten­tiary’s no­to­ri­ous in­mates, as well as a full-size train sta­tion en­trance mod­elled on New York’s Penn Sta­tion. A mas­sive bat­tle be­tween Task Force X – the su­pervil­lains forced to fight for their gov­ern­ment – and a mys­te­ri­ous, oth­er­worldly threat known as the Eyes of the Ad­ver­sary is due to be shot here later in the week, but to­day film­ing has moved to But­tonville Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port where the Squad, re­cently re­leased from prison and freshly im­planted with co­er­cive nanite bombs in their necks, are re­united with the gear con­fis­cated when they were thrown in the slam­mer.

While Har­ley Quinn (Mar­got Rob­bie) hacks away at her long hair with a pair of scis­sors and rep­til­ian can­ni­bal Killer Croc (Ade­wale Akin­n­uoye-Ag­baje) tears open his prison-regulation vest like a late ’80s Hulk Ho­gan, Will Smith’s Floyd Law­ton, aka mas­ter marks­man Dead­shot, has a mo­ment of in­tro­spec­tion when strap­ping on his wrist-mounted mag­nums. “Ev­ery time I put this on some­body dies,” he muses. “And?” comes the re­sponse. “I like putting it on.” Though the Squad boasts its fair share of psy­chotics, so­ciopaths and straight-up nutjobs, Dead­shot serves as the group’s level-headed leader. In prac­tice if not on pa­per, at least, with Amanda Waller (Vi­ola Davis) and her man-in-the-field Rick Flag (Joel Kin­na­man) still pulling the real strings. “[Dead­shot’s] the ra­tio­nal one of the group,” writer/ di­rec­tor David Ayer tells SFX dur­ing a brief pause be­tween film­ing. “Trust­wor­thy isn’t the word, but he’s the one that you could sit down and have a beer with. He’s sort of an axis to build the squad around.”

In build­ing the Squad Ayer went back

to the ’80s – namely John Os­tran­der’s highly in­flu­en­tial run on the Sui­cide Squad comics. “I re­ally stud­ied the Os­tran­der se­ries,” Ayer says. “I love the sense of Cold War para­noia and the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the Sui­cide Squad by the pow­ers that be; how they’re caught be­tween these mill­stones of gov­ern­ment and truly more im­pres­sive vil­lains. It’s such a rich world. I mean, any one comic is­sue can al­most be three films.

“And then you have the New 52,” Ayer con­tin­ues, “Which in­tro­duces some fan­tas­tic new char­ac­ters, like El Di­ablo and King Shark. I think [fans] are go­ing to be sur­prised by how much or­tho­doxy is in there, and how faith­ful this is to the DC canon, which I think is very im­por­tant. You want to be loyal to the peo­ple that have re­ally built the DC uni­verse, which is the readers.”

i think fans are go­ing to be sur­prised by how faith­ful this is to canon

the joker is prob­a­bly the best-known vil­lain in the world

But with the Squad’s mem­ber­ship con­stantly in flux thanks to a sky-high mor­tal­ity rate, how did Ayer set­tle on the fi­nal line-up, in­clud­ing sharp­shooter Dead­shot, psy­chotic pixie dream girl Har­ley Quinn, mil­i­tary man Rick Flag, Flag’s sa­mu­rai body­guard Katana, an­tipodean as­sas­sin Cap­tain Boomerang, firestarter Di­ablo, an­cient witch En­chantress and mas­ter of ropes Slip­knot? “It’s more of a gut thing. Like, ‘Wow, I want to see these char­ac­ters to­gether.’” Ayer ex­plains. “Ob­vi­ously, I drew on the New 52. And a lot of them were Bat­man vil­lains, so every­thing neatly tied to­gether.”

To that end Ayer en­listed the ul­ti­mate Bat­man vil­lain – the Joker. Jared Leto’s Clown Prince of Crime has been sub­jected to in­ces­sant scru­tiny since his rad­i­cal makeover was first re­vealed. The Joker isn’t part of Task Force X, how­ever. Ap­pro­pri­ately, he’ll act as the film’s wild­card, ap­pear­ing pre­dom­i­nantly in flashbacks which chron­i­cle the Joker’s cor­rup­tion of Dr Harleen Quinzel and their as­cen­sion to king and queen of Gotham’s crim­i­nal un­der­world. As you might ex­pect, it was the char­ac­ter Ayer had the tough­est time writ­ing.

“The Joker is prob­a­bly the best-known vil­lain in the world,” Ayer says. “If you look at him in terms of what he rep­re­sents mytho­log­i­cally – a force of chaos, a prankster, a trick­ster, evil with a smile – there’s some­thing univer­sal about him. The idea is what are the univer­sal qual­i­ties? And then come up with a fresh ver­sion that’s not dif­fer­ent just to be dif­fer­ent, but is the Joker and is that char­ac­ter, with a bit of a dif­fer­ent wrap­per and a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent ex­e­cu­tion. He has to be very re­spect­ful and el­e­gantly crafted, be­cause you re­ally are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of giants.

“He’s very much in the canon, but with some modern twists,” Ayer con­tin­ues. “He’s a bit of a modern vil­lain. He dresses con­tem­porar­ily. He ob­vi­ously has tat­toos. Yet at the same time, I went to great lengths to hon­our his look and his his­tory. I think it’s

im­por­tant that when peo­ple see the film, they will see the Joker. He’s al­most big­ger than the film, big­ger than the comics. There’s some­thing re­ally tran­scen­dent about what he rep­re­sents, and I feel like that def­i­nitely came through.”

His and hers

Along­side a new Joker, the film also marks the big-screen de­but of a live-ac­tion Har­ley Quinn. As well as in­ject­ing a much-needed sense of fun into the DCEU, Har­ley’s twisted re­la­tion­ship with Mis­tah J will power the film’s most im­por­tant sub­plot. “He loves her, but he can never ad­mit it,” says Ayer. “And he hates that he needs her, and it drives him even cra­zier. And she loves him. It re­ally is this epic ro­mance. And then it’s just this jock­ey­ing of con­trol. Was she cre­ated by him? Or did she cre­ate her­self to be with him? There’s all these in­ter­est­ing ques­tions.” With Amanda Waller re­cruit­ing the worst of the worst from su­per­max slam­mer Belle Reve to em­bark on a sui­cide mis­sion against a myth­i­cal ad­ver­sary un­earthed by arche­ol­o­gist June Moone (Cara Dele­vi­gne, who also plays En­chantress), the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion is: why should we sym­pa­thise with a rag­tag col­lec­tion of ru­inous repro­bates? “The fact that it’s not just an­other cookie cut­ter comic book movie. That it’s about bad guys, and you can go in and ex­plore their lives and ex­plore a dif­fer­ent moral­ity,” Ayer re­sponds. “You au­to­mat­i­cally like the good guy be­cause the good guy saves the kit­ten from the tree. But with the bad guys, it’s more of a cre­ative chal­lenge. How do you get an au­di­ence to like a vil­lain? That was the fun of the chal­lenge for me.”

As for build­ing on DC’s fledg­ling cin­e­matic uni­verse, Sui­cide Squad will in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments for fu­ture films to pick up on – in­clud­ing a cameo from Ben Af­fleck’s Dark Knight, who’s re­spon­si­ble for putting most of the Squad be­hind bars – but Ayer is fo­cused on his film first, which may come as a re­lief af­ter BvS’s heavy-handed se­quel set-ups. “There’s talk about how to mount a fran­chise and the busi­ness stuff and every­thing like that. I’m not wor­ried about that,” Ayer bluntly states. “I just want to tell a story about bro­ken peo­ple who want to come to­gether, who dis­cover that they can have friend­ships and they can form a fam­ily and that they can love each other. I just want to make an amaz­ing movie.”

Sui­cide Squad opens on 5 Au­gust.

i just want to tell a story about bro­ken peo­ple who want to come to­gether

Maybe not the su­per­heroes we need, but the ones we de­serve…

“Look, I thought you were great in In­de­pen­dence Day.” Cara Delev­ingne plays the En­chantress. Get­ting in some much­needed ther­apy.

Clearly a vet­eran of WWE cage fights.

You can bet Cap­tain Boomerang will be back one day… Joel Kin­na­man plays Rick Flag, Waller’s man-in-the-field.

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