STACK gets the lowdown on The Suicide Squad reboot from director James Gunn and his cast.
Guardians of the Galaxy director-writer James Gunn had a very clear vision of how to reboot the titular DC characters for The Suicide Squad, deftly separating it from David Ayer’s 2016 PG-13 Suicide Squad and prepping the audience for a very different ensemble of incarcerated supervillains in his new (US) R-rated version.
Co-producer Peter Safran had no doubt that Gunn was the man for the job: “I remember the first time James pitched the idea and we learned that one of the primary characters would be a 200ft pink starfish. Once you get over that and you’ve bought in on the starfish, everything else is fair game,” he laughs.
Given the green light to make the movie of his own fantastical imagination, Gunn set about ensuring that his own take on The Suicide Squad would never be accused of being dull, determined to persuade audiences back into the cinema.
“If it’s the same boring three-act structure every time, people will be bored. I felt a sense of magic and purpose and destiny the whole time we were making the movie,” he tells STACK.
Gunn’s take on The Suicide Squad has already been described as hilarious, gory, unpredictable and completely insane, and STACK cannot disagree.
Clearly the same can be said about this cast while shooting the film at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios and on location in Panama.
“This is a beautiful dysfunctional family,” says Alice Braga, who plays revolutionary leader Sol Soria, one of the few non super-powered cast members.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney’s Boomerang, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag and Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller serve among the few holdovers from the original film, Gunn trawling for obscure DC comic book characters to flesh out his new iteration.
“I knew I wanted to bring Harley and Boomer back, but there were other characters I also wanted to use. I literally plugged into Google, ‘Who is the dumbest supervillain of all time?’ and Polka-Dot Man always came up near the top, so being able to take a character like that and give him heart was fun for me.
“I love rats so Rat Catcher was an easy one. I wrote Bloodsport for Idris [Elba] because I wanted to work with him, so it didn’t matter who the character was, it was more like, ‘Let’s find a character obscure enough that we can build our own cinematic creation for Idris,’” reveals Gunn, who has populated his movie with a host of forgotten DC characters including Sly Stallone’s King Shark, Nathan Fillion’s T.D.K and Mayling Ng’s Mongal.
Marking her third outing as Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie tells us, “I loved getting to play a Harley who is in the mindset of ‘single and ready to mingle’. I haven’t played that version of Harley before. She’s either been very committed to Mr. J or just fresh out of a break-up with Mr. J, and James inserted a lot of funny potential love interests throughout the film which doesn’t always end well, obviously,” she warns.
Pitting John Cena’s Peacemaker against Elba’s Bloodsport proved a genius move: “When you read the script, you see the natural rivalry between John and I and the natural dynamics of the whole team,” explains Elba.
While both actors became fast friends on set, Cena revelled in their onscreen rivalry.
“James cast a very wide net and everyone’s super-hero personalities are distinctly definable, except for Bloodsport and Peacemaker. They’re of the same skill-set and that really fuels their one-upmanship. They both want to battle for that alpha position [which] makes for some unique moments,” says Cena, whose Peacemaker costume – featuring a pair of snug-fitting “tighty whities” – created much debate and hilarity on set.
Casting Sly Stallone as King Shark was perhaps Gunn’s most audacious hire.
Ask Stallone how he relates to his character, he says, “I like that he’s on a high-protein diet, it works for muscle definition. And I think he’s actually more intelligible than I am. He has less of a slur.
“I’m a big fan of seafood but when I was offered this I thought, ‘Oh well, how do I pass on this?’ I would have preferred to play a grouper, but I’ll take what I can get,” he deadpans.
Gunn talks us through how he baited the Rambo and Rocky star: “I called him and said, ‘Sly! I wrote this role for you!’ And he goes, ‘What is it?’ And I said, ‘It’s a really stupid shark!’”
Stallone has the last word: “It’s great and I appreciate it. I owe you James. In the next Rambo, you’re the next victim, for sure.”
• The Suicide Squad is in cinemas on August 5