Nobody had expected that: Right at the beginning of “The Suicide Squad” there was a crazy slaughter on the beach of Corto Maltese – and our interview with James Gunn begins with two questions about this scene …
+++ Warning: spoilers for the first scenes of “The Suicide Squad”!
James Gunn misled us quite cleverly with “The Suicide Squad”: So we naturally assumed that the 13 Suicide Squad members presented in advance would be sent on a mission together. But then the film begins – and right at the first big action scene seven potential main characters are brutally slaughtered: Weasel (Sean Gunn), TDK (Nathan Fillion), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Javelin (Flula Borg), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and Savant (Michael Rooker) went back before we even got to know them.
So when we meet James Gunn for an interview, we have two questions straight away: How did he decide which characters die in the beginning and which survive? And how much Amanda Waller is actually in him? After all, just like the unscrupulous leader of the Task Force X program, he also lets heaps of figures jump over the blade – apparently without batting an eyelid …
MOVIE STARTS: How much Amanda Waller is in you?
James Gunn: I actually felt very connected to her because I write the story and put these characters in dangerous situations. And even if I grow fond of them more than Amanda Waller does, I’ll let them die anyway. I’m really Amanda Waller, which is sad because somehow she really is the bad guy. My Amanda is pretty nasty, probably a little nastier than in the comics, although she’s pretty nasty there too. Viola Davis is so angry when she is Amanda Waller, she gets that kind of look in the eye – and then having to give her stage directions can be pretty scary …
FILMSTARTS: How did you decide which characters would die first?
James Gunn: History and characters are organically linked. I first came up with a basic story and then I added the characters – and sometimes a character like Harley goes in a direction I didn’t expect. But all characters who die were written that way before they were cast, apart from the characters from the first film, of course. And I wrote Bloodsport especially for Idris Elba.
All deaths were necessary to history.
MOVIE STARTS: Do you regret the death of a character?
James Gunn: No, because all of these deaths were necessary to history. It would be silly if so many characters die at the beginning and then the others are safe afterwards. But that doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t bleed a little every time …
MOVIE STARTS: “The Suicide Squad” is a complete restart, the one with the five year old “Suicide Squad” officially should have nothing more to do. Still, you brought back some characters and their actors. How come?
James Gunn: Harley and Amanda are two of my all-time favorite characters. But I also really appreciate Joel Kinnaman and Rick Flagg, so I was sure that we could portray this character differently and give Joel something new to do.
MOVIE STARTS: What are your favorite new characters?
James Gunn: When I started writing, I was very amused that I would make Polka-Dot Man a central figure. Back then I was looking for the “dumbest DC characters” on the internet. Polka-Dot Man was at the top almost everywhere. And giving such a figure as much dignity as possible was an exciting challenge for me. I had to wonder how I could make him as believable as possible, even though his name is Polka-Dot Man and he’s shooting polka-dots. It was similar to “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, after all, there is a talking raccoon. But I also really like King Shark, I knew from the start that he would be there.
FILMSTARTS: And which new character are you most proud of?
James Gunn: Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, because we really discovered her. We searched all over the world, like Star-Lord and Mantis from Guardians Of The Galaxy, and we had a lot of very famous and a lot of completely unknown people auditioning.
MOVIE STARTS: How did it come about that Starro is the bad guy?
James Gunn: I chose Starro because I just like the character and have always liked it. He’s one of the biggest and weirdest supervillains DC has in store. But I wanted to take my time before Starro’s appearance because it’s not about him, but about the characters and their relationships to one another. It’s funny and goofy, but also pretty creepy with those little stars coming out of it and attaching to people’s faces and controlling them. It always scared me as a child, I still carry it around with me.
MOVIE STARTS: Are there any other obscure DC characters you’d like to tackle?
James Gunn: There are so many great characters. For example, I love the Metal Men if you know them. Ever since I was a kid. But that doesn’t mean I want to make a film about her.
That’s how the shooting went
MOVIE STARTS: John Ostrander, the inventor of the Suicide Squad, appears in “The Suicide Squad” as Dr. Fitzgibbon – and you’ve already revealed that his comics were a huge inspiration. Were there any other role models?
James Gunn: Adam Glass’ “Suicide Squad” from New 52. Those comics reminded me how much I liked the Suicide Squad and I thought even then that I would like to do it as a movie. That must have been 2010. And while I was still thinking about it, a short time later I was offered Guardians Of The Galaxy. And then David Ayer did “Suicide Squad” at DC while I was at Marvel and I thought, “Ahh, damn, I would have loved to do that too.” I felt the same with “Shazam!” By the way.
Torture session as the most beautiful filming memory
MOVIE STARTS: How was your experience, this time working with Warner Bros. instead of Disney and Marvel?
James Gunn: I had a lot of fun. I know Warner doesn’t have a good reputation right now. I cannot judge whether this is deserved or not because I was not there at the time. But for me I can say: There has never been a studio that has supported me so much. You were amazing.
FILM STARTS: What is your favorite memory from the set?
James Gunn: That sounds strange now, but the scene in which Harley is tortured. [lacht] Because it’s a very simple scene. Only Margot Robbie as Harley and Joaquín Cosío who tortures her. All around there were a lot of exhausting, complex scenes, but here we could only concentrate on this scene for a whole day. And we just had so much fun on set. The camera ran great, Margot was great. By the way: The scene, that stunt, in which she takes the key with her toes and then leans back and unlocks the lock with her feet: that was Margot Robbie. She really did it herself.
MOVIE STARTS: Was there anything you couldn’t do?
James Gunn: There is nothing I couldn’t do. I knew from the start that I would have a lot of freedom. And I felt obliged to the film and the fans and myself to take advantage of this freedom and do something that is different. And I did my best. There have only been three or four other people in the history of cinema who have had the chance to make a film on such a budget and without any restrictions. And in an existing franchise, it was probably the first time.
MOVIE STARTS: What was it like to make an adult rated superhero movie?
James Gunn: That was a lot of fun. I really didn’t expect the movie to be this brutal. There was even a part that was even more brutal, but I thought it was going to be too much. But then I censored myself. And in general: I hate it when in a war film like this there are people who shoot at each other but you don’t see any blood, and thus the effects of violence are hidden. So if I hadn’t had adult clearance, I would have instead had them attack an island full of robots that you can tear apart without getting an R rating.
The future of DC & Marvel
MOVIE STARTS: The DC Universe is currently in a state of upheaval. What do you wish for the future: a system like Marvel with its coherent continuity? Stand-alone stories like “Joker” and “The Batman”? Or something completely different?
James Gunn: Something else. I believe there is a balance between these things. Marvel does what they do exceptionally well. Especially since Kevin Feige really has all the reins in his hand and can switch and do whatever he wants. DC has always been different in the comics too, and it seems a bit like both franchises are going to be the same as the comics. There’s a cohesive DC comic universe, but they’ve always been best at one-shots too. “Watchmen” is DC. “The Dark Knight”, “The Killing Joke”, “The Long Halloween” – all DC and all great stories that are not part of the big universe. So it’s great that DC gives you the freedom to do “Joker” and “Justice League”.
FILM STARTS: What do you think can come now in this genre?
James Gunn: I hope people keep taking risks. Marvel does the same with some of these MCU series. Some of them may be better than others, but they are definitely risky. And “Peacemaker” [James Gunns Spin-off-Serie zu „The Suicide Squad“] is totally crazy. I’m really looking forward to Matt Reeves’ “The Batman”. Or maybe superhero films are dying out too …
“The Suicide Squad” has been in German cinemas since August 5, 2021 – And how good the film really is is also discussed in the current episode of Canvas Love, which you can listen to in your podcast app or directly here in the article:
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