The Knockturnal had the chance to interview Director David Ayer and pick his brain a bit about Suicide Squad
One of the most anticipated films of the year, Suicide Squad is a different take on the comic book genre, focusing on a group of super villains who are forced to work together. Including beloved characters such as The Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and so many more, fans have been clamoring for the movie ever since it was first announced several years ago. Director David Ayer, known for his work on End of Watch and Fury, has taken on the daunting chance to bring this film to life. Getting the chance to sit down with Ayer, The Knockturnal had the chance to talk to him about his casting choices, the scrutiny behind making comic book films, how to empathize with these villains, and much more.
Q: Tell me about how you picked your members, your squad, your team, what was the initial call like?
DA: I got the opportunity from Warner Brothers and I started researching it and it’s like, I looked at the New 52 which has one of the later versions of the squad and a lot of the lineup was there and it made a lot of sense. Okay, I got a Harley and I was trying to figure out Amanda Waller, and really the only person who could play Amanda was Viola Davis. She absolutely killed it. You need somebody who is just as bad and capable as any super villain because she’s running a whole bunch of them, you know? So she has to be tougher than all of them put together.
Q: You are the Amanda Waller of this project. How did you come together to pick everyone involved and, casting wise you could have gone so many ways and how was everyone the right fit?
DA: Like Margot, I talked to before I even had a script. I saw her in Wolf of Wall Street and she was on an Australian TV show, Neighbors, for a while. I realized that she’s a chameleon, she totally transforms herself and that’s what I needed for Harley Quinn. You take Will for instance and he’s a veteran, he’s been around and done some amazing movies, we’ve all kind of grown up on his movies. So I needed somebody that the cast would look up to since I’ve got this young cast and who they could respect on set and on screen and he really became that guy. He became the heart of the squad and pulled everybody together. Then Joel Kinnaman, he’s the perfect Colonial Flag cause he’s playing this military guy who couldn’t be more different than these insane villains that he’s trying to manage and he had the toughest job of all I think, in a lot of ways. So everybody brought something different, but together they had this amazing chemistry.
Q: Definitely. You mention the word ‘villains,’ yet the film reiterates these are bad guys and you keep telling us these are the bad guys. How do you make these villains, these murderers, likeable people?
DA: They’re bad guys, but they’re not bad people. They’ve made some really bad decisions with their lives so you gotta ask, ‘Does that mean they don’t deserve love? Does that mean they don’t deserve to have family? Does that mean they can’t do good because they’ve done some bad? Just because you’ve done dirt, does that mean you don’t deserve a future? And who gets to decide?’ So a lot of this for me was exploring just that. I think that good things…some of the worst people are capable of the greatest good and vice versa. Who are we to decide? In this movie they do come together and they do form a family and they do positive things.
Q: You mentioned you have some big stars like Margot and Will, Joel and Viola, was there any pressure to feature certain people versus other actors who are lesser known?
DA: No I mean, it’s an ensemble movie so it’s hard but Will really carries the heart of the story on his shoulders, he’s the guy who has the big emotional arc of the story and personifies the journey that everybody takes. It’s really Will’s movie in a lot of ways but there was…there’s seven principal characters, a lot of people to balance. Some of that just comes from experiences as a director and how to manage the time. But when they’re on camera together, they really do feel like a unit, they really do feel like this family and this group.
Q: You mention family, how did you help make everyone a unit and a family on set? There are all these crazy stories about the daunting process and David leading the ship. Talk about how you brought these people together.
DA: I mean, I guess it would sound crazy but it’s not…I was in the military and I went through bootcamp and it’s that sort of a process that brings you together and makes you part of that world. I’m just bringing a little bit of that into the acting and into the actors lives. And so it was important for me to get inside their lives and get inside their hearts and have them open up to me. That worked well because in that prep phase when they did become a family, they became friends. And they’re still friends to this day and I think they’ll be life long friends.
Q: You’ve had a great career up to this point, how have your other films prepared you for this role?
DA: It’s been baby steps and it’s funny because, expect going into this, it’s been like jumping off a cliff. I don’t think anything can prepare you for a movie this big and also the attention and the scrutiny, even just when we were beginning to prepare the movie before we even started shooting there was a lot of attention on it. But more than anything, it’s just basic filmmaking. It’s writing, directing, it’s acting, and I just focused on the things I knew how to do well which is working on actors and performance. It was definitely a labor of love and I’m really proud of where the movie got to.
Q: You mention scrutiny, with comic book movies there could be a lot of pressure from the fanboys because it’s such a big comic world. You’ve been to Comic Con, you know how crazy this community can be. Did you feel a little bit of that pressure to give the fans what they wanted or was it more important for you to tell the story?
DA: I think you can do both. Did I do that? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ll be told soon by the world. They’re gonna come at me and tell me what I did and tell me what they think, that’s gonna happen. But that’s what I made the movie for, I’m a fan and it drives me crazy when people get simple things wrong in movies that they could get right. Also, I wanted the movie to really feel like a comic book and look like a comic book, I wanted those characters that you see on the page to come to life. That was a lot of fun and I hope the fans are happy. Even you can go right to the canon, but still even the canon conflicts. I can point to stuff that’s in the movie but maybe someone else hasn’t read that issue, they read a different issue.
Q: Right, that’s not a part of the New 52, it’s a part of the old canon.
DA: Exactly. So it is a combination, I’ve got stuff going way back in time. I pulled stuff from way back in the day. There’s probably dozens of comic books that I’ve pulled story pieces and character stuff and elements from and put together into this. It’s a lot of work.
Q: If you can pick another comic series to bring to the big screen, what would it be?
DA: Wow, that’s a hard one. I don’t know, right now it’s all about Suicide Squad. I love these characters.
Q: I’ll bring you back to the Squad then. If you could pick a Squad member to do a solo film with, who would you pick?
DA: Oh man, that’s like asking me which is my favorite kid. That one’s gonna get you in trouble. I love them all, that’s the beauty in this. I feel like a lot of…anything can be anything and we’ll see if the love manifests. Let’s see if people fall in love with these characters like I have and if it does, the skies the limit.
Q: If the love manifests, do you have ideas for part two already?
DA: I don’t know man, when you’re in the shower you think of stuff.
Suicide Squad is written and directed by David Ayer and stars Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, and Cara Delevingne. Suicide Squad will be in theaters August 5th, 2016.