We spent at least two minutes talking about John Cena’s dick.
Okay, now that I have your attention, I had the opportunity to attend the press conference for The Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s latest masterpiece. It was attended by the cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Flula Borg, Daniela Melchior, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Mayling Ng, Alice Braga, Juan Diego Botto Sylvester Stallone, Joaquin Cosio; Producers Peter Safran and Chuck Roven; and writer/director, James Gunn (Director). The press conference began with James Gunn exuberantly expressing how much he enjoyed working on a project that gave him so much creative freedom, a general theme throughout the event. He stated,
“I could not believe that I went in with an idea that stayed stable from the first time I pitched it to the guys at Warners with Peter [Stafran] and Chuck [Roven] to the very end. Since I know I was being entrusted with an enormous amount of freedom with such a big-budget movie, I felt a huge responsibility to do the best I can and take risks…big movies are the ones people are gonna see in theaters. If they don’t continue to take risks, change, and try new things, people won’t come to the theater to see them.” Peter Stafran backed Gunn up, explaining how the project never changed from Gunn’s pitch, so he and Roven gave Gunn the tools he needed to facilitate his creative vision for the shoot, such as putting together the cast he wanted. Chuck Roven distinguished James Gunn as a director with a clear vision while still being collaborative. He noted how unlike other directors of big budgets films, which are typically chaotic, Gunn didn’t need overtime or reshoots to get the job done. Gunn promptly pointed out how much he valued his crew, such as his assistant director Lars P. Winther and production designer Beth Mickel, crediting them for keeping him focused and on time.
That enthusiasm permeated throughout the cast, telling stories from on set and exploring their characters. Both Idris Elba and John Cena talked about how Gunn would egg them on to make their characters stand out. John Cena explicitly addressed how their respective characters, Bloodsport and Peacemaker, have the same skillset, fueling their narrative rivalry. This exercise would result in Idris Elba and John Cena’s characters getting involved in a “natural dick-swinging competition,” as Elba put it. Margot Robbie talked about joking with Idris Elba while being spray painted nude in a cabin for make-up, separated by a divider. Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rooker riffed over memories working together in Cliffhanger. The vibe of the room matched the vibe of the film, a lot of fun. This mentality was intentional, as James Gunn knew to schedule the shoot with his AD in a way that gave the cast and crew time to be loose and fun. He said, “One of the things I wanted to do with this film was…keep things alive with the camera work and the actors. When they’re working together, they kept their performances natural. We don’t have that much improve in the movie, but the improve we do have kept the dialogue natural.” Michael Rooker, who worked with James Gunn on Slither, Super, The Belko Experiment, and Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, noted how everyone working together on such an insane, funny script built up camaraderie between the cast, translating on-screen and through the performances. Nathan Fillion, who also worked with Gunn on Slither, Super, and had cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, summed up perfectly how an integral part of the fun working with Gunn is trust:
“I’ve never seen someone like James (Gunn) get handed a property like this and told ‘whatever you want, we trust you.’ James turns around and says, ‘I got all these solid performing workhorses, I’ve got these solid performing thoroughbreds, I’ve got new talent, and they all trust implicitly what I’m going to do.’ There’s a lot of trust going around, and it’s so easy when someone has a singular vision that you can all get on board with. It becomes easy.”
The cast also discussed the fun of playing around with obscure characters. James Gunn mentioned how he’ intentionally pick characters who were obscure, overlooked, or are generally considered “lame” so that he and the actors can build them up as their own cinematic creations. Idris Elba talked about enjoying the freedom from Gunn, encouraging him to make the most out of playing Bloodsport, a character older and rougher around the edges. Daniela Melchior talked about the joy of building a supervillain who’s relatively new and on her first mission, as it gave her the freedom to create a character from the ground up through her performance rather than adhere to comic book continuity.
Returning to the DCEU is Margot Robbie, who uses her freedom to explore new elements of Harley Quinn, as this is her third time in the role. She explained her excitement playing Quinn as “…’single and ready to mingle.’ I hadn’t played that version of Harley Quinn before she was either very committed to Mister J or just fresh out of a break-up. James put in a lot of funny potential love interests throughout the film. It doesn’t always end well, obviously.” She further described this version of Harley Quinn as in “mission mode” and playing off of her other teammates. James Gunn even mentions a romance between Harley Quinn and Juan Diego Botto’s Silvio Luna, the dictator of Corto Maltese. Joel Kinnaman, who reprised his role as Rick Flag, spoke about how thanks to James Gunn’s script, he got to, “spread more comedic wings” with the character more this time around.
Everyone was just having a good time at the conference. Whether it’s Sylvester Stallone joking around about being paid in “crawfish, worms, and bait” or Idris Elba joking about watching Michael Rooker struggle to swim (Rooker assured us he’s a good swimmer) or everyone laughing while shooting Flula Borg trying to imagine Harley Quinn taking a shit, it was clear that there was real passion behind this shoot and everyone truly came together with their best foot forward to make the most of Gunn’s creative freedom. This positive attitude and joy will genuinely translate into the film itself.
I will the end this report properly; Pete Davidson described John Cena’s dick as “huge,” and Michael Rooker said, “it wasn’t even a penis, it was a log.”
The Suicide Squad will be released in theaters and HBO Max on August 6th