James Gunn on The Suicide Squad Deleted Scenes, DC Universe, and Harley Quinn - VRGyani News and Media


Sunday, August 15, 2021

James Gunn on The Suicide Squad Deleted Scenes, DC Universe, and Harley Quinn

If you’re a fan of James Gunn and The Suicide Squad and curious how the film was made, you’re going to be very happy. That’s because shortly before the film was released in theaters and HBO Max, I landed an extended interview with the busy writer-director during which he talked in-depth about the making of the film and revealed several things you might not know.

During the conversation, Gunn revealed how he got Warner Bros. to let him make his version of The Suicide Squad, the way he incorporates notes from the studios he works with, if The Suicide Squad takes place in the same DC universe as Aquaman and The Flash, what scenes he removed and why, writing the Harley Quinn scenes and creating "Harley-Vision," what will be on the eventual Blu-ray, the challenges of the VFX on King Shark, his process of working with his second unit director Guy Norris, and more. In addition, he discussed the post-credits scenes and how the last one was added after he decided to make the Peacemaker HBO Max series, why they built the beach instead of filming on an existing one, how he decides on what rating a movie will have, and writing a script that has a number of surprising left turns.

As you’ve seen in the trailers and clips, The Suicide Squad is about a new group of villains recruited by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) for a mission on the island of Corto Maltese called "Project Starfish." The Suicide Squad also stars John Cena as Peacemaker, Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Sylvester Stallone as the voice of King Shark, Peter Capaldi as the Thinker, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, Michael Rooker as Savant, Pete Davidson as Richard "Dick" Hertz/Blackguard, Nathan Fillion as T.D.K., Sean Gunn as Weasel, Alice Braga as Sol Soria, Mayling Ng as Mongal, and Flula Borg as Javelin.

Check out what James Gunn had to say in the player above or you can read a transcript of what we talked about below.

COLLIDER: If you can get the financing for any project, this is an interesting question for you, because I would imagine most people want to get in business with you right now, but if you can get the financing for anything, what would you make and why?

JAMES GUNN: This is going to sound so terrible, but I think I could make anything I wanted to right now. And I'm making the movies that I want to make. I wanted to finish the story of Guardians of the Galaxy, which I'm doing. I want to do the holiday special, which I'm doing. They asked me what I wanted to make a TV show of, its Peacemaker. I always wanted to do The Suicide Squad. I was very jealous when David got to do his movie. So those are the things I wanted to do.

There's other things I think about all the time. A Western I would love to do. Sometimes I think about doing a musical, but I've done the things that I want to do. I'm really happy with my choices.

You know I loved this movie, and I loved the freedom that you had working in the R-rating. It was like a peek into your brain. I know you're going to do PG-13 for Guardians. But if you made another comic book or superhero movie in the future, do you see yourself going back to PG-13, or do you think R-rating is pretty much your horizon?

GUNN: No, I totally think I could do whatever I think the story requires. I would never do an R-rated Guardians of the Galaxy. It just wouldn't be what that show is. It's for families, and old people love it. It's more like a fairy tale. And I think it is completely, that is what it is. Suicide Squad is something very different than that, and the stakes are different. All of that is different. But if I were to do say a Shazam movie, which I'm not saying I'm going to do a Shazam movie, I don't think that should be R-rated either. I think if I did that, it would be PG-13. If I did Deadpool, it would be rated R.

So, I mean, it just depends on the project. I think everything is different and the audience you're speaking to is different. And I love PG-13 movies, and I love R-rated movies. I don't have any problem with either of them.

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So essentially, if you ever got the keys to a Superman, it would be PG-13?

GUNN: Yeah, probably. Yes.

Jumping into Suicide Squad. Who ruined the most takes from laughing at the dialogue you gave them?

GUNN: Definitely, Margot ruined the most takes, because her stuff with Flula was, he just made her stop ... He made her laugh every two seconds, and she would not stop. Flula made everybody laugh constantly. So that's who it was, Margot.

Basically, are you a little surprised that Warner Brothers let you make this movie? Because it's so not what they'd been making. Do you know what I mean?

GUNN: I think I have a sort of blindness about that sort of thing. I wrote the script the whole time, thinking they would let me make it, I mean, they asked, "Can you make this PG-13?" I said, no. I said, "You can make it and take it with somebody else, and they can direct it, and you can do a PG 13. But if I'm going to direct it, I want it to be R." They were like, "Okay, that's worth the trade-off for us." So, they were great about it.

What kind of notes does the studio give you at this point in your career and how often do you actually incorporate them?

GUNN: That's a great question. I get notes. I get notes from Marvel, and I get notes from DC, but no, they always said, "You can take these or leave these. You can do whatever you want with these. If you want to take these notes, you can take them. If you don't want to take these notes, you don't have to take them." It's never gotten anything beyond that ever. So it's like, they give notes. Marvel gives more than DC does to me, but they're the same attitude of like, take what you want and leave the rest. I take a lot of them. There's a lot of good ideas in there. Even if I don't take them, one of the main things I do is I try them, especially while I'm editing. I try them out to see if they work.

Sometimes somebody will say something that I think is the worst idea. It's just seems so distasteful for me, but I go ahead and try it out. And every once in a while I go, "Oh, I'm really embarrassed, because that works incredibly well." Maybe that happens maybe a quarter of the time, but 75% of the time I go, "Oh, that's as bad as I thought it was." But it's worth it for the quarter of the time that it works out. That's a lot. So that's really my ...

I'm very open. On set, my assistant will say, "That seemed fake," or something. I'll listen to it. I'll listen to anybody. But at the end of the day, it's all me. Any idea that I take in it's because I choose to take it, not because I'm being told to do something.

I'm curious if your Suicide Squad takes place in an alt Earth, or is it ... What universe does it share with the current with the current DC lineup? Does it take place in the Henry Cavill, Superman realm, or is it undetermined?

GUNN: That's outside of my realm of knowledge, but it is the DCEU. So it's whatever the DCEU is today and with Aquaman and The Flash and everything else, that's where The Suicide Squad is. So that is what it is.

I assume you learn from every project that you make, what did you learn making The Suicide Squad that you want to apply to future stuff?

GUNN: I just am much more competent as a filmmaker than I used to be, and I can relax and I can ... Everything is very planned out for me. So people know I draw everything in the movie before we shoot it. So everything is done by the time we get to set, but I was way looser with Squad. I found way more shots on set than I'd ever found before. I found that was a great strength to my filmmaking, to not be so locked in.

On the Guardians movies, they're much more geometric, so it's easier to plan them out. But at the same time, I'll get on set, and I'll be like, "Oh, that shot looks good." But my brain goes, "No, but you got to get the day done. You got to get what you planned to get done." I just go ahead and go with what I had already planned. And I'm much looser, and I'm learning to be okay with that, of being looser on set, allowing new ideas to happen, find new stuff and follow my gut instinct on set when things happen. I think it's the reason why this movie was so much more fun to make for me than other films.

I love asking this question. How long was your earlier cuts of the film versus compared to the finished film?

GUNN: I think the first cut was ... It was in the 2-hour 40 range. Final one is Two hours and twelve minutes.

When you say the 2-hour 40, is that like an assembly or is that a cut that you're like, "This is pretty good."?

GUNN: I think that was the assembly. It was probably 2-hour 40. Then probably I got it down to about ... In the high two twenties is my cut was probably what it was and then kind of just kept chipping away from it, from there.

There was one big major scene section I cut out near the very end of shooting that near the end of editing that I was really afraid to cut, because it was so much cool stuff in it, but it definitely seemed like the right cut. But people will definitely be able to see it in the future, because it's great stuff. And it's mostly finished, visual effects-wise.

RELATED: Idris Elba and Daniela Melchior on ‘The Suicide Squad’ and Why They Loved James Gunn’s Script

I wanted to know, what was the last thing you cut before picture-locking?

GUNN: That's what it was. There's a whole section with Ratcatcher and King Shark and Polka-Dot Man and Thinker that I cut, that was pretty dynamite stuff. The hardest thing was some of Peter Capaldi and David Dastmalchian's best acting together, but it just was the wrong ...

We take our time a lot in the movie, and I'm proud of that, but it was taking our time at the wrong point in the film. So it was a good cut. It hurts. But that's how movie making is.

I'm assuming this is when they've exited the bar and are together.

GUNN: Yes, it's right after they're outside of the bar yeah. Right, when Rick Flagg and them are in the armored vehicle.

What can fans look forward to on the eventual Blu-ray?

GUNN: I think some really great scenes that we cut out from the movie. You see this moment, where King Shark is looking out the window, and he sees a young couple kissing. And you realize in that moment, hopefully just how he's not a part of this world and how he longs to be a part of this world. That actually was a much longer sort of montage. That is really beautiful, and I really like in and of itself. Again, it was at the wrong place in the movie.

Did the MPAA ask you to make any edits?

GUNN: No, they didn't. I think we got by at an R-rating on their first pass-through. There was one thing that I cut out earlier, with one of the characters that was really gory. I was like, "You know what? It's just a little too much." But again, we might see it someday in some form.

One of the things is that you have this ability to write characters are sometimes terrible people and make the audience root for them. What is the secret sauce that you are able to make people care about these characters?

GUNN: Well, because I don't believe these people are terrible at their core. I think someone like Bloodshot or Harley, I think they have goodness to them. I think in a lot of ways, this movie is a story of Bloodshot coming to terms with his own vulnerability and his own goodness, which he has denied his entire life. So I think it's really, I love a bad character who finds redemption. That's the thing I dig more than anything else in stories, so that's part of it. But there are other characters in the movie that are pretty freaking bad.

I mean, not to mention, Amanda Waller is not a great person. She's not great. Thinkers not great. Suarez isn't great. They're pretty bad people. So I don't find the good in everything. Thinkers very charming. He's funny, but he's certainly not ... I don't see the good in him myself.

You have two amazing Harley scenes in this movie that fans are going to lose their shit over. Did you feel any extra pressure because this is such a beloved character to so many people? What is it like for you writing scenes for Harley? And is there extra pressure knowing that these scenes are going to be not dissected, but kind of dissected because of people's love of this character?

GUNN: No, I felt excited, man. I love the character Harley Quinn. I love Paul Dini's original Harley Quinn. I think she's one of the most well-written comic book characters of all time and consistently well-written, not always, but a lot. Being able to speak in her voice and to write for her was a privilege, but I also felt incredibly comfortable doing it.

She isn't a James Gunn character, because I didn't create her in the same way I created Ratcatcher II, or even King Shark in some ways. But she is totally a James Gunn character in that I get her. She isn't so different from Boltie in Super. So it's like, I love her character, I love who she is, and I felt extremely comfortable making this the most Harley of all Harleys that have been on the movie screen.

There are just such amazing shots of the flowers and the birds. Where did that idea come from to put that in the movie?

GUNN: Well, I think in some ways it's something that ... I did a video game called Lollipop Chainsaw, and I always loved the sort of ... In that game, which I did was with Suda in Japan, I always loved the way that the hearts and beautiful little things came out of people mixed with blood. So, a lot of it goes back to that, the aesthetic of mixing this horrible gore with Harley's starry-eyed way of looking at life and creating Harley-vision basically. So that was something that came on very early. It was in the first draft of the script.

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One of the things that I love about your script is that every scene takes a left turn that you're not expecting. I see a lot of movies. When a movie takes such left turns that you don't see coming, it's so refreshing. Can you talk about how does that enter the script phase, in terms of, are you writing those kinds of twists at the beginning, when you're writing the scene? Or is it sort of like, how do those left turns come into it?

GUNN: I was just really creatively inspired with this movie, and I can come up with a bunch of BS about how I came up with that stuff. But the truth is I was just really inspired. As soon as I started writing the script, it just sort of lent itself to that, with all of the twists and turns, of being able to surprise people and also surprise me.

Harley has a big speech, which I guess you were alluding to earlier. That big speech, I wrote before I wrote the screenplay, I wrote it down on a piece of notepad or something. So it's like, those things were just sort of built-in and baked-in.

All good plots have plot twists. Sometimes the plot twists are not so noticeable. In this movie, they're really noticeable, because they're the opposite of what you would expect. But also in some ways, Frosty, there's a lot of big spectacle movies that come out that you just know everything that's going to happen. So it's kind of easy to take people on a path other than what they expect when things have gotten a little bit bland.

You're preaching to the choir. The biggest issue, I think, with the movie structure that currently exists is that when you are introduced to a character in the first act, it's like, okay, spin the wheel. It's one of 10 things that this character is going to be. Which is why again, and I don't say this all the time, why I loved your script, because it kept hitting me over the head in unexpected ways. But moving on, because I'm running out of time. I think the VFX on King Shark are just jaw-dropping. And there's a shot in the movie, where he's, and you said it earlier, where he's looking outside the van, he sees the couple, you see this reflection on the windshield, and you see him behind the window, and he looks real. Can you talk about getting King Shark right on the screen? Because if those VFX don't work, that character's dead.

GUNN: It was really hard, man. It was really hard. So, I've done furry characters who used to be pretty hard, but are much easier now. And I've done wooden characters, which are pretty easy. But to be able to do the sharkskin was really tough. I mean, we went through a lot of versions of trying to get sharkskin to look real, and it was hard. Then finally, we get the sharkskin looking as good as we can, and we built King Shark. I always knew he was like this bad bod. We designed him. But then he came out. There was just something about his belly. It was too light, white. It didn't look real. He had too much of pecs and that looked too mammalian.

I actually broke him down and said, "We have to break him apart and put him back together again, because he's not working." Luckily, Framestore, who developed King Shark, and then Weta also did a lot of shots with King Shark, they both worked together to create this character that looked as real as he does now. But it took a lot of work. It took a lot of moving forward and backtracking, one step forward, two steps back, over the design.

I'm a huge fan of Guy Norris, and you had him as your second-unit director on this. I wanted to know if you could talk about the dynamic of you and Guy, what you asked him to do. And how much does it hurt you to let other people photograph your movies?

GUNN: In this case, it was easy, because what he photographed was the car stuff, outside of the cars, with the cars flipping around and everything. First, I story-boarded it. So it starts with my storyboards. Then Guy takes it into his post-vis world, and we turn it into post-vis. Then we decided exactly what it is. And with car stuff, you can very geometrically figure it out.

Guy and I are buddies, and I've known him since Scoob. He did Scooby Doo in 2000. So we've known each other a long time. I love his work. I trust him way more than I trust other stunt coordinators. So, it was pretty flawless, working together.

It's hard at times. There's a little bit stuff different, but shooting cars really isn't my thing. Honestly, I've never really done it. Shooting people is different, like shooting people with action. That's my thing. I love doing that. So I love taking Guy's action sequences that we developed together, which he really develops and does great work with, but then me being able to shoot it in the way that's the most impactful. That's my thing. But shooting cars and stuff, it's just not my thing. So I was really happy.

I think a lot of people don't realize the importance of ... Obviously, all the light is on you, and you deserve it. But I do think that there are so many people that work on movies behind the scenes that don't get enough credit.

GUNN: No doubt. There's no doubt. On Guardians 2, I didn't use a second-unit director, because I had such a terrible experience on Guardians and just had to re-shoot most everything that the second-unit director did. So on this one, we do .... What Guy shot was very minimal. It was that that scene. But he's really important, but that's true about ...

Beth Mickle, our production designer and Judianna Makovsky, our costume designer, those are fully my creative partners. Henry Brown, the cinematographer. I've got those three people with me on set all the time. Unlike other production designers and costume designers, they're with me a lot. Their input is more important than anybody's input to me, because they aesthetically understand the film. They always have things to say about stuff. I also, I make it so there's no clear divisions between production design and props and costume design and cinematography. It's all one thing. So, we are really a team. And one of the great things about Suicide Squad was having this team of individuals together, of me taking the best people that I'd worked with on Guardians 2, Guardians One, on Guardians Three, which had shut down and from even Super and before that.

I've been with my editor now, Fred Raskin, for a long time. These people are all my partners. You're absolutely right. Those people ... All the glory goes to the director, all the glory goes to the actors. But the production designer, the cinematographer, the costume designer, they created this movie as much as anybody. And it is a team effort, absolutely.

RELATED: ‘The Suicide Squad’: Nathan Fillion, Jai Courtney and Flula Borg on the Way James Gunn Weaves Heart and Soul into the Script

Besides the people you just mentioned, who's another person that you just want to give a shout-out to who just contributed a great deal to the movie?

GUNN: Well, I'm a big fan of my stunt folks. So Ingrid, who was Margot's stunt double, Adam Hart who was David Dastmalchian's stunt double, Spencer, who was Peacemaker's. Those guys are so great, and they do a lot. Spencer, who was Peacemaker's stunt double, has done the best stunts I've ever seen in my life on the Peacemaker TV show, by far. He's beaten the shit out of his body. So those guys, I love my stunt guys. They never get any attention. Actors are always taking credit for shit they do. I love those guys.

How hard is it to find a stunt double for John Cena? He's not a thin dude.

GUNN: Yeah. He and Dave Bautista, we have real problems with stunt-doubling. But John's got his own guy, Spencer. And Spencer goes, and he does every movie with John. He's a total fucking filmmaker and a part of the process. And he's my friend, and he's a great guy.

Something that I couldn't believe is that you built the jungle, you built the beach, all this stuff was built on a soundstage, and it does not look like it's on a soundstage.

GUNN: The beach wasn't on a soundstage, it was on a backlot, so it was outdoors. So the beach is way too big for any soundstage. It's like the size of four football fields. So it's enormous and probably one of the biggest sets ever made. It has a working turbines that made waves happen, and it has a beach front. It has a forest of palm trees in Atlanta, beyond the beach front. It was absolutely stunning. When you were out there, hanging out at night, it felt like you were on the beach. Definitely the greatest set I've ever been on.

What does Warner Brothers say to you, or your producers say to you, when you say, "So I think we're going to have to build a beach. We're going to have to build this jungle."?

GUNN: You know, Nic Korda, our executive producer... We're figuring out really, how can we do what we want that looks the best and is the most cost-effective? That was really what it was. We knew that we needed to make a sizable ... We couldn't make a little patch of beach for that scene. It needed to be a big, huge beach. But actually, going and shooting on the beach, with rising and changing tides, with electricity nowhere to be found, with all of the things that could go wrong, that would have ended up being really problematic and more expensive.

I mean, you can only shoot for so long every day, if you want continuity to be the same with where the tide is at. So it ended up being, that was just the most cost-effective way to do it and also looked the best.

Was the final post-credit scene always what that was, or did it possibly get added because of the TV show?

GUNN: It got added because the TV show. I didn't say I was going to do the TV show until after the movie was basically finished being cut. Then I got asked to do the TV show, and then I said I would do it. Then when we started shooting the TV show, I shot the post-credit scene.

Was it always the other post-credit scene earlier in the credits, and did you have any other ideas for a post-credit scene?

GUNN: That was always there. That other post-credit scene was always there.

Was that originally going to be at the very end of the credits?

GUNN: I think not. I think I was hoping I could put something else at the very end of the credits, because I really liked where that first post-credit scene is now. I think it lays in nicely. It's just a part of the story. You know what I mean? The post-credit to the post-credit scene. It's really its own thing, setting up something else. But the first post-credit scene is a part of the story in a way. It's sort of ironic that after all this time, that's what occurred.

I love Ex Machina, and obviously because of Oscar dancing, because it's amazing. You had David and John and I think someone else, dancing in the movie. Did you give them directions on dancing?

GUNN: Not really. I don't think I did. I mean, I dealt a lot with the dancing girls on stage. That was a whole choreographed routine. I don't know if you noticed who those dancers were.

I didn't notice actually.

GUNN: Well, I can't believe nobody has noticed yet. It's pretty big deal. But anyway, the other guys ... We talked about what it was like. I mean, in the script, I think it said, "Peacemaker is white boy dancing." And John came up with that thing he was doing. I think Daniella, I may have told a little bit about her doing that little twisty, twirly thing that she does. Then David Dastmalchian is just his own thing. He fits Polka-Dot Man like a glove. You don't need to tell him to do anything.

He is so good in the movie.

GUNN: He is, yeah. I mean, it was tailor made it for him. So I hope so. He's been my friend for a long time. And I wrote, and I called, I said, "Hey, I got a role for you." He's like, "What is it?" I'm like, "It's Polka-Dot Man. He's one of the leads of this movie." He's like, "Wow. Okay."

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