The Suicide Squad: What We’ve Learned from Our Set Visit

Courtesy of Warner Bros and DC Comics

The Suicide Squad is directed by James Gunn and follows Task Force X, a team consisting of villains on a search-and-destroy mission. Commanding the team is Amanda Waller, who won’t hesitate to eliminate members with remote explosives if they disobey orders. Nerd Reactor was invited to the film set in Atlanta, Georgia, and we are here to share our experience and interviews with the cast and crew including Gunn, Margot Robbie, John Cena and more.

I, along with select members of the media, was able to tour the sets of the jungle and Jotunheim, a facility holding dark secrets from the past. These locations will have many enemies for The Suicide Squad to fight, and the huge set really captures the different environments.

Jotunheim can be seen in the trailer, and it’s a prison and laboratory located in Corto Maltese. It’s occupied by the current dictator, Silvio Luna, the film’s antagonist, and during our set visit, the film crew already had fun blowing the place up to pieces. We saw debris everywhere, and by looking at the filming monitor, there was an intense moment between the two characters from the team.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Suicide Squad is inspired by classic Westerns and war films, but it will have that DC and supervillain spectacle. Director James Gunn is bringing these genres together and mixing them with the supervillain team.

“A lot of the film is within the genre of the war caper film, which is not really something that’s existed for a long time,” the director said. “But in the sixties, late sixties with films like Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes and Where Eagles Dare, that was a real vibrant genre and one of the big genres in the world, and you kind of take that engine and then add the fun of Suicide Squad to it.”

With Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad, Gunn was able to tell these stories differently.

“In a lot of ways, when I came in to do Guardians, I was able to do a space opera in a totally different way,” Gunn said. “This is my way to do a war film in a completely different way. And I thought it was something that I could do. And it both surprised people by giving them something completely different than what they expect like we did with Guardians. People saw that trailer for the first time with these weird characters in prison and what was going on with them. To be able to do something like that again, where people might be expecting it to be like Guardians, they might be expecting it to be like the first Suicide Squad, they might be expecting it to be like, whatever, but it’s not like any of those things.”

Credit: Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros.

Gunn has assured us that The Suicide Squad will be different from Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with its R-rating.

“I mean, it’s a much, much, much rougher film than Guardians of the Galaxy,” he said. “Everything is almost completely practical. The biggest sets I’ve run almost any film, ever more visual. I was able to take all of the heads of departments that I’ve used on other films and just do a best of. And Dan Sudik, who’s doing our special effects, he’s doing more special effects, more live special effects in this film than all of the Marvel movies he’s ever done combined, which is every single Marvel movie that was shot in Atlanta. And so it’s just a much more grounded, darker film – gorier.”

Gunn wants to surprise viewers and teased how audiences won’t know who’s going to die.

“But in this movie, you don’t know who’s going to get killed,” he said. “And I think with the Guardians, you start out sort of knowing these are guys that may have different problems. But at the end of the day, they’re all really good people. And that isn’t the case with this. It’s a much more complicated story. Some of these characters may end up being good. Some of them are definitely not good. And most of them are somewhere in between with different shades of gray. The fact that you don’t know anything that’s going to happen. I don’t think most people think that Star-Lord’s head is going to explode in the middle of the movie, but any of these characters, their heads could explode in the middle of the movie. And so it’s that unknown, that being on edge, that really not knowing what’s going to happen is much different than the Guardians.”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC Comics

Harley Quinn has different outfits in the film, with one being a red gown and another inspired by her outfit in Batman: Arkham City.

“Harley’s been through some things as you can see by this point in the film,” Margot Robbie tells us about her red dress. “It started off as like a very glamorous gown and here we are. I think we are down to like three versions of the dress. We’re trying to work it into a mood where we rip off one bit to do some cool fight shit with it.”

“She has a mission outfit to start with that’s very different,” she said about the Arkham-City-inspired outfit. “Yeah, she didn’t come on the mission wearing a ball gown, although with Harley she could have been like, ‘I just like it. This is what I wanted. I wanted to be pretty today.'”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC Comics

John Cena plays Peacemaker, someone who thinks of himself as a hero who will do anything to achieve peace, even if that means taking out innocent people.

“A comic book character is very much like a WWE superstar,” Cena said. “When you come through the curtain with your background music and your appearance, you are supposed to give off essentially your character, your purpose, your definition. And comic book characters are what we try to emulate in WWE. So it’s an even better representation of that. So for you to read a story about somebody and say, ‘Oh, well, they have very defined views or severe views’ or take the attitude you take is your interpretation of their impression. I think the fun, especially what we’ve been doing the past few days, of course, I can’t tell you anything about it, but the stuff we’ve been filming in the past two days is exploring the why in all that.”

“This one, I actually had different intentions of what I wanted to do with this,” Cena said about what he wanted to bring to the character. “And then James was like, ‘No, I kind of want him more douchey.’ And I was like, ‘You hired the right guy.’ In a small piece of feedback on day one of shooting, all of my preparation, all of the work I put into what I thought it would be, completely collapsed but spawned to a new environment. And along with suggestions, from certainly the guy running the show, and freedom to be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got what I need. We’re set up. Here’s one for you.’ And Daniela and I shared a wonderful moment yesterday where James is like, ‘Hey, just do what you want on this one.'” And I absolutely did exactly what I wanted to. It had nothing to do with what was on the page, it had nothing to do with continuing the narrative. He gave me the choice to do what I want and I was like, ‘Well, **** it. I’m going to write my own story right now.'”

“I’ve been to the ledge many times and been turned away,” Cena said about the movie business and rejection. “I think that it’s the greatest trade that I just won’t ever stop trying. So, been really close on some and it didn’t work out. Every single one I’ve been close on, it’s really satisfying to see that the movie itself ended up being awesome, like they didn’t need me. And I remember every single one of those auditions, telling every single person involved, ‘You have a good movie with or without me. I’d love to be able to contribute, but I understand if I can’t.’ And every single one of them I did this. And I said the same thing to James. He was like, ‘No, you’re my guy.’ I’m like, ‘I hope he’s not full of s***.’ As it turned out, he wasn’t.”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC Comics

Daniela Melchior portrays Ratcatcher II, the daughter of the original Ratcatcher. She has the power to control rats, and she talks about which cast members are afraid of the little rodents.

“Actually, I don’t know if I can say this, but Idris is a little bit afraid of rats, and Viola too,” Melchior revealed. “Like whenever I have the rats, I tried to put it smaller, but the [rat] doesn’t go smaller and they are already like looking, ‘No way. No, keep that thing away.’ Yeah, but I’m always trying to [go], ‘Look, she’s so sweet. Look, she wouldn’t hurt you.'”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC Comics

David Dastmalchian is Polka-Dot Man, a character that can shoot polka dots from his body.

“So, [Gunn] started describing how it was going to work and all the crazy machinations he’d come up with for telling this story that he wanted to tell,” Dastmalchian said. “Then I realized that I was going to get to play this Polka-Dot Man, and I cried, man. I mean, I sat there. I was like, ‘I’m going to get to be a part of the story that James is going to tell.’ Ever since I first saw his work, I’ve always dreamed about getting a chance to work with him.”

The Suicide Squad members’ lives will be on the line, and you can expect heads to explode.

“This though is a very real part of comic book storytelling where lives are actually on the line, and the stakes really are like life or death,” Dastmalchian said. “And there’s like in Belko some moments that are kind of hilariously like, ‘Holy s***, that head just blew up.’ Yeah. Some heads will absolutely blow up. There will be brains on this camera, but there are some too that you’re just like, ‘Hmm.’ It adds a weight of dramatic intensity to me as a viewer and now as a player in it.”

“Something that I immediately found is like a kindred connection with Abner was this sense of how that would weigh me down,” he said. “How pain can cause a person’s body to kind of come inwards, and how shame can cause a person’s body to come downward. So it was inward and downward, finding all my physicality for Abner. And the voice grows out of that. So when I start thinking about how to build the character, to think about how his voice would work, and think about how all those mechanisms happened.”

The Suicide Squad will be available on August 6, 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max.

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