Critics have panned Suicide Squad but what do they know? Susan Griffin finds out why the film stormed the box office in its opening weekend
Following the critical beating Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice took earlier this year, the pressure was on Suicide Squad, the latest offering from DC Entertainment, to deliver the comic book goods.
But despite the hype, the movie - starring big hitters Will Smith and Margot Robbie as part of a motley band of super villains, brought together to fight a greater evil - faced a barrage of criticism before its release.
“Ugly trash”, “mind-bogglingly stupid” and “puzzlingly confused” are just some of the disparagements it’s been charged with. But it hasn’t put fans off. The movie set a new record for an August opening and the film’s cast and its director David Ayer, have always insisted that the fans’ opinions are the only ones that matter anyway.
We catch up with the movie’s stars, including Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto, to find out what they make of the haters, and how they brought the tale of gaudy anti-heroes to life.
Margot Robbie manhandled Leonardo DiCaprio when he blocked her light during a scene in The Wolf Of Wall Street and injured Alexander Skarsgard while filming an amorous moment in Tarzan, so clearly, she’s not to be messed with. It’s no surprise to hear she’s less than amused by critics who’ve lambasted Suicide Squad, not least for its apparent sexism.
“On such a big budget film, David [Ayer], Warner Bros, DC and everyone worked to have this diverse group of people, give chicks these bad-ass roles and allow actresses to do things we rarely get to do,” remarks the 26-year-old Australian, who plays the damaged and dangerously seductive Harley Quinn. “It’s such a cop out to be like, ‘Well, actually it’s sexist and I didn’t like it’. No, it’s not. It’s groundbreaking.”
Will Smith admits he did take a moment before signing on to play Deadshot, an assassin who gets a kick out of killing people.
“It was difficult, but it only took a couple of days for me to want to kill Joel [Kinnaman, who plays Deadshot’s nemesis, military man Rick Flag] and then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what it feels like’,” quips the 47-year-old, who doesn’t believe the gun-happy tone to be insensitive, despite mass shootings dominating headlines.
“This is a super-heightened reality. This is a wild, comic-book movie,” he continues.
“I definitely understand the sensitivity. I have children and I wouldn’t make something if I thought it was hitting those particular chords.”
His co-star Jay Hernandez, 38, who plays pyrokinetic Diablo, agrees.
“It’s almost like this mythic fairy tale. There are fantastic elements to it, but I think that argument is void, because it really comes down to parenting. You can’t pawn off your children’s bad behaviour on a movie, game or any external force.”
Both Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger earned critical acclaim - and the latter an Academy Award - for their portrayal of the Joker. Despite his own Oscar win, for Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto admits he was “really nervous” about tackling the most iconic super villain of them all.
“A bit of failure is probably bound to happen with any risk you take,” notes the 44-year-old, who met with psychopathic patients and psychiatrists in preparation for the role. But he’s aware you only have so much influence over the end product.
“Honestly, actors have so little to do with the final product of a film. You can talk about a performance, but even the performance can be so manipulated, for better or for worse, by editors and directors. Even the music in a scene can influence the performance.”
Ayer encouraged the cast to reveal intimate memories and secrets, pushed them to delve deep into their own psyche and reportedly even had them put through interrogations.
“It’s the most effective form of directing I think I’ve ever seen,” says Robbie. “You had to expose your most vulnerable side, and out of it, we became this super bonded squad. It also gave David this arsenal of ammo when we were shooting. He could pinpoint exact moments in our childhood or our insecurities, and utilise it in a scene to get the perfect performance.”
Supermodel Cara Delevingne, 23, who plays archaeologist June Moone, as well as the witch-like Enchantress, likens the process to “having your skin peeled off and then David sticking you in a deep fat ‘squad’ fryer and you become his creation”.
“But when you start admitting things about your life to each other, you automatically become so close.”
Leto declined the offer to be interrogated. “I’m too old and too wise to fall for the games of David Ayer, so I side-swept his inquisition and torture,” reveals the actor.
It transpires his colleagues only met Leto on the recent promotional campaign.
“Joker showed up for the movie,” explains Smith of the actor’s preference to stay in character off camera. “He was off the chain, went full Joker, but it was fun to watch. And he set the tone for everybody because, really quickly, we all realised, ‘OK, Jared’s taking this seriously, we should act’.”
The Suicide ‘squad’ endured plenty of physical challenges. Some of those were self-inflicted, such as Jai Courtney, who plays Captain Boomerang, putting cigarettes out on himself. “I was experimenting with something during my prep,” the 30-year-old Australian grins. But for the most part, it was borne out of necessity, including the unrelenting gym and stunt work.
But it wasn’t enough for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 48, to simply bulk up. He also spent up to five hours in the make-up chair to transform into Killer Croc.
“You can’t rip it [the prosthetics] off or scratch it, so mentally you had to find a zen point,” reveals the British actor, who couldn’t even let his ‘scales’ down between takes. “When Will and Margot and everyone were playing in what we called ‘Willieville’, which was this recreation room Will created for us, I had to lie on my back to preserve my energy.” And how did he remain calm? “I’m a Buddhist, so I’d chant.”
Suicide Squad is in cinemas now