Though this spring’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is about to hit home media (with an all-new extended cut), many fans of the DC Extended Universe have turned their full attention to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. The new film shines the spotlight on the Worst. Heroes. Ever. as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) gathers a team of antiheroes and villains to complete dangerous tasks in exchange for shorter prison sentences. Suicide Squad has been riding a wave of positive buzz since the first trailer premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, and the ensuing marketing campaign has given viewers plenty of reasons to be excited.
During the buildup to its release, Suicide Squad has made several headlines detailing the behind-the-scenes antics of the cast and crew, with Jared Leto’s intense method acting techniques quickly becoming the stuff of legend. There’s plenty of material ripe for special features when Suicide Squad is ready for Blu-ray, and the stories the team has to tell are very interesting. Things were so intense that Ayer had to hire a therapist to be on set, and he was pushing his Squad in all kinds of directions from day one.
In an interview with Yahoo, Ayer discussed the rehearsal project, mentioning how they differed from typical procedures. In addition to getting the actors to detail various aspects of their lives, he also had them fight each other:
“The rehearsal was very intense. It wasn’t a normal rehearsal, we’d talk about their lives, their history, and really got them to open up as people to each other. I also had them fight. I had them fight each other. You learn a lot about who a person really is when you punch them in the face. It gets rid of a lot of the actor stuff.”
It’s worth pointing out that these were not rehearsals for action sequences. From the sound of it, this was happening when the cast first came together to go over the script. Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flag, said “We were all in one room, rehearsing the script, improvising, and that puts everybody in an insecure and vulnerable position.” Ayer asked his talent some rather uncomfortable questions in front of the ensemble, such as what their greatest fears are, the meanest things they’ve done, and when they were the most embarrassed. This allowed the actors to “know each other for real” before working on the film, which seems to have paid off in spades. The trailers have highlighted a fun dynamic and chemistry between the team members, and in real life the cast has established a strong bond with each other.
Going beyond convention only scratches the surface of what Leto did to prepare for his role as the Clown Prince of Crime. From his unusual gifts to co-stars to remaining in character even when the cameras weren’t rolling, the Oscar winner did everything he could to bring the Joker to life. Previous incarnations portrayed by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger have set a high bar for what audiences expect from the villain, and based on the footage, Leto appears quite menacing, which is obviously the goal. No matter how terrifying Leto is on-screen, some of his fellow actors found his approach amusing, including Harley Quinn herself, Margot Robbie:
“It’s really interesting. Sometimes it can be awkward, sometimes it can be terrifying, most of the time it’s just funny. I’m trying not to laugh, because he says such hilarious things. Jared’s really funny, and terrifying, and just nuts. Absolutely nuts. It’s really interesting to work with someone so method, because I haven’t worked with someone doing that before.”
The Joker has always had a sadistic sense of humor, and those with a fondness for dark comedy may find it difficult to hold back laughter while watching him at times (see: Ledger’s disappearing pencil trick). Since the trailers thus far have (rightly) focused more on the Squad members, there’s still a lot of Leto’s performance being held back for the film’s premiere. Hopefully he has a well-rounded turn that provides the DCEU with a memorable antagonist that can make life a living hell for Ben Affleck’s Batman and whoever else chooses to stand in his way. He’s already “taken care of” a Robin, so this Joker is just as ruthless as earlier iterations.
Ideally, Suicide Squad can be the great comeback film that Warner Bros. needs following the aftermath of Batman V Superman‘s mixed reception. Early reactions from test screenings indicate that the movie is very good, though it’s important to not put all your faith in those responses. Nevertheless, odds are Suicide Squad can be a breakout hit at the tail end of the summer and reverse the fortunes of the DCEU, getting audiences excited to see more of this colorful collection of characters down the line.
Suicide Squad opens in U.S. theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.