Suicide Squad: How Muhammad Ali Shaped Will Smith’s Deadshot

Will Smith's Deadshot Suicide Squad Character Poster

When it first dawned on DC Comics fans that a Suicide Squad movie was really happening, a good amount of the speculation surrounded the role of Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot. As one of the deadliest assassins in the history of the DC Universe (and the de facto leader of the Squad in the field), the fans knew that the potential was there for a truly unforgettable action movie role – if the right actor was cast to play him.

Few dared to hope that it would be a star as big as Will Smith, no stranger to bullet-filled action films and one of the most profitable movie stars in Hollywood history. Smith finally joining the world of the comic book blockbuster was news in itself, but as the no-nonsense villain Deadshot? One thing was for sure: Deadshot was most definitely going to live up to his name, and take down enemies with a one-liner or two. But it turns out Smith has turned to an unlikely source to develop the lethal ways Lawton will be dropping enemies in the field.

We had the opportunity to visit the set of Suicide Squad as Smith was still shooting (pun intended), and a chance to see his scripture-emblazoned weaponry up close. Fans now know that Deadshot’s signature wrist-mounted guns have made the leap from comics to live-action, but Smith revealed that it’s not all movie magic and special effects – those one of a kind handguns are the real deal:

“I was there when they were building them. These are the stunt ones but they are actual Glocks. Real guns that actually fire, I got to go to the gun range and fire them for real. So there is a crazy weird kinda power thing having them strapped on and actually shooting them. And you get the real sensation, you know, of what it would be--these are fake [has been pointing guns at group, laughs].”

The crew members in charge of operating and handling the stunt and prop weapons went into further detail, explaining how the wrist-mounted guns were formed from partly disassembled Glocks, turned into the wrist mounts now shown in numerous trailers and TV spots (in glorious slow motion). They’re able to fire actual rounds (blanks) to give the sensation of the real thing to both the actor and camera, but there have also been versions created to attach to a separate air canister, firing real (non-lethal) projectiles.

Will Smith as Deadshot in Suicide Squad

Of course, the first line of defense for Deadshot is likely going to be his traditional firearms: his trusty rifle and handguns attached all over his body (he has “shot” in his name, after all). But the mission at hand isn’t going to be a short or easy one – so what happens when those guns run out? The comic book version of the hero is able to churn out a near-endless supply of ammunition, but on film, Smith told us how his personal experience playing a famed Heavyweight Champ will be fusing two lethal styles together.

In Suicide Squad, Deadshot will be just as deadly with his fists as with his firearms:

“There’s the martial arts and, you know, for me it was cool coming from… I was using the base that I got with Ali from boxing, so I wanted boxing - to be able to punch and shoot. So that’s sort of the fighting style, it’s a punch and a shoot. So it’s really cool and it’s fun, it’s like something you’ve never really seen before. So you get the same movements, like ‘Bang!’ [throws short combination ending with gunshot]. Really, it’s like little boy Heaven [laughs].”

We didn’t get the chance to see how Smith, director David Ayer and the fight choreographer got to turn that concept into actual fight sequences, and the lack of evidence in the marketing may be a good sign (if the result truly was something original, and is being kept as a surprise for the film itself). And given his experience in action films, an approach to choreography that Will Smith believes hasn’t been seen before is probably something his fans will want to see explored.

Will Smith Muhammad Ali Movie

With the boxer Smith played to critical acclaim having recently passed away, it also seems fitting that he should be able to offer another tribute, no matter how subtle. After all, it was his dedication to the role of Muhammad Ali that saw Smith physically transformed, opening the door to even more physical performances as one of Hollywood’s more imposing action stars.

As he enters the next phase of his career – a comic book villain, sharing the spotlight with a sizable ensemble cast – fans will know that the role, and Ali himself, helped it take shape.

NEXT: Harley Quinn's Original Suit Was Made For Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 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. The Flash is currently without release date.

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