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SYFY WIRE The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad's R-rating is James Gunn flexing muscles he couldn't in a PG-13 Guardians movie

By Jenna Busch
Suicide Squad Set Visit

In case the name didn’t tip you off, please know that The Suicide Squad is definitely not for the kiddies. The film (which is not directly connected to the 2016 movie, despite some overlapping characters) comes out on Aug. 6, and SYFY WIRE spoke to the cast and crew on set about the R-rating and how it’s not just DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

“This is my way to do a war film in a completely different way,” director James Gunn explains, clarifying that his DC debut won’t be quite like the Marvel franchise that made him a household name. “People might be expecting it to be like Guardians, [or] they might be expecting it to be like the first Suicide Squad, [or] they might be expecting it to be, like, whatever. But it's not like any of those things... It's just a much more grounded, darker film.”

Gunn calls it a “noir caper film,” comparing it to movies like Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes, though he promises he’s taken that “vibrant genre” as far as it can go and then added to it with The Suicide Squad

Although Gunn says it’s not like his MCU work, pretty much everybody agrees The Suicide Squad is decidedly a James Gunn movie. Producer Peter Safran says that the film’s R-rating is all the director’s doing. “I think it’s a lot of fun for James to be able to flex some of those muscles that [he] can’t do in a PG-13 Guardians movie,” Safran says. “He’s pretty hardcore with it.” 

The body count promises to be pretty hardcore, too. The posters for the movie do say, “Don’t get attached,” and it sure sounds like we shouldn't. Back in late 2019 — almost two years ago — SYFY WIRE visited the set at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta and got to see Jotunheim, described by production designer Beth Mickle (who mentioned Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and Black Hawk Down as influences), as “an old Nazi fortress that’s on this mythical island, Corto Maltese, in South America.” 

Based on what SYFY WIRE saw of the huge, lab-like set, it seemed clear that not every character would be making it out alive.  

The Suicide Squad is most directly inspired by John Ostrander’s run of the comic series back in the ‘80s, and it wasn’t all fluffy kittens and hand-holding. “If the series was simply told, his style today had an R-rating, then it would be this movie,” Gunn says of Ostrander — who also has a cameo in the film. 

Don’t let the R-rating worry you too much, as The Suicide Squad is still a comedy, too. 

“It’s very much that amalgamation of Dirty Dozen and Guardians of the Galaxy,” Safran says. “It is incredibly funny with great character comedy. It's based in the characters he's created. So it's got great dialogue comedy. It's got great situational comedy. It's got hilarious physical comedy. And it's all tied to the action and the mission that these guys are on. So people will not be missing comedy in this movie. But it's also a really big action film.”

David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man and the Wasp), who straddles the line between Marvel and DC these days, just like Gunn, says that one of the things that cause the R-rating is, “Heads blowing up,” though we didn’t learn whose head was going to do that. 

“It's visceral. And it's James unbound, I think, with the freedom — It's not like he's making an R-rated movie. I think he's making just the movie that's in his mind. And then they've taken the cuffs off in the sense that it can be whatever it's going to be,” Dastmalchian says.

Taking the cuffs off, in this case, results in Sylvester Stallone voicing King Shark, a giant, dimwitted, walking great white. However, Steve Agee (who is a huge fan of Shark Week) did the green screen work. Agee says The Suicide Squad’s stunt supervisor and second unit director, Guy Norris, is proof of the new DC’s movie’s action bona fides. 

“Guy Norris was the stunt supervisor for Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road. There were a few days [during shooting] where I got to sit and watch Guy map out these huge explosions. And like people die, just like in Fury Road. I was like, ‘Oh my God. This s*** has been going on the whole time. We're indoors shooting, having our weird little conversations. Guy Norris is out there on the back lot blowing hit up.’ It's mind-blowing. ‘Oh my God, this is really action-packed.’”

The Suicide Squad

Sometime after the set visit, SYFY WIRE spoke with producer Charles Roven. He says that the R-rating was always part of Gunn’s pitch. 

“[Gunn] said I'm going to write you an R-rated movie, and you need to be comfortable with that,” Roven recalls. “And, honestly, we never really talked about [the rating] after that, because we knew that's what we were going to get and we got it. But it's the most fun R-rated movie I've ever seen.”

The Suicide Squad and its R-rating will debut in theaters and on HBO Max on August 6.