Blastr traveled last summer to Toronto to visit the Pinewood Studios set of Suicide Squad, the new super-villain team-up movie that is the next big entry in the DC Expanded Universe -- the DC equivalent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- that was officially launched with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. One of the things that is so cool about this particular movie is that it brings to life several iconic DC bad guys we've never seen on the big screen before, chief among them Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
While observing shooting on the set, we and other journalists got to see pretty much all the principal characters in action and in full costume, with the four mentioned above joined by team wrangler Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Slipknot (Adam Beach) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Missing in action that day were Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Jared Leto's new version of the Joker. While we did not get to speak with everyone, our group did have a chance to chat with Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Courtney, Robbie and Fukuhara about their characters, the shoot and being part of the Squad.
The first Squad member to come under interrogation was Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who told us it was a "huge leap of faith" to take the role of Waylon Jones, the cannibalistic criminal with the exceptionally bad skin condition. Akinnuoye-Agbaje said that he had no idea what he was getting into in terms of the make-up required to turn him into Croc: "Absolutely not. I didn’t actually read the script until we signed on...the process is very, very interesting and arduous. First of all, I have probably one of the most amazing prosthetic team in the business, Chris Nielson and the guys in LA. They’ve created, as you’ll see today, the most amazing prosthetic life form in form of Killer Croc."
The actor added that the elaborate prosthetics "just enables me to really bring him to life. I mean, I’ve done this before, but never to this degree. The detail, the proportions, how real I can make it, it literally follows every crease on my face. But the actual process of getting into it, putting it on? On some days, when I’m just doing head and shoulders and the hands it’s about three hours. But there will be the last section of the movie where I’m going to be full body. That’s going to be about five, six hours."
Akinnuoye-Agbaje also said that allowing the audience to glimpse the humanity inside Jones was a key aspect of the movie for him, explaining, "The challenge was, and still is, is to really displace the fact that I am wearing prosthetics for the audience and really have the audience relate to the soul of this creature or hybrid, this creature/man."
The London-born actor admitted that Croc, as in the comics, has cannibalistic tendencies, and he also revealed that he traveled to the Everglades to observe real crocodiles and get a sense of how to blend their movements into his persona. "It’s really important for this creature to be hungry for flesh, even when he’s around The Squad," he said about the character's darker element, adding that he kept his distance from the rest of the Squad as much as possible. "They always have to be wary and be aware of the fact that, at any moment, he might get the hunger and just take an arm off."
While Akinnuoye-Agbaje suggests that Croc's arc involves learning to exist within a larger "family," Australian actor Jai Courtney had no such grace notes about his character, Captain Boomerang, who he calls a "bogan piece of s***" ("Bogan" is an Australian slang term for low-class person). We met up with Courtney and his fellow Ausralian, Margot Robbie, deep into the outdoor night shooting we observed. During a break the two actors sidled over to our group, with Courtney first asked if his Captain Boomerang is the exact character from the comics, a.k.a. George "Digger" Harkness, or some new variation.
"I think it is somewhat of an amalgamation, I think is probably the fairest thing to say," he hinted. "I was curious about that. I have my own ideas, but we haven’t set something up that we are bound by. David (Ayer) and I had a discussion about that early on. So, look, who knows? Within this property, I guess that leaves room and freedom in a sense to kind of go either way. But at this stage, it is not necessarily specified."
With Boomerang's less-than-savory background and mixed success as a member of the Squad in the comics (where team architect Amanda Waller decried him as an unpredictable, dangerous screw-up), Courtney said that the character starts out in the film at odds with the rest of the team: "That’s what I think makes this movie so fun is that there is so much antagonism between them all. We all have our roles to play amongst the group. I definitely pick up the kind of class clown slack at times. Harley has this great line where she says, 'Your village in Australia is missing its idiot. You should call home.' Which is a great line and rings true."
Robbie decided early on that Harley Quinn would have specific views about each of her teammates, including Boomerang. "I just write in the corner of my page what I think about them," she explained. "At the beginning I decided how she feels about each character. For some reason, I think she really likes Killer Croc and looks at him like a teddy bear. She looks at him and says, 'I love him.' And I think she thinks that El Diablo is the coolest one because he has the coolest super power. It’s a brother/sister thing with Boomer, because he either irritates her, or she finds him funny and then he goes back to irritating her."
Harley, in recent years, has become one of the most popular characters in the DC Universe, and after a couple of decades of seeing her in the comics and various animated adventures (she was actually invented for Batman: The Animated Series in 1992), Robbie said she was honored to bring her to life on the big screen. "I’m fortunate to be the first to do it, because no one has set the bar remarkably high like they have with Joker, for example," she offered. "So, in that sense, it is easier. But I’m acutely aware of the fact that there is a massive fan base and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. So, it’s terrifying, but it’s nice to be the first one to do it."
Harley, of course, is also the longtime girlfriend of the Joker (after starting out as his psychiatrist before he "flipped" her), and the presence of the Clown Prince of Crime as played by Jared Leto is felt on set, even when he's not around. "Yeah, he’s kind of terrifying," said Robbie about Leto, who stayed in character for the entire shoot. "He’s really lovely, though. He’s very conscientious on set. He’s not completely lost in the character that he’s violent or anything. Between every take, he asks if I’m OK, blah, blah, blah.
"When I first heard that we couldn’t refer to him as Jared and things like that, I started to panic a bit, because I’m in an abusive relationship with this guy who thinks he is the character," she continued. "I was worried I’d get beat up on set. But he’s respectful, professional, and lovely. It is so incredible to watch him work, because it is a really bizarre process and kind of fascinating."
The Joker aside, both Robbie and Courtney said that the camaraderie amongst the members of the team has been extraordinary. "It’s been one of those bizarrely pleasant experiences," said Courtney, calling his fellow actors "this obnoxious little family." "We’ve all had, I think, varying types of experiences on films and spoke about it early on, where it's like you get on a film, sometimes, and you know it's going to be good and you are working with a good group of people. It was probably the rehearsal time that we were afforded, I think that meant that there was this period of concentration where we got to trust each other and coupled that with this lucky accident of the group that was assembled. We have just had a whole lot of fun."
The person who may be having the most fun is Japanese-American actress Karen Fukuhara, who is making her big screen debut in Suicide Squad as Katana, martial arts expert, bodyguard to Rick Flag and wielder of the mystical Soultaker sword. We met with her while touring some of the interior sets, where one of the reporters on the tour blurted out that it was a surprise to see Katana in the movie (she was not part of the Squad in the comics, but did time with teams like Birds of Prey and the Outsiders). "Online, it said I was going to be playing Plastique, which was interesting, because she’s a redheaded, green-eyed, voluptuous woman," laughed the diminutive brunette. "But, yeah, it was kind of amazing to see our first photo go up and then the positive reactions that came with it."
Fukuhara said that a combination of reading the comics and physical training for the role helped her to formulate who Katana was, and what her background is in the movie. "I got lucky, because Katana has her own comic book series, and then I read Birds of Prey. It helps a lot when you know the backstory of her character, because in this movie I don’t think you see much of that. But knowing that at the back of my mind really helps with playing the character and doing all the action and everything.
"She’s an exquisite martial artist and swordswoman," continued Fukuhara. "The production, they’ve helped me a lot with fitness, martial arts training, swordfighting training. We did it almost every day, so that’s helped a lot as well. Not only just the mental part in doing the research behind the character in terms of comics, but also physically looking the part and also being able to do all the stunts."
For Fukuhara, working on her first film alongside actors like Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis and the others has been an incredible experience, to say the least. "I have nothing to compare it to because it’s my first movie," she said, confessing at this point in the shoot, with about a month left, some sadness at leaving was creeping in. "A lot of the cast members have been telling me that it doesn’t get as good as this usually. So I really lucked out with how amazing everyone is."
Suicide Squad opens on August 5.