The Suicide Squad cast and director on their movie and John Cena’s… ability

James Gunn writes and directs soft reboot/sequel The Suicide Squad, once again featuring a bunch of DC baddies sent on a probably fatal mission. Steve Newall heard from the cast and director over Zoom.

Press conferences have always been strange things, made even stranger in the COVID era by moving to Zoom. You probably know what it’s like to be in a chat with a bunch of your mates, with people talking over one another, connection issues and the like.

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Reflecting the huge number of people of note who worked on The Suicide Squad, in the wee hours of the morning I found myself watching a Zoom press conference with a staggering twenty people from the movie. Like the film itself, things got chaotic…

In this piece you’ll hear comments from a number of The Suicide Squad‘s cast, as well as director James Gunn. Let’s kick off with my question to John Cena.


John Cena – Peacemaker

Good Lord, that’s a costume. What changes you when you dress as Peacemaker?

JOHN CENA: Oh, I think it’s the ability to be Peacemaker. And everybody I got to work with on set, I think knows the difference between who I am and certainly the character. I really just felt bad for James because my favourite part of the costume is the chrome helmet. But it’s the absolute worst because he has to CG everything out because it’s a mirror image of all the cameras shooting back at you.

So the thing that I really enjoy the most is the most ridiculous piece of the costume. But it was also one of the most difficult things for James, so…

JOEL KINNAMAN: Dude, the most ridiculous piece of your costume, is your tighty whities.

JOHN CENA: I was trying not to tell dick jokes, I had a lot of dick jokes…

PETE DAVIDSON: I saw it in a screening with, like, twenty people. And the first thing everybody said after the movie, besides “it was great” was like, “Yo, Cena’s dick?! It’s crazy.”

JOHN CENA: Once again, crazy is probably a good way to define my dick.

PETE DAVIDSON: All my uncles who love wrestling were like “I didn’t know Cena was like packing like that!”

James Gunn – Director

On the moment he said OMG to himself about making this film. 

I felt like that the whole time. I could not believe that. I went in with an idea that stayed stable from the first time I pitched it to the guys at Warners, you know, to the very end. But I think that just the fact that I knew that I was being entrusted with this enormous amount of freedom on such a big budget movie, I really did feel a huge responsibility to people to do it the best I could.

But also because I was given so much freedom, I felt the responsibility to take risks. Making movies at this level, it does seem like big movies are the ones that people are going to see in theatres. And if they don’t continue to take risks and change and try new things, then people are going to want to be coming to the theatres if it’s the same boring three act structure every time people are going to get bored. So I really I felt grateful. I felt the sense of magic.

How Gunn selected the characters to bring to life on screen.

I selected them all in very different ways. I mean, I knew the kind of story I needed to tell. And there were some characters like, you know, Harley who I wanted to put in the movie and Boomer and these characters that I liked a lot. And I like the actors who played them.

But then there were other characters like Polka Dot Man. I really wanted to use a character who was thought of as a lame super villain. I literally put into Google ‘Who is the dumbest super villain of all time?’ and Polka Dot Man always came up near the top. Being able to take a character like that and then give him heart was fun for me.

I love rats, so Ratcatcher was an easy one. I wrote Bloodsport for Idris. I wanted to work with Idris, I wanted him to star in this movie, so it wasn’t a matter so much of who the character was. It was “let’s find a character who’s obscure, who can build our own cinematic creation for Idris”. So every character was different.

Peter Safran – Producer

On James Gunn’s unique vision.

James came in with a real just unbelievable clarity of vision in terms of what he wanted to accomplish.

So what he pitched to us that very first time is exactly what you see on the screen today. And it never changed. There was no waffling. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. And so for Chuck [producer Charles Roden] and myself, it was simply about giving him the tools to do it. And part of it was just giving him the freedom to cast whoever he wanted, you know, shoot in whatever way that he wanted. I mean, it really was the studio gave him complete carte blanche. And, you know, the movie you see is a result of that.

Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn

The traits and emotions Robbie was most excited to explore this time around.

I loved getting to play Harley, who was in the mindset of like ‘single and ready to mingle’. She hadn’t played that version of Harley before. She’s always been very committed to Mr. J or just fresh out of the breakup with Mr. J. And James put in a lot of very funny potential love interests throughout the film.

It doesn’t always end well, obviously, but that was that was kind of fun. And also to play a Harley who is kind of in ignition mode. And any time she’s in a new group, there’s always something fun and new to do because she reacts differently based on who are her teammates. So I was just looking forward to seeing what the group ensemble was going to be and what vibe everyone was going to bring and what that would bring out in Harley.

Idris Elba – Bloodsport

How the role of Bloodsport compares to other physically demanding roles in the past.

Actually, the big interesting one for me was that James and I spoke about the sort of legacy of of DuBois and how old he might be and how old we play him.

And, you know, the trope is to play someone that’s fit and ready to go. But I remember we had this costume in and, you know, we we took weeks to try and figure out what the costume might look like, how it might fit and why we did this. And I said to James “doesn’t fit like it used to,” and he laughed about that. We ended up sort of playing that. I don’t know if it even got in the film, James, but I remember we played the idea that he’s been in jail and he’s not as far as he used to be.

You know, he’s older and he’s still handy. I’ve played characters that the prime of their physicality. But this guy, he was a little heavy. James wanted to sew that into the fabric of his journey as a character. It was a lot of fun to play. That’s awesome. I feel like it’s such a fun thing because these characters are some of the lesser known characters, and you can have a little more fun. You can poke fun at them.

Discussing the competitiveness between Peacemaker and Bloodsport.

That was a really great experience to explore, if I’m honest. It was one of the things that developed. You know, when you read the script, you sort of see the the natural rivalry between John and I.

John and I really sort of gravitated to this natural sort of dick-swinging competition, that was just a lot of fun.

JOHN CENA: On top of that, James gave everyone superhero personalities that are distinctly definable except Bloodsport and Peacemaker, they’re of the same skill set. And I think that really starts the fuel for the oneupmanship. They really want to battle for that position, whereas the other superheroes don’t necessarily need to compete as much. It really does make for some good comedic moments and some wonderful oneupmanship.

Mr. Sylvester Stallone – King Shark

Did he ask his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, for any advice?

No on the last part, but I’m a big fan of seafood. So when I was offered this, I thought, oh… well… I mean, how do I pass it up? I mean, I would have preferred to play a grouper, but I’ll take what I can get.

The qualities of King Shark he likes the most.

I like that he’s on a high protein diet. And I think he’s actually he’s more intelligible than I am, which is very nice. Yeah, it’s less of a slur, though.

His experience with The Suicide Squad castmate Michael Rooker on 1993’s Cliffhanger.

We’re up at least four thousand feet on a cable as thin as my finger. Now, I was terrified. I don’t even like being in high cowboy boots, so I had to acclimate myself. It’s an unnatural thing unless you’re crazy like him. So he would go out on the wire in the open, that’s really dangerous territory. So I would want to do what was necessary in between shots.

I’d say, “where is Rooker?” He’d be hanging on the harness, sliding back and forth over a four thousand foot gap for fun. OK, so do not leave your children with this man. That’s it.

It’s a very sophisticated acting group here, except Michael. I should have dropped you off that cliff years ago.

Joel Kinnaman – Rick Flag

Getting Rick Flag to stand out while surrounded with so many high concept characters and performances.

Well, you know, we had a good script, so I was just so happy to get to do this new version of Flag that James wrote, and got to spread some some comedic wings. It’s the second time I’ve done it, but I felt like I was doing it for the first time.

James had a couple of conversations early on and we decided that I was not going to be bound by what we did in the first film and just let this be a new experience. And I just had so much fun with it too, it was a completely new experience and it felt like it was almost a new character.

Daniela Melchior – Ratcatcher 2

The experience of working with an incredible cast.

I just had to pretend that I’m not the biggest fan of them. I just had to pretend it’s like another day in the office.

How she went about developing a little-known character.

I was really happy that I had this freedom given by James. I didn’t have to stick like glue to an already existing character from the comics.

She doesn’t know how to kill or to fight – because she doesn’t want to also – and because she has this huge arc. So it was really interesting. And I felt that it could be a good starting point for Ratcatcher 2, because it was really her first mission and I hope not the last.

Pete Davidson – Blackguard

On who he thinks has the worst powers or ability.

Probably me. I don’t I don’t have any powers at all.

I just have guns that are strapped to my chest. So I guess me for sure. I had a great time and the people on set were very kind about allowing me to hold the guns. Usually when I’m on sets and stuff, they take away the fun toys because I like TO play around with them. And they were really nice to me. They let me hold them.

Speaking about John Cena’s… ability.

PETE DAVIDSON: Bro, your dick is huge.

JOHN CENA: You have a huge screen and you may have been using a filter of some sort.

JAMES GUNN: No, no, no. John asked me to use a large penis filter on the cameras at all times.

JOHN CENA: We’re surrounded by so many talented professionals. And we just spent a good, solid half a minute or more talking about my dick.