David Ayer talks to us about Suicide Squad, DCEU, Joker, Superman and more!

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Suicide Squad David Ayer interview Will Smith Jared Leto Margot Robbie

It was about a year ago around this time that SUICIDE SQUAD was, as director David Ayer puts it, the "cool little brother" of 2016's big Warner Bros./DC slate. All eyes were on BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, and continued to be until it was released in March and met with a decidedly mixed overall reaction from the fanboy community. And while that film may be currently undergoing a reevaluation from fans thanks to an Ultimate Edition Blu-ray, SUICIDE SQUADE has yet to be put up to the great scrutiny of its target audience. But that changes this week, when WB unleashes what will either be a sigh of relief for the DCEU skeptics or another sign of a rocky road for this franchise.

I spoke to David Ayer on Friday, right when he was in the midst of being pulled in a million different directions. Ayer is currently on a massive press tour for the film, which focuses on a misfit gang of supervillains who are forced to become heroes when the world finds itself in the crosshairs of an evil new foe. SUICIDE SQUAD is the little brother no more; it's the last really big film of the summer and all eyes are on it now. I spoke to Ayer about the pressure that comes with such a project, delving into the massive DC library, dealing with Jared Leto's Joker antics, his take on BATMAN V SUPERMAN, what's in store for him next and more.

Suicide Squad David Ayer interview Will Smith Jared Leto Margot Robbie

I guess entering the DCU has kept you pretty busy?

Yeah, that's an understatement.

Has your life been more stressful since taking on Suicide Squad?

It comes in waves. You know, making any film is a trial. It's interesting because the scrutiny and attention and fan interest is definitely a new thing for me, but it's pretty f*cking cool.

How was Comic-Con for you?

Comic-Con was a great time. It's like seeing it through a soda straw, though. The most amazing thing was, I was being led down this random corridor at the convention center and all of a sudden the doors open and we're on the main floor of the convention for the signing, and there's so many people. [Laughs] And they're so excited, and that's really humbling. This is why I'm making the movie, for them.

When you first started writing the script, how did you balance trying to please the fans who know the title so well while also opening it up to audiences who don't necessarily know the characters?

You can do both. For people who don't know the materials, you have to give them enough information so they can track the film. And at the same time, I think the secret to keeping the fans happy is you have to know canon. It's interesting, because sometimes canon conflicts with itself and you have to decide what you're going to pull from. I think as long as you can justify the choices and explain them. I think they can tell if you care about the characters and you care about the universe.

Did you have trouble deciding which characters to include?

There was the New 52 version, and that had a pretty specific line-up right there, and then it was really about finding who else we can pull into this that I can build the movie around. That's the Crocs of the world and the Enchantress. You know, there's so much material. Geoff Johns sent me a literal 12-foot stack of comics. "Okay, I guess I better get reading!" There's a lot of research and a lot of work to understand all this.

Suicide Squad David Ayer interview Will Smith Jared Leto Margot Robbie

Did you have a favorite character to write?

I think for me, Harley was very interesting to develop. She was kind of the scariest character to write. Once I knew I could write her, once her voice started coming through onto the page, that's when I started to feel much more comfortable about the project and where I was going with the movie.

How about Joker? He's the guy who gets the most attention; was it intimidating to approach that character?

Absolutely. You're trying to stand on the shoulders of giants. Heath is in the pantheon, it's an incredible performance. You start with little baby steps. Jared was so courageous in being willing to tackle this. He's a method actor, which means total commitment. He was one of the first guys to come onto the movie, and bit by bit, I started to see him channel the Joker, and finally when he showed up on set in wardrobe and make-up and in character, it was sort of riveting.

What's it like directing him? Are you directing Jared, or are you directing the Joker?

I'm directing the Joker. It's… you do it with caution. You do it with a lot of respect. I called him Mr. J or Joker on the set. By going at it the way he did, he really raised the bar for the rest of the cast. It really helped make the movie kind of real for everybody involved.

What was your take on all the weird stuff he was doing, sending rats to the rest of the cast and the like?

I was there when Margot opened the box and the rat came out. [Laughs] It was interesting. Joker is this anarchic character, the Clown Prince of Crime. These guys all know each other and everybody's a grownup. It's just a teeny portion of a much bigger process of bringing that cast together.

Suicide Squad David Ayer interview Will Smith Jared Leto Margot Robbie

You guys were making this before Batman V. Superman came out, and of course that film received very mixed reviews. Do you feel there's more riding on Suicide Squad based on the reaction to Batman V. Superman?

I think the pressure is always to make a good movie, and in this day and age you have to expect the pressure. We kind of started out as the cool little brother, and now there's definitely a lot of scrutiny, but they're doing amazing things over there. Geoff Johns really has a handle on where this universe is going. A lot of talented directors, it's going to be a beautiful thing. I'm pretty confident, and I'm proud to be one of the ships in this big fleet that's coming at the world.

What was your opinion of Batman V. Superman?

I liked it a lot. I love Zack; he is probably the biggest fan of DC Comics. He has an incredible passion in a very specific way, a specific take on it. He's a smart guy, and I think he heard everybody, he heard them loud and clear, and you grow and you evolve. I thought it was a stunning movie, absolutely stunning. I wish I could get some of those shots in the can. The guy's an amazing visualist.

Is this a world you'd like to continue playing in? Is there another Suicide Squad story you'd like to tell?

It is sort of addictive, I'll tell you that. Having all these resources and working at this scale, and it is great to work on something that gets so much attention. We'll see. We made this really cool, crazy film family, let's see where the journey takes us and see how the fans respond to the film.

What DC character would you like to tackle if the opportunity were to present itself?

If everything was on the table? I love Superman, I think Superman would be amazing. There's so many; it's such an insanely rich universe, there's so much depth to it. You could literally open up the encyclopedia of characters and stab your finger at a page and you'd have an amazing character.

For your next movie, are you looking forward to doing something a little smaller? Do you want to jump back into another big budget flick?

Right now I have a project with Will called Bright that I start shooting in the fall. It's a much smaller film and it gives me an opportunity to have a little fun and figure out the future.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for JoBlo.com. He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.