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James Gunn On Jon Ostrander’s Influence, Differences Between ‘The Suicide Squad’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ & More

The highly anticipated film, The Suicide Squad, is less than a month away and I could not be more excited!

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the set of the film. During the visit, I joined a group of journalists for a roundtable interview with writer/director James Gunn.  During the chat, Gunn spoke about how much fun the filming process has been thus far.

The Suicide Squad cast and James Gunn.
Sean Gunn, Pete Davidson, Mayling Ng, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, writer/director James Gunn, Margot Robbie, Flula Borg and Michael Rooker on the set of The Suicide Squad. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Gunn also spoke about the inspiration for the film and how John Ostrander’s run in the comics played a big part in picking the characters. Gunn also talked about tackling an R-rated comic book film and the differences between this film and his Guardians of the Galaxy movies. 

Check out the interview with James Gunn below: 

How’s the shooting going? 

Gunn: It’s been really the most fun I’ve ever had in my life on a movie. Although, today is stressful.

Can you say anything about your story? Because I do love the deep cuts, particularly also the nerdy inclusion of Ratcatcher 2.

Gunn: So I’m a huge fan of the original John Ostrander run of Suicide Squad, in which he created the whole Dirty Dozen as a super-villains team. And I don’t think that it’s so much as an interpretation of what he wrote, but I do think of it as a continuation of what he did. So, if the series was still being told in his style today and R-rated, then it would be this movie. I think it’s very much in line with that and that’s what he did. 

When John, who actually has a little cameo in the film, when he was first putting this team together, he was only able to get certain characters and it really was for him, the fun of taking these characters that weren’t as well known and developing them in a real way.

To me, that’s one of the greatest superhero runs of any comic series. And to keep that sense of it being a caper film, a war caper film, a lot of the film is within the genre of the war caper film, which is not really something that’s existed for a long time. But in the late ’60s with films like Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes and Where Eagles Dare, that was a real vibrant genre and one of the big genres in the world and you kind of take that engine and then add the fun of Suicide Squad to it.

Nathan Fillion as T.D.K., Pete Davidson as Blackguard, Sean Gunn as Weasel, Michael Rooker as Savant, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Jai Courtney as Boomerang, Flula Borg as Javelin, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Mayling Ng as Mongal in The Suicide Squad. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

When you were invited to come in and play in the DC/Warner Bros. sandbox, what were you most excited about?

Gunn: Basically DC came and said, “Hey, what do you want to do? Anything?” And at first, I really honestly didn’t think it was going to be Suicide Squad, but I was playing with a few different ideas of a few different DC properties and this was the one that just took off. I just fell in love with this particular story that we’re telling right now. And I fell in love with some of the characters and the way we could do it. It’s not a superhero movie, obviously, it’s a supervillain film, but to be able to tell a movie like this in a completely different way. 

And in a lot of ways, when I came in to do Guardians and being able to do a space opera in a totally different way, this is my way to do a war film in a completely different way. And I thought it was something that I could do. And it both surprised people by giving them something completely different than what they expect just like we did with Guardians

People saw that trailer for the first time with these weird characters in prison and what was going on with them, to be able to do something like that again, where people might be expecting it to be like Guardians. They might be expecting it to be like the first Suicide Squad. They might be expecting it to be like, whatever, but it’s not like any of those things.

Do you think that’s the main thing that makes this a completely separate thing from Guardians? Because I feel like the vibe I’m getting, it almost feels like it’s just going to be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy – because visually, you want to do it separately.

Gunn: I mean, it’s a much, much, much rougher film than Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything is almost completely practical. The biggest sets I’ve run in almost any film, even more visual. I was able to take all of the heads of departments that I’ve used on other films and just do a best of, and Dan Sudek, who’s doing our special effects, what I was saying this morning, he’s doing more special effects, more live special effects in this film than all of the Marvel movies he’s ever done combined, which is every single Marvel movie that was shot in Atlanta. And so it’s just a much more grounded, you know, darker film. Gorier.

David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, John Cena as Peacemaker, King Shark, Idris Elba as Bloodsport and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 in The Suicide Squad. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Is there anything that this R-rating is going to allow you to do that you couldn’t do on the Guardians?

Gunn: It just allows me to do anything we want, but it really is a more grounded story. It’s a sad story. And one of the most fun things is, I think at the end of the day, even though we do kill Guardians of the Galaxy, we kill some of them, but in this movie, it really is about, you don’t know who’s going to get killed. And I think with the Guardians, you start out sort of knowing these are guys that may have different problems, but at the end of the day, they’re all really good people.

And that isn’t the case with this, it’s a much more complicated story. Some of these characters may end up being good. Some of them are definitely not good. And some of them, most of them are somewhere in between with different shades of gray and that moral drama, that moral play.

The fact that you don’t know anything that’s going to happen. I don’t think most people think that Star Lord’s head is going to explode in the middle of the movie, but any of these characters, their heads could explode in the middle of the movie. And so it’s that unknown, that being on edge, that really not knowing what’s going to happen is much different than the Guardians.

The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 5.

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