DC fans are gearing up for Warner Bros’ ensemble film The Suicide Squad from Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn. Yet at the same time, there is a growing call for the release of David Ayer’s cut of the 2016 movie that introduced Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn to the big screen comic book universe alongside his Task Force X and Jared Leto’s Joker. In light of the Snyder Cut, Ayer has said that his version of the film was “ripped out” by studio heads, leaving us wondering what audiences missed out on.
Kevin Hickman, one of the film’s editors, spoke with CinemaBlend about his illustrious career on the cutting room floor of movies, including Rogue One and the recent release Triumph. He talked with us his experience on 2016’s Suicide Squad, which he described as an especially “grueling” project to be part of. Hickman offered some insight about why the movie infamously was pulled apart from David Ayer’s original Suicide Squad concept with these words:
It was well over a million feet of film that we shot for Suicide Squad, and it was such a big, big ensemble movie having so many characters that you have to introduce and set up their backstory and the end develop a camaraderie between them all. So, Suicide Squad was a challenge because we had so many characters and at some point we screened it for the studio and they wanted to take things in a different direction. [Warner Bros wanted the] origin of the characters to happen much closer to the beginning and insert a level of comedy into the film.
Late last year, Suicide Squad writer/director David Ayer said that the vision for his film shifted at the studio once Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice received negative reviews and the comedic Deadpool became a major hit. It reportedly led Warner Bros to become “panicked” and change course. Kevin Hickman shared what exactly needed to be changed from an editing point of view:
We ended up having to restructure how the characters were introduced. That was something that we toyed with right up until the movie was finished. In the original structure, the characters are kind of introduced in linear fashion and the way that it ended up, we spent the first 20 minutes like bam, here's this guy, bam, here's this person, here's their origin, here's their backstory. So we kind of shoved everything into the viewer's face right up front so that we could get the story going. Whereas in the original structure, it kind of happened in many events. So you're, you know, 45 minutes in the movie and now we're meeting this person and seeing their backstory. So we found a way to make the film more efficient as far as opening up and introducing all the characters.
Introducing ten major comic book characters in the matter of two hours was never going to be an easy feat, especially in a summer movie as big as Suicide Squad became. A lot of audiences hadn’t opened a Suicide Squad comic book before the movie came out, and Warner Bros was playing catch up with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Amidst all of this, David Ayer didn’t exactly set out to make a straight-laced comic book film.
So it was decided behind the scenes that David Ayer’s original structure for the movie would be changed to offer more introductions early in the film and inject more comedy at the core of the story. And as we’ve certainly heard before, there was a much bigger plan for Jared Leto’s Joker then audiences got to see. When asked about the one aspect of the film Hickman wished had remained, the movie editor said this:
Jared Leto, I thought, did a really good job of playing the Joker. I know there's a lot of opinions on the matter, but I really liked what he did. He really brought a psychotic character to life and because of the running time and because Jared provided so much material we were not able to use a lot of it. And for a lot of the material, we just couldn't find a purpose for it because sometimes he would just go off on such crazy, insane tangents and it would be really hard to weave it into the film. Sometimes it just wasn't appropriate for what he was doing but, it would have been nice to have more of that Joker character a little bit more fleshed out then what came out in the movie.
Jared Leto recently got a chance to reprise his version of The Joker for Zack Snyder’s Justice League during some additional photography Snyder did ahead of his director cut being released on HBO Max. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement was a years-long push by fans that ended on a high note with Snyder’s vision becoming publicly available.
The Snyder Cut has inspired calls for his SnyderVerse to continue, along with #ReleaseTheAyerCut. Kevin Hickman told CinemaBlend his thoughts on Suicide Squad’s director cut:
I would like to see David's final version of the film. I saw what David was trying to do with the film and I thought it was a pretty bold film. It was less comedy. It was a much darker film. It was almost like a Black Hawk Down type thing. It was just very militarized, very serious. I mean, of course there were supposed to be comedic moments with Will Smith, but it was a darker film. I like where David was going with it and it would be really nice to see him be able to finish what he started. I don't know if that will happen now because of James Gunn’s reboot, which I haven't seen yet, but from the trailer it looks like a lot of fun. It definitely feels like a different vibe than what David Ayer would have made, but I am really looking forward to seeing what James Gunn did because I'm a big fan of his work.
Warner Bros is certainly moving on with the upcoming release of The Suicide Squad on August 6, but it’s intriguing to hear the story behind David Ayer’s 2016 movie.