If John Ostrander, creator of the modern day version of “Suicide Squad,” had any say in the matter, Oprah Winfrey would score the vastly important role of Amanda Waller in Warner Bros.’ big screen adaption of the supervillain/antihero special ops team.
Earlier this week, most of the primary players were announced for the film set in DC Comics‘ shared movie universe, with one of the major exceptions being Waller, a government agent and the de facto leader of the Squad. Beyond Oprah, others targeted for the pivotal role are Oscar Award winner Octavia Spencer and Tony Award winner and star of “How to Get Away with Murder” Viola Davis.
The cast that was announced, which includes Will Smith as Deadshot, Jared Leto as the Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Tom Hardy as Rick Flag and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, is filled with inspired choices, according to Ostrander, whose history with the Squad dates back to writing their first modern day appearance in 1987’s “Legends” #3.
CBR News connected with the always affable writer to discuss the casting news, with Ostrander expressing his surprise that “Suicide Squad” was selected as the immediate follow-up to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” ahead of more likely candidates, like “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League Part One,” which will both be released in 2017.
And while he’s impressed with the announced team, Ostrander does believe Bronze Tiger and Night Shade would have been strong inclusions for the roster, and is very interested to see what writer Justin Marks and director David Ayer do with Leto’s Joker, as the Clown Prince has never been a member of the Suicide Squad in comic book continuity. And, for those at Warner Bros. reading this, he’s not at all opposed to having a Stan Lee-like cameo in the film.
CBR News: Were you surprised when “Suicide Squad” was announced as part of Warner Bros. plans for a shared DC Comics cinematic universe?
John Ostrander: Certainly! I was pleased, but I wouldn’t have guessed that it would have been one of the properties that they would do quite so quickly. That’s a heck of a slot. It’s the first movie after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” That places them pretty high and sure, that pleases me.
Obviously, Will Smith is the headliner of a very impressive cast — he’ll be playing Deadshot, a major player from your classic run on the series. What are your thoughts on that choice to play Floyd Lawton?
I see it. I definitely see it. The thing you have to consider is that movies are different and separate entities from comics. They have different needs, and they have to find ways to get a lot of people into seats. To the general public, Deadshot as a character is not well known, so they wouldn’t really notice any difference. Of course, the people doing the movies want to have the biggest star that they can, because that will help draw people into the movie. Understanding all of that, I have no problem with the casting.
And don’t forget, Gail Simone wrote a slightly different Floyd Lawton than I did. They’ve had Deadshot on “Arrow,” and again, [that’s] not at all the Deadshot that I wrote. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t valid for what they’re doing. It isn’t necessary that they follow my interpretation of the character. I do think that I have a very good take on Deadshot, but I’ve got to admit, any time casting is announced for anything, you get a certain percentage of the fans that are up in arms about it. “It’s all wrong. It’s never going to work.” Going back, they said that about Michael Keaton when he was first cast as Batman, and they said it about Christian Bale, and they said it about Ben Affleck. Let’s simmer down and see what it looks like, first.
Will Smith has played an action hero, and he’s obviously a very funny actor. And we’ve seen his dramatic chops, too. That combination feels like he would be a good fit for the role.
Agreed. And it depends on what abilities he intends to use to portray him. I’ve seen some of his very serious films, like the one he did with his son, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” I think he is a very versatile and skilled actor.
It also depends on how the part is written, what the director wants out of it and what Will Smith brings to it. But I have no doubt that he is fully capable of bringing a really good performance to it.
Remember, my Lawton had a very dry sense of humor. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. He would say things very straight-faced, and you couldn’t always tell if he was kidding or not. “Maybe, I will just shoot your kneecaps off.” Is he kidding or not? It’s hard to know with Lawton.
And what about Tom Hardy as Rick Flag?
I think that’s a very interesting choice. Again, Tom Hardy is a very versatile actor. What I am really impressed by with all of the casting is that they are getting some very good actors to play these parts. That means Warner Bros. is very serious about this movie. They are serious about the concept.
I think Hardy is an excellent actor. Jared Leto as The Joker? Oh, my. This is his first film since winning an Academy Award! That’s pretty high profile for a film called “Suicide Squad.” They are taking this very seriously. [Laughs]
What do you think [writer] Justin Marks and [director] David Ayer have to do in terms of storytelling and world-building to make the movie work? One report is that they are looking to do an “Ocean’s 11”-style caper film. Is that the right direction, do you think?
It sounds like they are going with my original concept, which is that these are bad guys, and in order to earn their freedom, they have to go on missions, in which they could be killed. I’ve even read that they are talking about that as the film, as well. Which I think is a good one.
My original pitch to DC was the Secret Society of Super-Villains meets “The Dirty Dozen.” This sounds like they are fully behind the whole “Dirty Dozen” concept. These are people that will get pardoned if they survive a very risky mission.
One bit of potential casting that I have to get your thoughts on is Oprah Winfrey as Amanda Waller — what do you think?
What’s really interesting to me is that all three of the women that they were talking about, Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, were at the top of my list. Actually, I was just talking to my fiance Mary Mitchell the other day, just before this was announced, and those were the three names that came to me off the top of my head. Oprah was actually at the top of my list! She showed in “The Color Purple” that she’s a really good actor, and she’s got the attitude for Waller. And they’re all of the same general build, which I made for Waller. I like that, as well. I think Queen Latifah would be a good fit, too. She almost did Waller when she did “Chicago.” She certainly has the attitude.
These are all A-list, big name people. Again, this isn’t a film just for the fans of the comic. They want as many people [as possible], and that means the general public, to go see this film. This kind of casting is capable of grabbing lots of people and putting them in seats. This is a very serious enterprise.
Waller, Deadshot, Rick Flag, Enchantress, Captain Boomerang — these all make sense as members of the Squad. Are there any notable additions or omissions as far as you are concerned?
I think Bronze Tiger would have been interesting. I think they needed a few more characters that aren’t villains, because that’s what we did originally, in order to make it work. I think Night Shade could work either way as a hero or a villain. She has a very useful power. But again, it’s a very interesting choice in having The Joker for the Squad. It will be interesting to see how they make that work. And if they use [Lex] Luthor, as they are evidently in negotiations to do, that would also be an interesting story element.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think you are involved in the movie. Would you answer the call if they wanted to run some things by you?
I would like a Stan Lee cameo. [Laughs]
Other than that, certainly, if they wanted to talk to me about my thoughts, I would be happy to oblige. Hollywood generally prefers dead authors as opposed to live ones, because they don’t want people saying, “That’s not what I wrote.” Certainly, there are people out there that have my phone number. And if they are interested to talk, that would be great. But I have nothing to quibble about based on what they are doing so far.
And you’ll be first in line to see it?
Oh, you bet.