Comprised of a cast filled with morally bankrupt supervillains forced into doing good, “Suicide Squad” is a superhero movie unlike any we’ve seen. And since the film stars bad guys, that means the film’s actors had to prepare for their roles in a different way. They weren’t playing upstanding do-gooders like Superman or Captain America — no, they’re playing characters with real capacities for evil.
As revealed during a press conference for the upcoming DC Comics-based movie, the subject matter pushed the film’s actors to dive into some unusual places for research and inspiration. This was particularly true of the film’s four actresses, who were charged with playing characters like the deranged Harley Quinn, relentless Amanda Waller, tragic Katana and demonic Enchantress.
“[W]e had an amazing resource with the comic books, but there are still little gaps in the backstory and things you need to fill in yourself,” said Margot Robbie, who brings fan favorite character Harley Quinn to life in the film. “I watched a couple of TED Talks on schizophrenia, amongst a bunch of other things. But that really helped because the women that were doing these talks were so intelligent. They were professors, and Harley needs to be wickedly intelligent but also kind of psychotic. It was so helpful. I also got recommended to read a play called ‘Fool For Love’ about this really dysfunctional relationship and that, for whatever reason, helped me unlock the whole feeling towards the Joker.”
Viola Davis plays Amanda Waller, a ruthless government operative who concocts the Task Force X plan as a means to get a handle on the increasing metahuman problem. A gift from co-star Joel Kinnaman, who plays Waller’s righthand man Rick Flag, helped her get into the role. “Joel gave me a book called ‘Confessions of a Sociopath,’ and I read that book extensively,” said Davis. “It’s confessions of a woman who’s a sociopath, and one of the things I found out is a lot of CEOs of companies are sociopaths. People who have no guilt, if they cry they’re only crying because they feel like they’re losing control.”
But Davis did more than read to prep for her role as Waller. She also dug deep into her memory and “tapped into Viola at eight, because I can’t tap into this with Viola at 51. At eight I could beat somebody’s ass. I was just always angry. People were always teasing me, I was bullied. I remember that was the first story I told [director] David [Ayer] when I met him. He was like, ‘Viola, just tell me about your childhood.’ I said, ‘Well David, I remember when I was eight years old I kicked a lot of ass.’ So there was a part of me that had to tap into that because with women, with me, I’m always apologizing. I’m shy, I’m always retreating. I never tap into my power and Amanda Waller is not that. She is unapologetically brutal. I had to tap into that because otherwise I would have retreated, and with this group, I couldn’t retreat.”
Karen Fukuhara tapped into her own history and family life in order to connect with Katana — and the DC comics helped a bunch, too. “Coming from a Japanese-American family, we had a lot of those Japanese cultures and values growing up in the household,” said Fukuhara. “It was my first language and we grew up on Japanese traditions and food and TV and all of that. I think when I first read the Katana comics, I immediately fell in love and I immediately felt like there was a part of her inside of me even though our personalities were so completely different. For me, the switch really happened when I put on the mask and the wardrobe. That really helped me tap into the character.”
In order to bring a wild character like the all-powerful witch Enchantress to life, Cara Delevingne took instruction from the film’s director David Ayer. “Some of the first things David said to me were looking into things like addiction, like never getting enough or feeling like anything is enough and constantly needing something,” said Delevingne. “Then also, it was trying to find the kind of opposites of her and trying to find the demon inside myself, which I definitely was able to find… And trying to make that as real as possible and understand why someone would do something that evil or want to really hurt that many people and just try to make it real, I guess. That’s what David wanted for this movie.”
Directed by David Ayer and starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jared Leto and more, “Suicide Squad” opens on August 5.
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