Welcome to hell – aka Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the USA. Where the worst super-villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out – even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons – The Suicide Squad – including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favourite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them – all of them.
Were you interested in comic books, before taking this role?
Yes. I had some comic books, but I didn’t read a lot about Savant. I started, but [director James] Gunn was like, “Oh no, don’t read anything. Don’t read too much about it, okay?” So I didn’t, but the look was very similar to the comics. He had things that he wanted to do that related to what my character would be like, his own ideas. He didn’t want anything to influence the script itself, so I was absolutely fine with that.
That’s interesting, that he would ask you to not look into anything. He seems like an interesting director in that way. What’s the process between you two? What’s it like working with James?
He wrote the role for me. I was reading the script and I go, “Gunn, I see some similarities here. What’s going on?” He goes, “Well yeah, there should be similarities. I wrote it for you.” He used my individual abilities as this odd person.
I can bounce a little ball without looking – throw the ball and bounce it back and hit something. I do the same thing with rifles and pistols and knives and axes, and I can hit the target without looking. I can close my eyes, or blindfold myself and, in my mind, I still see it. I still spatially know where it is. My brain adjusts for speed and accuracy and stuff like that. And that’s what Savant’s all about. He’s also an expert at hand-to-hand combat and stuff like that. I’ve been doing Aikido and Judo and stuff all my life. At 17, I started looking into that kind of stuff, and I enjoy it a lot. It’s a fun role. I mean, he accepts the job just to get the hell out of prison for a minute. The poor guy is bored as hell.
You’ve worked with James many times. As an actor and as artists, what do you think makes your collaborative relationship work so well?
You know, I think we’re similar, but we’re really opposites. It’s an odd relationship. I like being directed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Otherwise I take control and do what I want. He still allows me that creative freedom, even in this piece, but he writes it so bloody well that you just don’t want to do anything else. He makes it quite easy for the actor, and it’s a joy. It totally makes my job. I can think about things I want to think about that are more important than worrying about, “Why would he do this? I have to say this?” No. All the lines feel right when you read his scripts.
Who is Amanda Waller, and how does she rope your character and the rest of the characters into doing her bidding, so to speak?
She doesn’t have to rope me. I’m game. I’m ready to get out of there and go for a little spin and hang out and do some dirty work or whatever. My guy is in prison forever, practically, and whatever I can do to get 10 years off, five years off, I’ll do. Her coming and demanding these things, it gives the character the ability to chop off some of his time. He likes that.
I’ve talked to a few people on this movie, and they’ve all mentioned the same familial feeling on set. Any specific memories come to mind?
You quickly become close. Then, just as quickly, it’s over, and you’re going your separate ways. They’re really odd relationships that you build. Some stick, most do not. Me and Gunn hang out with each other in between movies. Obviously he hasn’t had a lot of time in between movies. The poor guy has been working his butt off, and he’s going to continue. It’s tough to find downtime to relax and chill. But we’ve got a good working relationship, and a good friendship.
What was it like working with such a diverse ensemble cast?
I love differences. I relish them, actually. The differences in my roles, I relish that. I don’t want different roles in different movies or TV projects to be the same character, unless they are the same character, or meant to be. I used to be a whole lot pickier, but I still think I’m quite selective in what I do. I try to pick things that are not going to be completely mirror images of something that I did three or four movies ago.
You talked about already possessing these skills that James worked into the character and the script. I’m wondering if there was any specific preparation on your part. How did you find this character?
Well, I felt that Savant was a little bit out of shape. You know, he’s in prison. You try to stay in shape, but a lot of cats, they either get in great shape because there’s nothing else to do, or they go to seed a little bit. My guy is not completely gone to seed, but he’s an older criminal. I like that the role wasn’t this svelte guy. I liked where he came from.
This being a super-villain movie, did you have a favorite super-villain growing up or, even that you’ve seen in films or comic books in recent years?
I don’t know if you can call this menace a villain or not, but I like The Blob. The slowness and methodical overtaking. I wouldn’t mind playing a human version of The Blob. It’s an interesting idea. I know, kind of odd, but The Blob never stops. You can never stop it. It just continues. You can run all you want, but somehow it gets you right by the ankle and you can’t get away.
What do you hope people experience when they go to see this movie, especially, hopefully, in that communal experience that a theatre can offer?
Nuts. They’re going to go nuts. I mean, reading the script, I went nuts. Seeing it all come to fruition, people are going to go crazy. This is the kind of movie that you want to go sit in a theatre to watch, after not doing it for a year. The escapism is palpable. People are going to love it. They’re going to be ready. I think you’re going to want to see it again and again.