THR’s unparalleled movie scooper Kim Masters is back with a report on the making of Suicide Squad which reveals the studio turmoil behind the making of the film/a>, including a director untested in the high stakes waters of superhero franchise filmmaking, a too short production period, and a struggle to get to the final cut.
According to Masters, after Warners was shocked by the reaction to BvS, two different versions of SS were screened:
A source with knowledge of events says Warners executives, nervous from the start, grew more anxious after they were blindsided and deeply rattled by the tepid response to BvS. “Kevin was really pissed about damage to the brand,” says one executive close to the studio. A key concern for Warners executives was that Suicide Squad didn’t deliver on the fun, edgy tone promised in the strong teaser trailer for the film. So while Ayer pursued his original vision, Warners set about working on a different cut, with an assist from Trailer Park, the company that had made the teaser.
In May, Ayer’s more somber version and a lighter, studio-favored version were tested with audiences in Northern California. “If there are multiple opinions that aren’t in sync, you go down multiple tracks — two tracks at least,” says an insider. “That was the case here for a period of time, always trying to get to a place where you have consensus.” Those associated with the film insist Ayer agreed to and participated in the process. Once feedback on the two versions was analyzed, it became clear it was possible to get to “a very common-ground place.” (The studio-favored version with more characters introduced early in the film and jazzed-up graphics won.) Getting to that place of consensus, however, required millions of dollars worth of additional photography.
So there’s the truth behind all those reshoots. The real problem is that Ayers had only 6 weeks to write the script. Unless you’re Rod Serling, that usually doesn’t work out so well, and Ayer is no Rod Serling.
While Suicide Squad does look to be the moneymaker that the studio desperately needs, it still needs to make $750-800 million worldwide to make money. And there’s a fan base that is SO rabid for this film that they are actually petitioning for Rotten Tomatoes to take down their negative ratings for the movie. What always amazes me in these stories is the fundamental disconnectedness of studio execs from what audiences like. When I saw the first footage of BvS at Comic-Con two years ago everyone wrote that it looked dark and broody and a little silly. Had execs just read tweets they might have got a hitn that the reaction to BvS would not be all they hoped. How do people get so insulated? I think it’s partly privilege but also the kind of temperament it takes to commit $100 million dollars to making a movie. Once you pull that particularly trigger, you on’t spend a whole lot of time second guessing yourself or you shouldn’t be in that job.
At any rate, my own insiders tell me that these kinds of missteps are in the past, as the new structure at DC Films with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns in control don’t think “violent and misanthropic” means “serious” and the tone at this year’s Comic-Con panel was much lighter, more positive and looks to have things on a more even keel.
And people are looking forward to DC’s movies! I was at the supermarket to get some kale and quinoa and the checkout clerk, a young black man, saw my Comic-Con computer bag and mentioned how he dreamed of going someday. “That Wonder Woman trailer looked great,” he told me. That’s what you call “good buzz.” Warners needs a lot of it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.