There are some interesting behind the scenes stories coming from the Suicide Squad set via The Hollywood Reporter today that paint a very troubling picture of what director David Ayer (Fury) had to put up with while putting together Warner Bros. latest big superhero movie. Details of clashes between Ayer and Warner Bros. executives on the movie’s tone and schedule, which sadly isn’t really unusual these days, appears to have reached a boiling point during the Suicide Squad production. Let’s look through them.
Everyone always tries to paint a cheery picture of work on set, even if there are issues like an actor sending creepy gifts, reshoots which are common place yet troubling when combined with other issues, and competing cuts of the film after Warner Bros. hired Trailer Park, the company that edited those fun Suicide Squad trailers that everyone flipped over to edit a Suicide Squad cut more in line with the trailers. Here’s what Ayer and Warner Bros. Production President Greg Silverman said in a statement to THR:
This was an amazing experience. We did a lot of experimentation and collaboration along the way. But we are both very proud of the result. This is a David Ayer film, and Warners is proud to present it.
Word is that everything wasn’t all sunshine and laughter though and it started with the luke-warm reception that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice received at the box office. While the film raked in $873 million worldwide, fans have been deeply divided over the film which failed to cross that Billion dollar finish line that Warner Bros. hoped for. This failure set expectations high for Ayer’s villain team-up to break that trend, but also raised the anxiety level at Warner Bros. Mix those two and you’ve got a cocktail ready to blow up at any moment.
Ayer was given six weeks to write a working script, if script writing were a track and field event that would make six weeks a 100 meter sprint compared to the usual 400 meter run when script writing. A THR source said:
[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went. It’s not just that you’ve told the public the movie is coming, you’ve made huge deals around the world with huge branding partners, with merchandise partners. It’s a really big deal to move a tentpole date.
Then there was Ayer’s relative inexperience with large effects driven films. One source, a producer with franchise experience told THR:
There are a lot of people who don’t want to direct those movies and that’s a huge problem. A lot of the proven guys are back-to-back with their stuff, or they want to develop it for five years, and there’s a machine that has to be fed. And there’s the economics.
Word is that Ayer’s vision of the film was more in line with the somber tone of Batman v Superman and Warner Bros. wanted a funnier edgier version that matched the well received trailer. That lead to Warner Bros. hiring Trailer Park to edit a snappier version while Ayer edited his own darker version. THR is reporting that several editors were brought into the process.
By the time the film was done, multiple editors had been brought into the process, though only John Gilroy is credited. (A source says he left by the end of the process and that the final editor was Michael Tronick.)
“When you have big tentpoles and time pressure, you pull in resources from every which way you can,” says this source. “You can’t do it the way it used to be, with one editor and one assistant editor.”
If there are multiple opinions that aren’t in sync, you go down multiple tracks — two tracks at least. That was the case here for a period of time, always trying to get to a place where you have consensus.
Was this a case of too many cooks ruining the meal? Ayer is reported to have agreed and worked through the process of comparing the two cuts and finding some middle ground between the two. All this required additional money and photography, which continued to amp up the Warner Bros. anxiety. There was even some pressure from outside the production that Ayer had to put up with. THR reports:
Clearly all wasn’t sitting right with Ayer, who in June suddenly dropped his longtime agent at CAA and defected to WME, though the agency won him back in a day. “He was under a lot — a lot — of pressure,” says one person with knowledge of the situation, arguing that Ayer was exhausted and needed time to process conflicting ideas.
Just weeks before the two versions were tested, Warners declined to ante up for Ayer’s next project, Bright, which will reunite him with Squad star Will Smith. He ended up at Netflix, which made a staggering $90 million deal.
Having two competing visions of the film doesn’t sound productive, it sounds strained and it might be just the explanation needed to answer critics complaints that Suicide Squad is “puzzlingly confused.”
There is no question that Suicide Squad will make money at the box office, but will it be able to hit those $140 million dollar opening weekend hopes with the critics questioning the film’s quality? Could Suicide Squad mirror BvS and have a huge opening weekend, but fizzle out quickly at the box office? Staying-power if key to cracking that billion dollar box office mark and the weeks following that opening will truly tell the tale of Suicide Squad‘s success or failure.