Report: Warner Bros. Interfered with Suicide Squad Until It Was Unrecognizable

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 - 11:57AM
DC Comics
Suicide Squad
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 - 11:57AM
Report: Warner Bros. Interfered with Suicide Squad Until It Was Unrecognizable
Is Suicide Squad going to become another Fantastic Four? The film's reported production problems seemed like unfounded rumors at first, but it seems that the studio's interference might have sunk another comic book tentpole. According to a new report from THR, Warner Bros. rushed and re-edited David Ayer's version of Suicide Squad beyond recognition, which may have contributed to its somewhat nasty early reviews

According to the in-depth report, the film's production was extremely rushed, partially as a result of DC's announcement of a huge slate of films to catch up with Marvel, and partially because blockbusters are committed to a date once they announce. Add to that the fact that these movies are often forced to hire directors who are untested in making huge tentpoles, like Ayer, for economic and scheduling reasons, and the production becomes a pressure cooker.

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"[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went," [a source] says, arguing that the whole process would have benefited if Ayer, 48, had been given more time to work. But another source closely involved with the film says once it was dated, pushing back the release was not an option: "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."
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For Suicide Squad specifically, the production was significantly impacted by Batman v Superman's underperformance and harsh reception. If THR's sources are to be believed, then those rumors that Warner Bros. was doing reshoots to make Suicide Squad more fun, like the well-received first teaser, aren't so crazy after all. 

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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.
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Once both cuts were somewhat finished, the studio tested both the studio-preferred version and Ayers more "somber" version, and the studio version with "more characters introduced early in the film" and "jazzed-up graphics" apparently won, although THR's sources also state that they tried to get to a "common ground," which might be why some critics describe a confused tone in the film.

The report also claims that Ayer was "under a lot—a lot—of pressure" and at one point even fired his agency, and was wooed back within a day. And right before the two Suicide Squad versions were screened for test audiences, Warner Bros. also declined to take on his next movie, Bright, starring Suicide Squad star Will Smith. Overall, the relationship between Ayer and the studio seems very fraught with conflict (albeit probably not quite as bad as Josh Trank's epic falling out with Fox). 

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If the villain team-up ultimately works... it will be in spite of the kind of behind-the-scenes drama that is becoming typical for giant franchise movies that now are the main focus of the studio business.. In extreme cases, such as Fox's troubled Fantastic Four, the intervention is so aggressive that it becomes unclear what it means to be the director.
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So what does all of this mean for Suicide Squad's box office success (which is what the studio really cares about)? Although analysts say that critical rating isn't always indicative of financial success, that model is changing more and more over time, especially with the advent of review aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes. As a result, there may be a steep drop-off in box office haul after the first weekend, which would be pretty devastating for Warner Bros. and the DCEU.

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Even on the day of the premiere, one insider fretted about whether Suicide Squad would mirror BvS' huge opening and weak legs. Another veteran says the goal is survival: "The movie's got to do $750 million, $800 million to break even. If they get anywhere close to that, they'll consider it a win."
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