How Studio Interference Changed “Suicide Squad”

A lengthy and fascinating feature piece has gone up on The Hollywood Reporter about the behind-the-scenes antics that led to this week’s release of “Suicide Squad”. Warner Bros. Pictures was desperate for the third film in their DC Extended Universe initiative to be a critical success in the way the OK-reviewed “Man of Steel” and the badly received “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was.

Instead, reviews have pegged the new film not much better than ‘Dawn’ with quite few indicating they preferred Snyder’s “Dawn” for all its issues. Though the movie is on track for a monster box office weekend, how long it will be able to sustain business is the big question. Certainly heads will role at Burbank, but from the report it looks like the studio only has itself to blame.

Problems began from the get go with an ambitious release date set before a script had been written and director David Ayer basically given just six weeks to get a script completed from scratch and ready to shoot. Ayer, who had no tentpole experience, also had to deal with nervous executives trying to manage their brand, multiple editors, and then during the post-production process – the backlash against ‘Dawn of Justice’.

One source tells the trade that “[Warner Bros. head] Kevin [Tsujihara] was really pissed about damage to the brand” following the response to ‘Dawn’ and, worried the breezy nature of the trailers for ‘Squad’ didn’t reflect the finished film, so they tried to “save it” which led to the significant reshoots we’ve heard about.

What we hadn’t heard about before now is that the studio went as far as cutting their own version of the film with the help of Trailer Park, the people who pulled together the film’s trailers, and doing so while Ayer was still editing his version. Warners wanted a lighter film, Ayer was more sombre, and after a test of both cuts they came to a “very common-ground place” with the studio cut and its highly stylised character introduction vignettes winning the day.

There’s also the problem of cost. Not including the extensive marketing campaign, the film’s production budget has ballooned to $175 million – meaning it needs to gross around $750 million at least to break even. We’ll see how it fares when “Suicide Squad” opens in cinemas everywhere this Friday.