Will Smith cemented his reputation as one of the nicest movie stars in the world Sunday afternoon at the press conference for Suicide Squad. The press event with stars and director David Ayer was held in New York City at a midtown party event space tricked out to look like the Midway, the gloomy city and site of the movie’s big fight scenes in the Warner Bros. picture inspired by the DC Comic super-villains.
Smith plays Deadshot, a killer-for-hire whose soft spot is his daughter. And for the film, Smith obviously got in terrific shape. There’s a brief scene at the beginning of the film where Smith is shirtless and his chest is ripped.
Before the press conference began, Smith said hello and shook hands with journalists.
Because it was reported between set-ups that Smith would sing to the cast and crew, a journalist asked, “Are you going to sing a song for us today?”
“I wish,” Smith said. “My kids are making music now, so I just feel extra old every time I start to rap, you know?”
The Suicide Squad is named for the weirdo psycho killers with super powers assembled and recruited by U.S. Intelligence Officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to save the world from evil entities. The crew of psychos and misfits do Waller’s biding in exchange for reduced sentences and also because she’s threatened them with execution if they don’t. The squad includes witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne); the Joker (Jared Leto) and his besotted gun moll Harley (Margot Robbie); reptilian, cannibalistic Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); schemer Aussie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a reformed gang leader who can shoot flames but has renounced his powers; Slipshot (Adam Beach), an expert with ropes; and sword wielding Katana (Karen Fukuhara).
Cast mates and director still seemed in party mode from carousing the night before, which they captured on Snapchat.
The action in Suicide Squad is non-stop, and the actors did many of their own stunts. A reporter asked if anyone got “mildly injured.”
“When you’re 47, no injury is a mild injury anymore,” Smith, as the crowd laughed. “I tore my calf, and what was terrible is you do it doing nothing. Like I wasn’t doing anything. I stepped back and threw a punch and my calf popped. You can hear it. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, that sound is not a good sound.’ Then the doctor told me I’d be down for six weeks, so on a movie like this, six weeks clicks off or can click off significant amounts of money. I wasn’t going to pay for it, but it was really scary to be in that position. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this opportunity, Suicide Squad, having this chance and maybe not gonna be able to deliver the way I want it to but…”
“Will soldiered on,” Ayer said.
Robbie fought as much as the guys, but she did it in high heels and hot pants. “I had less layers to hide padding and stuff, that made it really painful,” she said. “I thought I broke my rib at one point.” She was badly bruised and tore some muscles.
Robbie added, “The emotional stuff was definitely more difficult, exposing the vulnerable side. That was incredibly hard trying to figure out the dynamic between Harley and the Joker and why she was so devoted to this guy who tries to kill her occasionally. I had a hard time wrapping my head around that.”
Robbie said listening to TED talks by intelligent female psychiatrists who explained love addiction and co-dependency helped her find her way into her character’s head. (There are hints in the film that the Joker and Harley may have their own movie in the pipeline.)
One of the best things about Suicide Squad is the diverse cast. Ayer was asked if he had that in mind when he wrote the script, or was it something that just happened organically?
“I grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a really diverse neighborhood,” Ayer said. “I was the only white boy. It’s the world I know. It’s the world I live in, but it’s also the world we all live in and I feel like on screen occasionally we see people that look like them.”
He added, “My wife is Latino, my kids are Latino, so it’s important for them to see faces like theirs on the screen. And this is also a global business, but you know, it comes naturally to me. I think, in diversity there’s strength.”
After the press conference, I caught up with the handsome Jay Hernandez, who also plays the handsome Latino love interest of Mila Kunis’s character in “Bad Moms.” I congratulated him on the success of the movie, which has been doing well and getting some good reviews. And then now his Suicide Squad opened today.
“Two in a row. It’s cool because, obviously, visually I look very different. It’s like polar opposites in terms of stuff I’m doing right now,” he told me.
As El Diablo, disfiguring tattoos turn his face into a grotesque skull face. I didn’t realize he was the actor under all the tattoos until half way through the film.
“I was at Comic-Con, and a lot of people didn’t realize that I was El Diablo,” Hernandez laughed.
What was it like being so hidden under the makeup?
“I loved it. It allowed me to really lose myself in the character,” he said. “I shaved my head, I shaved my eyebrows. I went home with that every day. I took that with me and just mentally, psychologically, I went to a specific place to be in that character because it’s a very unique guy. It just helped me commit to it. I’m looking at myself in the mirror every day. It was a three-hour process of makeup so it was like my little time to mediate and get ready to shoot, get ready to go to set and work.”
El Diablo is the most complicated of the Suicide Squad crew because he feels remorse and pain over torching his family. He tries to renounce his super powers and refuses to fight. Hernandez told me he thinks Suicide Squad will have a wider appeal than just comic book fanboys.
“It kind of satisfies a lot of things that maybe people weren’t aware they were into. To me, it’s different from all the other superhero movies.” And then super villains – even those with souls, hidden as they are – are much more fun than good guys.
I asked if audiences could also expect him back in a possible “Bad Moms 2.” “I heard somebody mention that, so maybe I’ll come back,” he smiled.