Over the summer of 2018, James Gunn was temporarily removed from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Decades old tweets resurfaced, revealing inappropriate and insensitive jokes which did anything but align with the message Disney and Marvel Studios are aiming to send. In a reactionary move, the studio removed him from the project which is where Warner Brothers stepped in. Rather than leaving Gunn out to dry, the studio which oversees all DC Comics films saw an opportunity to get Gunn back to work. As WB learned before the public that Gunn would be returning to Disney and Marvel for that third Guardians movie, they acted fast and got him moving on The Suicide Squad.
"I think the joke at Marvel's expense is the fact that we got James Gunn," The Suicide Squad producer Peter Safran said while ComicBook.com visited the film's set in 2019. "So, that's the biggest joke." This was prompted by a question about The Suicide Squad featuring Gunn as a director, Thor: Ragnarok's Taika Waititi as a member of the cast, and a destination in the form of Jotunheim. More details of our time on The Suicide Squad set can be found in the 11 Secrets We Learned On Set report!
"He got fired on a Friday in July, and on Tuesday Toby came to me and said, 'Tell James Gunn that whatever he wants to do at Warner Brothers, we want him for it. Just tell us what he wants to do,'" Safran explained. "So it was two days later. So internal discussions were incredibly easy. It just felt like James did not merit the treatment that he got, and ultimately, Disney felt the same way and reversed their decision. But it was immediate."
During the conversations, WB gave Gunn a blank slate to formulate any idea with DC Comics characters. They ranged from a Superman project to others which Gunn thought of, with The Suicide Squad not being his first idea. "Basically DC came and said, 'Hey, what do you want to do? Anything?' and at first I really honestly didn't think it was going to be Suicide Squad," Gunn explained. "I was playing with a few different ideas of a few different DC properties and this was the one that just took off. I just fell in love with this particular story that we're telling right now. And I fell in love with some of the characters and the way we could do it. It's not a super hero movie, obviously it's a super villain film, but to be able to tell a movie like this in a completely different way. And in a lot of ways, when I came in to do Guardians and being able to do a space opera in a totally different way, this is my way to do a war film in a completely different way."
Gunn is expecting The Suicide Squad to surprise people the same way Guardians of the Galaxy did. The first trailer for the film helped make the Marvel movie a phenomenon. "People saw that trailer for the first time with these weird characters in prison and what was going on with them," Gunn recalled. "To be able to do something like that again, where people might be expecting it to be like Guardians, they might be expecting it to be like the first Suicide Squad, they might be expecting it to be like, whatever, but it's not like any of those things."
At the end of the day, though, Safran does not see Marvel and DC as competitors which needs to be billed as a rivals (and it certainly hasn't ruled out producer perspectives on the two crossing over). "The truth is, everybody loves Marvel and everybody loves DC," Safran said. "You guys have a lot more in common than the rest of the world, at large. So you should all just embrace it. I think he's always supported and been happy for the success of DC films when he was doing Marvel stuff, and I've heard Kevin Feige say the same stuff, and I've heard... We all, internally, applaud and root for the success of the other guys. So for us, we were just thrilled that we could capitalize on Marvel's misstep. This was an opportunity. Otherwise, James was going to be tied up for the next couple years and instead, we were able to grab him and put together this movie which is, in some ways, the perfect James Gunn movie. His instincts were, actually, probably more R rated than PG-13 anyway."
Are you excited for The Suicide Squad? Share your thoughts in the comment section or send them my way on Instagram! The Suicide Squad hits theaters on August 6.