James Gunn on Killing Off The Suicide Squad Characters: ‘I’m a Servant of the Story’

James Gunn will kill off anyone he thinks needs to die for the good of the story in The Suicide Squad. Repercussions be damned.

James Gunn and The Suicide Squad Cast
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Over the months and years that have led up to The Suicide Squad’s August release, writer-director James Gunn has been very clear: He can kill off anyone. And with a cast as overstuffed with characters as this movie, that’s hardly a surprise. Genuinely, without knowing ourselves about who lives and who dies in The Suicide Squad, are there really many folks out there ready to weep tears of sorrow over the loss of villains like… Polka-Dot Man or or T.D.K.?

Nevertheless, Gunn is likely aware of an adage over at Marvel Studios (where he made the Guardians of the Galaxy films): always remember that every character is somebody’s favorite. And with A-listers like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller also in the cast, it’s worth considering if there’s ever a moment’s pause before sending one of them off to that big multiverse in the sky. So when we sat down with Gunn for a phone interview last month, we had to ask how he decides who lives and who dies. Here’s what he had to say.

“Well, the first thing I had to do was ignore the potential blowback from killing a character,” Gunn says. “And it really had to do with the structure of the story, especially when we get into the main part of the film with the primary characters. It had to naturally be who was going die. I told them the story, and I wrote the story in a very natural way where A leads to B, and B leads to C. Being able to tell the story of a character dying, it had to be earned, it had to work, so that’s really it.”

Gunn pauses to then add that he doesn’t necessarily view it as personal choice on who gets to ride on the chopper back home.

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Says Gunn, “It’s all in relationship to the story that I would kill anyone who the story saw fit to kill. I’m working for the story. I’m just the servant of the story. So whatever the story says is what I’m going to do, no matter what the repercussions are for anything. And I believe in the truth of the story. I believe that there was a story out there that needed to be told that I don’t have total control over.”

That might be the case, but we imagine he has enough control to go his own way from the relatively light body count of the 2016 Suicide Squad film and craft an R-rated epic that’s a little darker and probably bloodier. Although it’s not just about the gore or deaths for the director.

“They gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted,” Gunn tells us. “So I wanted to do the things that other spectacle films haven’t been able to do, which is really take my time and investigate these characters, get to know them, focus on the character aspects, focus on who they were, and deal with time in a different way than it’s been dealt with in these films. So I think there’s just so many things that step outside of the formula that we’re used to seeing tentpole films in.”

Still, that presumably includes seeing some old and/or new favorites die in spectacularly unsentimental ways. We can hope.

The Suicide Squad opens on Aug. 6, 2021.