There is just something almost too cute about King Shark, right? Essentially a six-foot, walking talking Great White Shark, the character is like if Jaws was huggable. It’s what elevated this one-time C-stringer created by Karl Kesel in 1994 to becoming one of the most popular new DC villains—with multiple interpretations already popping up on the small screen via the CW’s Arrowverse and HBO Max’s Harley Quinn. Now he’s about to make his big screen debut on the big screen, with the character enjoying a starring role in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad… where he’ll be voiced by Sylvester Stallone, no less.
“Who doesn’t want to see a fish eat a lot of people that somehow people think is inexplicably cute?” Gunn laughs after we mention the character. When we sit down with the filmmaker, he’s almost finished with post-production on The Suicide Squad, a skewed and darkly humorous reimagining of the supervillain team, and he’s more than happy to explain that it’s the kind of flick where audiences can see a shark tear somebody in half.
Perhaps that is why, after deciding Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller needed to be in his soft-reboot of the antihero concept, he decided that King Shark would be his first new addition to the movie’s line-up.
“I knew that I wanted to use an animal, and I knew that King Shark was a member of the Squad in the newer comics,” Gunn says. “I liked the concept of that character. So King Shark [was my first addition].”
He felt so strongly about his vision for the character that he even began writing him with a distinct characterization in mind: one based around the vocal stylings of Sylvester Stallone, the Rocky Balboa and John Rambo actor who previously cameoed in Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.
“Strangely, as I’ve become more able to get whatever actor I want for roles in movies, I started taking risks and writing for actors that I don’t know,” Gunn reveals. “So for instance, I wrote Bloodsport for Idris Elba, having never met him, but being a big fan of his work in other places. And I knew Sly, and I know him pretty well. So I wrote the role of King Shark with his voice in mind.”
Audiences have only gotten a glimpse so far in trailers of King Shark’s laid back and easygoing demeanor, but if the marketing is anything to go by, we may have on our hands a character as lovable as Groot in the Guardians films. Although Gunn is quick to point out that “King Shark is much less sentimental than Groot.”
Maybe it’s the swallowing of henchmen whole that should warn us not to go in for that hug?
The Suicide Squad opens in theaters and on HBO Max on Aug. 6, 2021.