Five years ago today “Suicide Squad” was released to theaters across the US. It raked in $746.8 million at the worldwide box office but fell flat amongst DC fans and critics.
This story is becoming a common theme in the cinematic world of DC Comics brought about by Warner Bros. The studio has a knack for hindering the artistic integrity of a film by limiting the vision of its director. In the case of 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” that director was David Ayer.
Like “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” David Ayer’s version of “Suicide Squad was starkly different than the theatrical release. And, according to numerous sources, the blame lies solely on studio interference.
On July 29, 2021, Ayer shared an extensive commentary titled “My turn…” on his life, legacy and more.
Listen to the Director
“I don’t know what quit is,” Ayer wrote. “I am not who you think I am. Nothing in my life was handed to me it’s been a struggle from the jump. My pops committed suicide Christmas morning when I was four in Miami. And that was just the beginning. Foster care. Abuse. Disruption. Chaos. I went to more schools than I can count. What’s stability?”
Ayer continued saying that he lived in south Los Angeles doing “hoodrat shit as a kid” was arrested and placed on probation.
“Had to take the bus to Crenshaw and Exposition to see the Gang Lady twice a month,” Ayer continued. “But that didn’t stop me from doing a lot of stupid and dangerous shit. I was the kid everyone just knew was going to end up dead or in prison. And I was in the right Hood for it.”
The director’s struggles didn’t end there.
“I’ve seen bodies, blood, heads busted open, watched people die,” he admitted. “Stepped over brains on the sidewalk to catch my bus. Been shot at more times than I can remember. Got my ass beat by LAPD. One of the first crackhouses in LA was on my block.”
Ayer eventually dropped out of high school and spent every day in the streets holding up a wall in bodega.
“Took someone dying in my arms covered in their blood and vomit to wake me up,” Ayer wrote in his July statement.” So I joined the Navy and served on a nuclear submarine. And I saw more. And experienced things that seared my soul. Try 67 days underwater in a steel tube when you’re running out of food. The Navy broke me. And the Navy saved me. I learned discipline and the Navy gave me a work ethic.”
According to Ayer, he started writing screenplays because American screenwriter Wesley Strick saw something in him that he couldn’t see in himself yet. And Ayer admitted that this show of faith saved his life.
“I wrote and I wrote,” Ayer continued in his letter. “And | got sucked back into the streets. Smoking PCP [Phencyclidine] and cruising in my Olds Cutlass. I didn’t have a refridgerator, I didn’t have a bed. I had nothing, didn’t file tax returns for seven years. I had no future. And I figured I was just burning time until I caught a case and got locked up.”
According to Ayer, real life stories inspired his writings.
“That’s where ‘Training Day’ came from,” he admitted. “I saw it happen. I heard all the neighborhood stories. I wrote them down. I poured my soul on the page. And when someone offered me 30K for the rights I laughed.”
Ayer wrote that “Training Day” was special.
“Of course no one believed it at the time,” Ayer wrote. “The nice Hollywood folks refused to believe cops could be that corrupt. Then the Rampart Scandal happened and yeah they realized maybe it’s real. Took years to get that movie made and it changed my life. The lesson of that script — put your pain on the page.”
That’s why David Ayer tells stories.
“I’ve seen life, I’ve seen people,” Ayer said. “I’ve seen the the bad do good and the good do bad. I write about my lived truth. And I take the risk — like putting my house on the line to direct my first movie.”
David Ayer signed on to direct and write “Suicide Squad” in September 2014 and reportedly only had six weeks to write the screenplay since the release date was already set.
“I put my life into Suicide Squad. I made something amazing — My cut is intricate and emotional journey with some ‘bad people’ who are shit on and discarded (a theme that resonates in my soul). The studio cut is not my movie. Read that again.”David Ayer
The “Ayer Cut” of “Suicide Squad” was first revealed soon after the theatrical films release.
“My cut is not the 10 week director’s cut,” Ayer said. “It’s a fully mature edit by Lee Smith standing on the incredibly work by John Gilroy. It’s all Steven Price’s brilliant score, with not a single radio song in the whole thing.”
According to Ayer, his version of “Suicide Squad” has traditional character arcs, amazing performances, a solid “3”4 Act resolution,” and a handful of people have seen it.
“If someone says they have seen it, they haven’t,” Ayer pointed out. So yeah, should be clear by now I don’t have any quit in me. Never have. And why should I? Every day breathing is a gift. I though my story was going to end in a grave or a cell long ago.”
Ayer stated that the years he’s currently living are bonus rounds.
“I’m so honored and blessed to have the career I do. Quit? After my kids watched me come home every day after the studio takeover of the edit with my heart torn out? Who would I be to them if I quit?”David Ayer
“I’ve never told my side of the story and I never will,” Ayer wrote. “Why? Same reason no one will ever know what happened on my submarine. I keep my covenants. I’m old school like that. So I kept my mouth shut and took the tsunami of sometimes shockingly personal criticism. Why? That’s what I’ve done my whole life. Real talk, I’d rather get shot at.”
Ayer concluded his statement in saying that he’s “so proud” of “The Suicide Squad” director James Gunn’s success and is excited for what’s coming.
“I support WB and am thrilled the franchise is getting the legs it needs. I’m rooting for everyone, the cast, the crew. Every movie is a miracle. And Jame’s brilliant work will be the miracles of miracles. I appreciate your patience. I will no longer speak publicly on this matter.”
Listen to the talent
During the red carpet premiere of “The Suicide Squad” on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Las Angeles Variety‘s Marc Malkin questioned stars of the current and previous films. Here’s what they had to say.
“I think that’s all a very complicated situation that I am probably not responsible for,” Harley Quinn actress, Margot said. “I would want to see the cut of every movie I’ve been a part of that I’ve never seen. The funny thing is that when you’re an actor, not when you’re a producer, as an actor, sometimes I don’t see it until half the country has seen it. You don’t really get to see the different iterations along the way, unless you’re a producer.”
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Mayling Ng, who plays Mongal in “The Suicide Squad,” said. “It’s a win-win for him to get his vision out and also Warner Bros. makes double the money on the same film.”
“It’s in a company’s best interest to listen to their audience, and if it’s something that’s so in demand and they got it, why not?” John Cena, who plays Peacemaker in “The Suicide Squad,” pointed out.
“Yeah, why not? You always want to see the director’s vision,” Joel Kinnaman, who plays Colonel Rick Flag in both “Suicide Squad” and 2021’s “The Suicide Squad” said.
On the “Just For Variety” podcast in June, Kinnaman said that he was disappointed with “Suicide Squad.”
“I thought the first 40 minutes of the film were fucking great, and then there were conflicting visions and it just didn’t end up being what we all hoped it was. It didn’t feel like the movie that we hoped we were going to make,”
Listen to the fans
Many in the entertainment industry often point out that studios should listen to demand because it’s just good business.
Before David Ayer shared his statement on July 29, 2021, the unofficial advocate page pushing for the release of the “Ayer Cut” asked fans to share why they wanted to see the director’s version of the film.
Samuel Kentman and the Ayer Cut twitter page contributed to this report.