“Suicide Squad” Director David Ayer Opens Up: How the Critics’ Blow Broke More Than Just the Bank

In a candid and revealing chat on Jon Bernthal’s Real Ones podcast, the seasoned filmmaker David Ayer, known for his gritty narratives, pulls back the curtain on the emotional toll exacted by the reception of his 2016 superhero extravaganza, “Suicide Squad.”

Imagine, if you will, Hollywood as a roller coaster ride of emotions – a place where love and loathing intertwine. Ayer paints this vivid analogy, describing it as “like watching someone you love get f—– by someone you hate.” He doesn’t mince words as he cites “Suicide Squad” as the most soul-crushing heartbreak of his career. It’s a raw admission that even the toughest in the business can be profoundly affected by the turbulent seas of showbiz.

The saga began after Ayer’s triumph with the 2014 World War II epic, “Fury,” which catapulted him into a golden era. As the director’s star ascended, he found himself poised to write and helm “Suicide Squad,” a pivotal installment in DC Studios’ nascent cinematic universe. In those heady days, Ayer held the town in his grasp.

But Hollywood is a capricious lover. The trajectory of “Suicide Squad” was irrevocably altered by two other superhero titans of 2016: “Deadpool,” the unexpected comedic smash, and the polarizing “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Ayer laments that these two films caused a seismic shift in the studio’s strategy, steering “Suicide Squad” off its dark and soulful course into uncharted comedic waters. The result? A movie that was intended to be a deep dive into darkness was metamorphosed into “a f—— comedy.”

The outcome was bittersweet: “Suicide Squad” raked in a significant domestic box office haul, securing its spot as the ninth highest-grossing film of the year. Yet, the critical and audience consensus was far from favorable, casting a shadow over the director’s ambitions. Ayer ruefully confesses that he became “the bad guy narratively,” embodying the backlash his film faced.

Intriguingly, Ayer reveals the complexity of Hollywood’s decision-making process. He claims that his original, darker vision never saw the light of day in terms of test screenings. Instead, the studio opted to go on a limb with “Batman v. Superman,” a gamble that backfired with a resounding critical drubbing. This misstep triggered a drastic pivot for “Suicide Squad,” as the studio attempted to right its course by reimagining Ayer’s vision through a comedic lens.

But Ayer’s resilience shines through his narrative. He stands his ground, asserting that his initial cut – the one that truly encapsulated his vision – exists and possesses the power to evoke visceral reactions from those who have seen it. He shares his bewilderment, wondering why the world wasn’t given the movie he envisioned, the one that drew unanimous praise from those who’ve witnessed it.

In hindsight, Ayer reflects on the experience with a mix of emotions. He’s ambivalent, grappling with the undeniable impact of the ordeal on his life and career. The heartbreak, it seems, wasn’t only about the movie itself, but the realization that the creative reins must be firmly in his grasp going forward. He’s vowed never to find himself in a position where creative control is wrested away, likening it to having a bomb strapped to one’s back, ready to detonate.

Ayer’s journey with “Suicide Squad” is one of highs and lows, of artistic ambitions and the realities of an industry as unpredictable as it is alluring. His resilience and determination to carve out his artistic path despite the odds serve as an inspiring testament to the indomitable spirit of a filmmaker.

As Ayer’s tale continues to unfold, we’re reminded that even in the most glitzy and glamorous realms, there are battles fought in the shadows, and sometimes, the most profound stories lie behind the scenes. So, as we eagerly anticipate the next chapters of Ayer’s cinematic odyssey, let’s not forget the lessons etched in the annals of “Suicide Squad.”