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The real reason Will Smith isn't returning for the Suicide Squad sequel

It may have been incredibly divisive among critics and fans, but the 2016 DC Comics film Suicide Squad was undoubtedly a cultural moment and a box office success. Almost as soon as the film was announced, there was already a bevy of sequel and spinoff plans. We've already seen one, Birds of Prey, which focuses on Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. A non-sequel sequel from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, called The Suicide Squad, wrapped filming in February.

Everything appeared to be lining up for The Suicide Squad when it was first announced. Many of the most well-loved stars from the first film, including Robbie, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman signed on to reprise their roles. However, a few of the famous squad members did not.

At the time of writing, there are no indications that Jared Leto will be returning to take another swing at playing the Joker. And he's not the only big star who will be missing in action. Early in the film's development, reports surfaced that despite Gunn wanting the character of Deadshot in his movie, Will Smith wouldn't be returning to the role.

Considering the importance of Deadshot to the universe of Suicide Squad, and the critical praise that Smith received for his portrayal, why would the actor pass on appearing in the sequel?

Will Smith couldn't fit the Suicide Squad sequel into his schedule

Back in February 2019, Variety reported that The Suicide Squad was losing one of its biggest stars even before it entered production. Although nothing had been confirmed, the talk was that Will Smith had already opted out of appearing in the sequel. This was due to scheduling conflicts, and the decision reportedly didn't cause any hard feelings between Smith and the producers of the movie.

At the time it was reported, Smith didn't have any upcoming announced projects. However, the following month Deadline revealed that Smith would be starring in an upcoming film about tennis phenoms Serena and Venus Williams. In the movie, titled King Richard, Smith was cast as the father of the famous twins, Richard Williams. It has never been confirmed whether or not this was the role that prevented Smith from returning for The Suicide Squad, but the movies' production and filming schedules did overlap in late 2019 and early 2020 (via Backstage and Entertainment Weekly). Smith pulled doubled duty producing and starring in King Richard, so it seems likely that his commitments to that film are what prevented him from reprising the role of Deadshot.

Even though Smith was unable to appear in The Suicide Squad, the studio had a plan to keep Deadshot in the film.

Idris Elba was cast as the new Deadshot in The Suicide Squad... or was he?

Barely a week after the news of Smith stepping away from The Suicide Squad broke, there was already a new Deadshot. According to a scoop by The Hollywood Reporter, British actor Idris Elba was in talks to take the role over from Smith. The outlet reported that Elba met with the sequel's director, James Gunn, and that "it went so swimmingly that talks began with the studio in earnest."

The casting news came with other updates about Gunn's planned sequel — which, as it turns out, isn't so much a sequel as a reimagining. Gunn intended to bring back some of the more popular characters from the first Suicide Squad film, such as Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang, while incorporating many new DC Comics heroes and villains that hadn't appeared in the original. In recasting the role of Deadshot, it was clear that Gunn viewed the character as essential to his vision of the titular Suicide Squad.

That is, until new reports surfaced that put the inclusion of Deadshot in the new film into serious doubt.

Deadshot was cut from the Suicide Squad sequel, but Idris Elba remained

Elba's take on Deadshot was ultimately not meant to be. Almost as soon as he was tapped to replace Smith in the role, Variety reported that the character of Deadshot would be removed from The Suicide Squad altogether. However, Elba was still attached to the project. Instead of taking over Smith's role, he would be playing an entirely different, undisclosed, part.

According to the report, the decision to not recast the role was largely out of deference for Smith. The team behind the film eventually decided that out of respect to the actor who created the role, they didn't want to do a follow-up with another performer playing the part. There was also apparently hope of Smith returning to the role in a future installment, although Variety reported that those involved believe the chances of that happening are "slim."

There's still no news on exactly what role Idris Elba will be playing in The Suicide Squad. As for Smith, even if he has no current plans to return to the franchise, we're sure he's sleeping well at night knowing there's always the option for him to return for Sui3ide Squad.