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Suicide Squad Was Supposed To Be Completely Different Than What You Saw

After years of campaigning, Warner Bros. recently revealed plans to release the Snyder Cut, the long-demanded director's edit of DC's live-action Justice League, on its newly launched streaming service HBO Max. For fans of a cinematic universe plagued by early missteps, there was suddenly a clear way to hit the reset button. Almost immediately, the revelation inspired some fans to demand the same treatment for the David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad. Embroiled in a production controversy similar to that of Justice League, the star-studded film featuring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Viola Davis, and Jared Leto was considered a vital chapter in launching Warner Bros.' counter to Marvel's Cinematic Universe. But the movie, caught in the middle of a creative shift at the studio, was released to harsh reviews from critics and has ultimately been remembered as a disappointment among fans.

Suicide Squad was no Birds of Prey, earning $746.8 million worldwide on a production budget of $325 million, including advertising and promotion costs. It even broke a few box office records, including one previously set by the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Guardians of the Galaxy. But that couldn't save Suicide Squad from becoming an ugly step-child of DC movies, and with the possibility of seeing the film as Ayer intended now real, fans have called to witness "the Ayer Cut." 

In response, Ayer took to Twitter to explain just how different his version of the film was supposed to be. According to the writer and director, Suicide Squad's 2015 San Diego Comic-Con first-look trailer is closest to his vision. "This trailer nailed the tone and intention of the film I made," Ayer tweeted. "Methodical. Layered. Complex, beautiful and sad."

David Ayer says his original cut of Suicide Squad was much darker in tone

As many film critics noted at the time of its release, Suicide Squad watches both like many movies and no movie at all. The film was blasted for lack of focus and clear plot, with The Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan calling it "a concept in search of a story worth telling." Some fans agree with that assessment to this day, though Ayer defended his writing, tweeting that he had "wrote a perfectly coherent script." 

An anonymous source told The Hollywood Reporter in August 2016 that Ayer didn't have the benefit of time when writing the script, which he turned around in six weeks. But on Twitter, the director and writer explained that his original concept from beginning to end was a piece that attempted to honor Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. While answering one fan's question about why one particular moment from the trailer looked visually different in the theatrical cut, Ayer noted that the scene featuring Jared Leto's widely derided Joker was reshot due to the tone being "too dark." He tweeted, "My first act was a normally constructed film. I took my inspiration from Nolan. There were real scenes with incredible acting between Jared and Margot. Joker was terrifying. Harley was complex." 

The director also shared other details, including a direct connection between his film's plot and Snyder's Justice League — which helps partly explain why he's pushing so hard for his cut. Not only were the villains of Suicide Squad's original script tied to Snyder's Justice League and "rewritten to remove the New Gods elements," but Suicide Squad was also intended to be "an appetizer for Zack's epic." Ayer said, "We synced up storylines – Squad was the on-ramp for JL – which was a much more ambitious two-part movie arc with impressive scope."

According to David Ayer, Warner Bros. beat his film "into a comedy"

Suicide Squad's critics didn't just slam its storyline — they also questioned its character development. In several tweets, Ayer explained that his approach to characterization was impacted after Warner Bros. stepped in, too. When a fan complimented Ayer on his work with Diablo's (Jay Hernandez) murderous backstory, Ayer noted that keeping that in "was the only battle [he] won," as "decision makers were allergic to Diablo killing his family." 

Ayer went on to say that the arc for Enchantress (aka June Moon, played by Cara Delevingne) was also "more solidly" planned out, and one memorable trailer scene featuring the Joker and a tattoo gun saw the villain intimidating a character into suicide.

While Ayer had plenty to tell those excited about a potential director's cut of Suicide Squad, some DC fans challenged the writer-director's assertion that he had something new to offer in the same way as Snyder's Justice League cut. One critic even claimed that digital marketing firm Trailer Park, which made the eerie 2015 SDCC Suicide Squad trailer, was "still working with footage filmed under Ayer's control." During production, Warner Bros. teamed with Trailer Park (apparently also behind the joke-filled trailer set to "Bohemian Rhapsody" that debuted in January 2016) to help create one cut of the film. At the same time, Ayer continued to work on his darker vision, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In response, Ayer clarified that the fan was "wrong" in their assumption. "After the BVS reviews shell shocked the leadership at the time, and the success of Deadpool – My soulful drama was beaten into a 'comedy," Ayer tweeted to another fan.

The tone of that more recent comment contradicts a statement Ayer and Warner Bros.' production president Greg Silverman provided to THR about the film's final cut back in 2016. "We did a lot of experimentation and collaboration along the way," the statement read in part. "But we are both very proud of the result. This is a David Ayer film, and Warners is proud to present it."

An Ayer Cut is a chance to capitalize on something that would "otherwise rot in a vault"

After the film debuted in August 2016, the entire behind-the-scenes saga of Suicide Squad was uncovered. Not only was the script rushed, but Ayer was also an untested tentpole movie director who was working under a team of anxious studio executives ready to step in to protect their brand. Their extremely hands-on approach was reportedly a direct result of the negative response to Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and played a part in Kevin Tsujihara, former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, and other executives' decision to work with Trailer Park on a more fun and edgy cut. 

Once Warner Bros. and Ayer were done with their two versions of the film, they were screen-tested with audiences. Conflicting reports portrayed what happened next as somewhere between a wide gap of mutual and professional behavior and a flurry of panic and ego. Either way, the process resulted in three weeks of reshoots and multiple editors tagging in to create the final theatrical version of Suicide Squad. While Ayer has issues with this cut, he tweeted that getting his version out there is "an incredible opportunity to capitalize assets that otherwise rot in a vault." 

Ayer wants a chance to share the version of Suicide Squad more closely aligned with his vision, as many directors in his position would. But what about the potential to change the story? When a fan asked whether the writer and director would amend anything to his story now that he's had time to reflect on Suicide Squad's release, Ayer said he would. But in the end, that's not what he's asking Warner Bros. for a chance to do. "My cut isn't the apotheosis of filmmaking," Ayer said. "It's simply better than what the public has seen."