JOHN OSTRANDER: CASTING ABOUT

by John Ostrander

Amanda-WallerThis week the Internet was all a-twitter with news that the movie version of Suicide Squad, the series that I created in 1987, had been mostly cast. (You can read about it here.) The film is scheduled to debut in August 2016 and will be the first Warner Bros. DC film after theSuperman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice flick that shows up earlier that year.

As with any comic book movie, there has been substantial debate over the casting, largely focusing on Will Smith as Deadshot, the inclusion of the Joker at all (whether played by Jared Leto or not) and the possibility of Oprah Winfrey playing Amanda Waller. Heck, my fellow columnists Mike Gold and Marc Alan Fishman have already chimed in. I held forth in an interview on what I thought of the casting and why. I’m going to hold forth a little here as well. I need to get a column in and it would seem strange if everyone else here was talking about the movie and the casting and I didn’t.

Let me say upfront: I haven’t seen the script and I haven’t been consulted. Nor do I expect to be. I have no track record in Hollywood and Warner Bros. is putting a lot of money into this. A lot of money. The salaries alone will be substantial. It’s not a time to be using an amateur and that’s what I am as far as movies are concerned. The film’s writer and director will have their own take on the characters and they maybe, probably will be, different from mine.

That’s how it should be. The needs of a movie are different than the needs of a comic book. When I started doing the Squad, my versions of the characters were substantially different than how they were portrayed before. I took charge of the characters, tried to keep them consistent with who they were, but I didn’t ask if I could change them up. I just did it. It wasn’t gratuitous; it was always in service of the story I was telling. I fully expect those doing the movie to do the same thing.

It makes sense that they would go for the biggest names they could get for the characters; the general public doesn’t know anything about the Squad. This movie is positioned right after the Superman v Batman flick so it’s going to be high visibility. For the sake of not only this film but for the whole DC movie franchise, it has to sell a lot of tickets. Lots and lots of tickets.

Again, let’s be honest – I’m glad that the Squad has had so many of loyal fans over the years but there aren’t enough of them to fill a single theater for more than a week and that’s only if all of them go and do it more than once. If a Squad movie is going to be a success, it has to bring in the general public in droves. How do you do that? You feature the Joker, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, and maybe Oprah Winfrey. Those are names that the general public knows. They sell tickets.

Yes, I have a vested interest in a success and it hinges on the character of Amanda Waller. The name Suicide Squad, most of the characters in it – they all existed before I used them. I don’t participate financially when they get used again. Amanda is different; she was my creation and I have what is called “participation” when she gets used in other media. In other words, I’ll make some money for doing nothing more than being a swell fellow. It also depends on how important to the film Waller is and how much she is used. A big name – such Oprah – makes it more likely that she’ll have an important part. Oprah ain’t doing no cameo. Over and above the fact that I really think she would be wonderful in the part, she makes my participation better.

I want the movie to succeed. I want it to spawn sequels. I want it to have merchandising; I want an Amanda Waller action figure. I’m crass enough to admit I want it to make money because then I make money. The best way for it to do that is to be a damn good story and that’s what I want more than anything else.

We’ll see come August 2016. I can’t wait.