Whether you have watched the movie in full, or you have merely watched the trailer, there’s one thing you’ve probably noticed about 2021’s The Suicide Squad – a distinct lack of Will Smith. The high-profile actor previously appeared in the DC Extended Universe playing the role of Deadshot for 2016’s Suicide Squad, and yet he is absent from the sequel.
An odd occurrence you might think – especially considering the fact that Will Smith was one of the ‘big names’ from the original Suicide Squad movie. At the time of production, his name was much a bigger box office draw than say, Margot Robbie’s, or pretty much anyone else in the film.
So, what gives? If he is such a big star and he had such a prominent role in 2016’s Suicide Squad, why isn’t Will Smith in 2021’s The Suicide Squad? Was he dropped from the movie? Recast without his knowledge?
Will Smith is not in The Suicide Squad because he was unable to reprise the role of Deadshot for the movie. The actor was approached about coming back to the role, to appear alongside fellow returnees, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman, but he declined the opportunity.
When news broke about the situation back in 2019, Smith made no public comment regarding the decision, however, Variety cited scheduling conflicts as the official reason as to why he wouldn’t be returning. The situation was said to be very amicable, and there was no bad blood between the actor or anyone involved in the production of the new movie.
At this stage, it was unclear what would happen about the role of Deadshot. With Smith out of the project, the script for The Suicide Squad either needed to be adjusted to no longer include Deadshot, or the role needed to be recast with a new actor taking over from Smith.
Writer/director James Gunn considered his options and made the decision to bring on a new cast member in the shape of Idris Elba. But rather than cast Elba in the role of Deadshot, replacing one actor for another, he simply chose not to include Deadshot in his picture.
With Deadshot dropped from the movie, Elba was given the role of Bloodsport instead. The villain/anti-hero would occupy a similar role in the movie, and would share similar character traits, but Bloodshot would be a new character for the film, lifted from the pages of DC Comics.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: If the characters are very similar, and effectively play the same role in the movie, why didn’t Idris Elba simply play Deadshot in The Suicide Squad?
Although it might have seemed like a simple recast would have made more sense, the reason Idris Elba was not cast as Deadshot was so that the role could be kept open for Will Smith, should he be able to return in the future. Smith may not have been able to play Deadshot for The Suicide Squad, but no one wanted to close the door on him for good.
By giving Idris Elba the role of Bloodsport, Elba was able to become one of the central characters in The Suicide Squad, without impacting the production schedule, and at the same time Will Smith wasn’t pushed out of the series. Should Smith want to return for a future instalment, Deadshot can be brought back without any major fuss.
Deadshot’s absence isn’t addressed in The Suicide Squad, and it doesn’t need to be. The premise of the Suicide Squad movies is that a team of convicts go on deadly missions, but nowhere is it written in stone that it has to be the same team every time.
Deadshot isn’t mentioned in The Suicide Squad, and neither is he killed off. For all intents and purposes, he is merely sitting out this mission while locked up in a prison cell.
The important thing from all of the casting changes is that Smith’s character can return, while at the same time James Gunn was very happy with Elba as his new cast member. Speaking about his casting decision back in September 2020 (via Twitter), Gunn said: “I rarely write roles for actors I’ve never met, but I did exactly that for @idriselba in #TheSuicideSquad & couldn’t be happier I did – you went beyond my expectations as an actor AND as a human being.”
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