The opening shot of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a rad one. The 2021 DC blockbuster opens on what appears to be a filtered image of Michael Rooker as Savant, but then the camera lifts and spins and we understand that our first look at the character was actually through the reflection in a muddy puddle. It’s a cool bit of cinematography that instantly delivers thematic information to the audience… and it notably wasn’t planned in any way by the filmmakers and came about from a happy accident on set.
I learned this cool behind-the-scenes story a few weeks ago at San Diego Comic-Con where I had the opportunity to sit down with production designer Beth Mickle. The filmmaker has worked with James Gunn multiple times – on films including The Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the upcoming Superman: Legacy – and I asked about experiences with on-set inspiration in their collaboration. Mickle recounted the day on The Suicide Squad set when the crew was setting up for the movie’s first scene and how all the plans that had been made went out the window when a better idea came to mind. Said the filmmaker,
That happens a lot. The opening shot of The Suicide Squad! We map out everything, we always know what our shots are gonna be going into these films, especially with James [Gunn]. But we'd done a wet down, and there was a great reflection in the ground... Michael Rooker with the long white hair wig and he's bouncing a ball. We had done a wet down, and we saw a great reflection and suddenly we're like, 'Wait, we can go from the reflection up to his face, do the spin around?'
The set for the Suicide Squad scene in conversation here included concrete walls and a concrete floor featuring various “X” marks made of tape (which are used by Savant as ricochet targets for a rubber ball he tosses around). Beth Mickle didn’t specifically explain why the crew hosed the space down prior to shooting – perhaps to add a wetness to the scene or just to settle any dust in the air – and she didn’t tell me what the plan was prior to the moment of inspiration, but a simple puddle led to the generation of a great opening.
Every filmmaker has their own preferred way of working – whether it be with obsessive planning or just winging it – but it’s always movie magic when a mistake or an unexpected turn of events leads to something awesome. As Beth Mickle put it,
That was just one of those happy accidents where you see something and you pivot. It wouldn't have happened if you weren't just hosing down a floor.
Fans of The Suicide Squad who want to now rewatch the film with this new knowledge in mind can do so in many different ways. The blockbuster is available to stream with a Max subscription, but you can also purchase the movie digitally (via Amazon, Vudu, Apple, or Google Play) or get it on 4K UHD, Blu-ray or DVD.
Those who dig Beth Mickle’s collaborations with James Gunn can also now enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at home – with the film being streamable via a Disney+ subscription and also on digital platforms and physical media.