Suicide Squad: costume by costume

suicide squad group shot

by Nick De Semlyen |
Published on

This week sees David Ayer’s Suicide Squad catapult into cinemas, with weapons, questionable morals, and in some cases superpowers in tow. Getting DC’s infamous rogues’ gallery to the big screen was no easy feat: not least when regarding the Skwad’s crazy and colourful costumes. We sat down with costume designer Kate Hawley, to talk everything from Will Smith’s wrist-Glocks and Harley Quinn’s Chiappa Rhino, to Killer’s Crocs prosthetics and Jared Leto’s numerous suits.

Deadshot (Will Smith)


Will Smith: I love the idea that David wanted to do it all practical, including my wrist-Glocks. Each one is a real Glock with the handle sawed off, reconfigured so I could have the trigger mechanism attached to my palm and trigger it with my thumb. It’s kinda like a bra strap – it take a while to master!”

David Ayer: “It’s fucking sick. It’s highly customised, Glocks super-modified by the guys who make guns for the speed-shooting champion. It’s shocking we got it to work. It uses a pneumatic actuator, so has an air cylinder. There were a lot of headaches in building it, but the outcome was great.”


Ayer: “All Will’s weapons have the same writing: ‘I’m the light. The way.’ He sends people on to their judgement.”

Smith: “We’re going to a bad place where bad things are happening. So we gotta stay ready. Deadshot carries six weapons.”


Smith: “I had gun training in the past on Bad Boys, where I went down and trained with the special-ops guys in Miami. But the marksman thing is a whole other level. The physical difficulty was all of the weight of the equipment. But the psychological aspect was even more difficult — getting into the mindset of a hitman.”


Kate Hawley (costume designer): “David did a lot of work on Deadshot’s mask. He wanted to get into the reality of how it would actually work. It started off as just a Google Glass lens, but David said, ‘No, I want a proper mask. We’ve got to give that to the fans.’ He designed Deadshot’s military chest plate too.”

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)


Margot Robbie: “I hate the bracelets. I hate them! I had all these cuts on me, from these frigging bracelets. I’ve got these scars to remind me. Everything that looks cool is also the most difficult to wear.”


Robbie: “The shoes look cool, but they take 20 minutes to lace up. When I got the role I started looking up Harley costumes online, with my mum sitting next to me. She was like, 'My daughter is going to dress like a prostitute!' There are a lot of angry mothers out there!"


Robbie: “I came on set for rehearsal, without my costume on, and everyone was like, ‘You look weird.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, now I look weird, without my face tattoos and my dyed hair?’ They said, ‘Go get dressed — this is freaking us all out!’”


Robbie: “I had to get strong just so the gun wouldn’t shake every time I swapped hands. It’s got, like, a six-inch barrel and I just wasn’t strong enough. So I turned up a month before we started shooting and did a lot of physical training. The gun range was actually my favourite part. Gymnastics, I don’t mind. It’s when it’s just straight-up gym that I’m like, ‘Urgh!”

David Ayer: “Margot is a fucking soldier. She was all muscle when we started the shoot. She was ripped. Because she had this acrobatic routine she had to learn, which takes incredible strength.”


Kate Hawley: “We made corsets and jester suits and every possible Harley costume you could imagine — there are racks and racks of rejects. It was only when Margot tried on this little bomber jacket and T-shirt that the character came alive.”


Ayer: “Harley’s gun is a Chiappa Rhino, a fairly new type of revolver. It has a spinning chamber like an old pistol. She scratches her kills onto it and then LOVE/ HATE keeps repeating every time she pulls the trigger.”

Slipknot (Adam Beach)


Adam Beach: “Slipknot can climb anything, so getting out of a situation is a cinch for him. He’s an escape artist. I had to learn how to climb a rope. It was terrible. I was so worn out. I don’t think I could get up it now.”


Beach: “He uses them as a martial art. I had a sensei training me every day in how to use these unbreakable ropes. And I came up with a cool backstory. David [Ayer] said, ‘When the government caught you, what were you doing?’ I said, ‘Man, I was strangling Wonder Woman!’”


Beach: “Slipknot doesn’t have your traditional shoot-’em-up cowboy situation. He’ll take you from surprise. It’s a ninja quality – silent but deadly. By the time you find out what’s going on, you’re dead.”

Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)


Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “It was psychologically draining to stay in character as a cannibalistic creature. Doing that for six months, it takes its toll on you. Part of my process was to stay away from the rest of the cast; Croc has his own Croc-crib.”


Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “I was always first in. The process took between three hours and five hours, depending on whether we were doing full-body scenes. Then there was 12 hours a day wearing it on set. As a child Killer Croc was afflicted with a skin disease and was ridiculed and ostracised. His aunt tried to scrub off the scales. But instead of shying away from what other people saw as ugliness, he embraced it. In the movie, Croc says, ‘I’m beautiful.’”


Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “I asked, ‘Is he really a cannibal?’ David said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ He doesn’t eat just anybody, though. He only eats the most talented people because he’s a very picky cannibal. To get into character I researched real live cannibals, especially a Japanese one called Issei Sagawa. When he’s locked up in Belle Reve, Croc has a less exciting diet: he’s fed goats.”


Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “I went down to Fort Lauderdale and hung out with alligators in the swamps. I got into the ring with them, held them, watched how they move and studied their blind spots. Croc moves like he’s in water. And his signature fight move is the ‘croc roll’, based on the death roll alligators and crocodiles do when they’re tearing meat. My little trip down to the Everglades was very fruitful.”


Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “I have quite a lot of wardrobe. A two-inch-thick leather jacket, hoody, sweatpants, boots. I got really hot at times. But we got around that with a cooling vest that regulated my temperature. When I started cooking, I pressed a button and it would squirt ice-cold water up into the neck and just chill me out. They also plugged me with amino acids every day so I didn’t pass out.”

David Ayer: “It’s a dude in a hoodie who’s a crocodile. I find that hilarious. And beautiful.”

Boomerang (Jai Courtney)


Jai Courtney: “It’s really the jewel in the crown. Even though it was only good for a few weeks at the start, where it was really cold. Later it just created a sea of saltwater under it. It’s a bit like a Mary Poppins bag, where anything can come out of it. It’s great when you can really fall in love with your costume, and I did with Boomerang’s.”


Kate Hawley: “The look of Boomerang is kind of based on a cousin of mine from New Zealand. We’ve stayed pretty close to the comic-book, just made it grittier. His catching glove for the boomerangs was made up of old butcher’s chain-metal, attached to leather baseball mitts.”


Courtney: “My haircut was done by David Ayer himself. I believe he cut someone’s hair in the Navy once. He came into the make-up studio while we were playing with looks, and I thought we'd have discussions, see where it might lead. But he just walked right in, picked up the clippers and started shearing chunks off my head. Until we got to the point where he said, ‘You look like bad news.’ Then he left.”


Courtney: “He’s someone who makes weapons in his back garage. He’s ex-Special Forces and he’s scheming and dirty and deadly. His main fighting boomerangs are more like knives — they’re used for close-combat stuff. He has drone boomerangs too. It’s rare you see a full-on Australian character in a movie like this. There’s a line that Harley has where she says, ‘A village in Australia is missing its idiot. You should call home.’ I love that.”


Courtney: “Boomer has a beer on his belt. It’s a Gurgler’s Ale, a brand we made up for the movie. It’s funny, because it’s kind of bottomless. I drink about ten in the movie and it never comes out of its koozie. A beer-holster is a necessary tool for survival.”

Diablo (Jay Herdandez)


Jay Hernandez: “At first they took four hours to apply. But we got it down to a couple of hours, then 45 minutes to remove. David and I talked about this guy being from this certain part of LA where there’s a whole gang culture, an underbelly of the city. I grew up in LA and I’ve known people that essentially looked like this. Some of them got lost in that life, others cleaned up their act and did something with themselves.”

David Ayer: “We did a ridiculous amount of R&D for Diablo, trying different face designs, older styles, newer styles. His tattoos are wildly intricate and all very specific to Los Angeles.”


Hernandez: “I don’t have any weapons, per se. When you have infernal powers, you don’t really need anything else! Hellfire is one of the most powerful things you can have. What do I need a gun for?”


Hernandez: “Most of the squad would be happy to get out there and kill people. Diablo doesn’t want to do that. He regrets his past and is trying to make amends and find a way to live with himself after what he’s done. He has no drive whatsoever to use his abilities — he just wants to stay out of the fight.”


Hernandez: “He’s happy to be back in street clothes. He’s been locked away in a big metal tube, which gets flooded with water when he flames up. Shooting those scenes were pretty gnarly — they pumped water into it so quickly it filled up in six seconds, and because it mixed with paint it was like a toxic goo by the time I got out of there. It got in my ears, my nostrils, my sinuses. It was not fun. But it looked great and that’s all that matters.”

Katana (Karen Fukuhara)


Karen Fukuhara: “Her sword is called Soultaker. Her swordwork is amazing — I actually think she’s the strongest character in the squad in terms of her abilities. She can slice through hundreds of people without taking a breath. As preparation I watched The Last Samurai, which blew me away. I also saw the Kenshin trilogy, based off manga anime. It’s really popular in Japan.”


Fukuhara: “The characters on the sash say, ‘I weep thinking of him.’ In her backstory her husband has been murdered, so she wears this for him. She’s had a hard past — she’s lost her kids as well as her husband, which is something that’s really hard to come back from.”

Kate Hawley: “She wears a senninbari, a thousand-knot belt, as a tribute to her husband. She wears her past on her sleeve.”


Fukuhara: “Even though Katana is very stoic and doesn’t show much emotion, partly because of the mask, she’s very humane. She has her moral codes and she is inherently good. We tried hard to make her a relatable character. She’s actually very kind, even though she doesn’t often show it.”

The Joker (Jared Leto)


Jared Leto: “The Joker is great because he says whatever is on his mind. His subtext is on the outside. And for him, manipulation is a really good time. He loves to strike a chord of fear and uncertainty in people, and he loves to make himself laugh.”

Kate Hawley: “We saw The Joker and Harley as Punch and Judy. It’s a real ‘I hate you’/ ‘I love you’ relationship, a nightmarish but glorious couple. The Joker is terrifying and there’s a moment in Arkham Asylum that is brutal and violent. This is a very physical iteration of the Joker. He’s a very smart, fiendish character.”


Leto: “The tattoo designs came from David. He was very interested in a modern take on The Joker, and also in something otherworldly. He talked about The Joker being a shamen, and some of the mythical sides to this universe.”

David Ayer: “The movie’s tattoo artist is a brilliant guy, the way he sees things. We sat down and connected right away. The Joker and Harley are both wearing their resumés on their bodies. You see their history right away. Rob kicked in the door of the visual world for a lot of these characters. He was kind of a godsend.”


Leto: “I keyed in on some drug lords and cartel bosses. There’s so much death in that world that it seems to be a place very similar to where The Joker may live.”

Hawley: “He’s got about five suits. He’s even got some gold boxer shorts with the American flag on — he’s a flashy guy! In the drug-cartel world, it’s all about the number plates. Everything is vulgar and narcissistic. I actually tried to buy some jewellery belonging to top cartel guys that was being auctioned off, but it didn’t happen in the end!”

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)


Cara Delevingne: “In the beginning there wasn’t an accent, but I said to David, ‘I think it should be like an old English person. I don’t want to be an old ancient American witch.’ So she’s got a posh-sounding voice, which I’ve taken deeper and more sinister. It was either going to be really deep or really high, and unfortunately I can’t pull off a very high voice.”


Kate Hawley: “The character goes through several different transformations. In the world of the cave where we find her early on, we wanted this very old-world witch, so she looks like she’s wearing green crystals, with magic symbols. Then, as the story goes on, the headdress grows and we go into this tripped-out, all-seeing-eye, goddess thing. David is into ’70s psychedelia, so a lot of trippy stuff unfolds.”


Hawley: “She’s a feral creature, a wild child, and she’s got black, dirty hands. On one level, this is a gangster movie with a touch of military, but on Enchantress days it feels like we’re making a horror movie. She’s the horror element. It’s not unlike The Grudge, in a way.”

Delevingne: “Make-up took three or four hours, so I had a lot of time to get ready mentally. I listened to stuff like Megadeth and Nick Cave, songs like Red Right Hand, which is about the devil. Just evil stuff.”


Delevingne: “I really like having these little things to play with. She can’t be too playful, though, because every move she makes costs too much. If it was really me being this witchy person I would be running around the room tickling people, stealing pens and stupid shit. But she really doesn’t have that type of time.”

Suicide Squad is released in cinemas on Friday August 5.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Suicide Squad.

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