Idris Elba brings Bloodsport to life in The Suicide Squad

From the mind of writer-director James Gunn comes superhero action adventure The Suicide Squad, featuring a collection of the most degenerate delinquents in the DC line-up.

In this standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad that opens in cinemas here on Aug 5, the super-secret Task Force X - a collection of incarcerated supervillains including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn - are armed heavily and dropped on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. 

Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave - and Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis) government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. 

British actor Idris Elba, 48, plays Bloodsport, a world-class marksman specialising in brutality — his hands, and anything he wields with them, are deadly weapons. 

He describes his character as one who “lives deep in the vaults of the DC world”. 

“He comes from this sort of very tough military background and has an incredible amount of tech. But he’s quite a grumpy guy and not fun to be around. He’s disgruntled. He’s been in jail for a long time and hates the system. He hates Superman — he’s in jail for putting him in intensive care,” said Elba.

Bringing Bloodsport to life was a big challenge, due mainly to the weapons integrated into his suit. He is the ultimate soldier, transforming at will and always ready for action.

Elba said: “His super-suit is just next-level. It’s the ultimate in warfare and in the film you get to see Bloodsport really utilise it, which is pretty exciting. I think people are going love it because it really does transform into everything. I had a lot of fun running around with things that pop out of my arm and my leg and just transform in my hand.”

Were you into comic books as a kid? Did you have a favourite superhero?

I was into Spider-Man as a kid. I loved Superman as well. I was into Flash Gordon. I had Flash Gordon wallpaper. But I know some people that are real purists, James Gunn included. He’s the absolute purest fan when it comes to comics. I’m not one of those, unfortunately. 

What did you do to prepare for your role of Bloodsport?

Listen, James, you know, he’s the complete story. He’s all vision. So in preparing it’s kind of like walking into an artist’s studio, and the artist says to you, “Right, we’re going to do a painting. I want you to help me do it. Here’s my paint brush and here’s my favorite colour.” 

It was really like stepping into James’ head. And that was different, in a sense. You know, you make a movie sometimes and the director hasn’t written the material, and it can feel a bit cobbled together. But in this case, James had really lived this story and this script. It’s great stepping into his mind.

Do you remember any initial thoughts or feelings you had as you read his script for the first time?

I had to read it three times, I’m not going to lie. The first time I read it, I was like, “What?” Then I read it again focusing on my character and trying to understand the story, to understand exactly how James wanted to reinvent The Suicide Squad, and it took a real deep dive to do that. I had a great meeting with James before I got the script, and he warned me. He said, “Look, read it, then read it again. Then go to bed, then read it again.” 

It’s a great film, and I had a lot of fun. Thinking about it pulls at the heart strings, you know what I mean? The Suicide Squad is not known for empathy. But there we were, telling this story that James really wanted to have a human heartbeat. It was a good read. A great read.

And tell me about your experience working with James on set. I have to assume he’s a bit different than other filmmakers in his process?

Look, when the director is in every molecule of the script, when he makes every lighting decision and every costume decision, that’s an artist. Artist with a capital A. And he’s very pedantic, but in a good way. He works in a specific way, really knows what he’s looking for - “If we haven’t got it, we haven’t got it, and we’re going to keep going until we get it.” That kind of thing. 

And that was always great, because the more we did that, the more we understood exactly what the tone was. But he does give you a lot of licence. John Cena and I both had a lot of licence to allow our characters to grow. When I read the script my character didn’t even have a name. It was like, “Okay, we don’t know what we’re calling him yet.” So there was a lot of room for growth while making the film as well.

And can you talk about the environment James creates on set? I’ve heard a lot of words like “family”.

There were just so many different ways in which people approached stuff. And some real comedic gems. I tend not do much comedy, and here I was in the middle of a bunch of actors that can really make you laugh. It was great. Just so dynamic and different. It was like being at the Olympics.

Bloodsport and Cena’s character Peacemaker have a very entertaining rapport throughout the film. What was it like working together to develop that comedic pairing?

(L-R) Joel Kinnaman, Idris Elba and John Cena in The Suicide SquadWARNER BROS

John Cena’s a gem of a guy. He’s a really nice guy. I’ve always been a fan of his as a wrestler and as an entertainer, and now as an actor. He’s really good at what he does, yet always learning. Very collaborative, very open, to a point where it’s almost a little uncomfortable how open he can be.

And he’s also an improvisational genius. He’s like Jay-Z level, the improv, it’s so good. It was great fun to watch him pull this character together. And James, he was feeding the engine and the energy between us the whole time. He’d say, “Try this. Try that. What happens if you do this?”

The sets on this film were quite vast, so James would be way over in video village on the mic, and you’d just hear this voice from the gods encouraging us to be sillier and sillier. 

You have a lot of scenes with Daniela Melchior, who plays Ratcatcher 2. How do you feel about rats? 

When we started, I said to James, “Listen, are they going to be real rats?” He’s like, “No.” So, I said, “ Okay, cool.” He’s like, “You’re not into rats?” I’m like, “I don’t love them.” 

So then I get on set and Viola (Davis), who has a very serious phobia of rats, says, “I can’t do rats.” I was like, “ Oh, well. My character can’t do rats. I can learn from that.” 

So I ended up using her as a bit of a model. I would surprise her and say, “Oh my God, there’s a rat.” And then I would see what she did. I ended up using that for my character. She doesn’t know this yet.