Original Version Of SUICIDE SQUAD Featured JUSTICE LEAGUE Villain Steppenwolf


It’s common knowledge that David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad went through an extensive period of reshoots months after principal photography had ended. But it wasn’t known until this weekend exactly how extensive those reshoots were. It turns out that the film had an entirely different main villain and army of henchmen than we saw on the big screen. And that main villain? The New God Steppenwolf, whom we did see the following year in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

The revelation came to light this past weekend, when a fan tweeted out two pieces of concept art from Suicide Squad‘s Conceptual Artist Christian Lorenz Scheurer, noting that the art shows Steppenwolf, his army of Parademons, the demon-like shock troopers of Steppenwolf’s father Darkseid and boomtubes, the teleporter-like technology used by the New Gods to transport themselves between worlds.

The images had actually been first published a year ago, but in response to the tweets this weekend, Ayer hopped on to Twitter to confirm that yes, Steppenwolf had originally been intended to be his film’s main villain. He also explained how the film’s story was originally supposed to go and how the removal of Steppenwolf, the parademons and the Mother Box changed what we saw in the final, released version.

This is not the first time that the director has hinted at changes that were made to Suicide Squad as the film was being made. Earlier in the year, Ayer explained how a plotline for Harley Quinn was drastically altered from what he had originally intended.

It is readily apparent from the extended cut of the film released on home video that the Suicide Squad reshoots had made some substantial changes to some elements and character arcs in the film. That much was obvious from. But where a normal reshoot period might be budgeted at anywhere between $6 and $10 million, the Suicide Squad reshoots reportedly cost closer to $20 to $22 million. This obviously suggests that a larger part of the movie than normal was being restructured and we now know that it is because of the removal of Steppenwolf.

While it is easy to understand that Warners would perhaps not want to use Steppenwolf as a villain in two films in a row, the question becomes why was Ayer allowed to use Steppenwolf in the first place and why was this permission revoked?

To try and figure this out, we need to take a look at the timeline of not just Suicide Squad‘s production but for Justice League as well.

Ayer was hired by Warner Brothers for Suicide Squad in September 2014 and had to hit the ground running as he was also writing the film and had only six weeks to complete his work there in order to meet a tight production schedule with an unmovable release date for the film. Prior to Ayer’s hiring, Man Of Steel screenwriter David S Goyer had been brought on to draft Justice League in June 2013. Thirteen months later, in July 2014, it was announced that Chris Terrio was coming on to do some rewrites.

Now, presumably, Ayer was hired in part based on a story he pitched to the studio, a story that included the use of Steppenwolf, parademons and boom tubes. So were these elements also a part of the Justice League script that Goyer and Terrio had already been working on? If so, why was Ayer allowed access to them as well for Suicide Squad? The only other possibility is that at some point Justice League underwent a massive change in its story and Snyder, who probably had a lot more power at the studio than Ayer did, could conceivably have demanded the use of Steppenwolf, et al, leaving Ayer in the lurch.

Unfortunately, this latest reveal throws a bit more light on the seemingly creative chaos behind the scenes at Warner brothers and their attempts to create their own interlocking superhero film franchise. This kind of thing could have been avoided by having a stronger, overall creative vision for the franchise and the guts to stick with it. Justice League was already under scrutiny from studio executives who wanted a somewhat lighter film after Superman V Batman received criticism for its darker tone. And it sounds as if in the scramble to achieve that course correction, a major rewrite happened on the film, with Suicide Squad‘s own storyline being an unintended casualty.

Maybe not-so-coincidentally, director Gavin O’Connor’s plans for a potential Suicide Squad sequel were reportedly scuttled for being too similar to the storyline for Birds Of Prey (Or The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn), which is about to go into production in a couple of months. More of the same issue of developing multiple too similar ideas? At least O’Connor wasn’t deep into production before Warners decided that things needed to go in a different direction.

On the bright side though, James Gunn looks to be writing and possibly directing the next Suicide Squad film and I have a feeling that the studio won’t be so quick to impose last minute changes on him.

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About Rich Drees 6968 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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William Gatevackes
November 26, 2018 4:18 pm

I have nothing to back this up, but I think Darkseid was going to be the original bad guy in JL. That’s the set up I got from BvS: DOJ. But I think that for whatever reason, they bailed on that idea and decided to move Steppenwolf over to take his place.