Idris Elba’s Deadshot in The Suicide Squad to be Darker, More Damaged

You likely already know that Will Smith is out and Idris Elba is in as Deadshot James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Smith’s Floyd Lawton/Deadshot was one of the best parts of David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad. Smith had major chemistry with the film’s breakout star —Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Robbie should be reprising her role once she’s done filming Birds of Prey. When Smith dropped out of Gunn’s reboot (of sorts) due to scheduling conflicts, there could have been cause for alarm. Who could possibly fill his shoes? Was the project in trouble?

Enter Elba, one of the few actors with Smith-level gravitas. Yet one wouldn’t expect—or want—Elba’s Deadshot to be like Smith’s version. This is why The Hollywood Reporter‘s news that Elba’s version will be a darker, more conflicted character is so welcome.

While Smith’s iteration of Deadshot was hardly the warm and fuzzy type, THR reports that Gunn’s script draws heavily from Jon Ostrander and Kim Yale’s version of the character from their 1980s comics. Elba’s not new to comic book material. He’s played the Asgardian sentry, Heimdall, in the Thor films, as well as a small but important part in Avengers: Infinity War. Playing Deadshot, however, will put him at the very center of a superhero film. If things go well, Elba could be headlining a Deadshot stand-alone film in the future.

The Ostrander/Yale version of Deadshot is a much more dangerous fellow—mostly, to himself and his fellow squad members. “In the pages of Suicide Squad, Lawton gave new meaning to the title as the team’s sole member who was actually looking for a worthy way to die,” THR’s Richard Newby writes. “Lawton’s death wish frequently saw the character making risky choices, and choosing missions with low-survival rates, efforts that put the rest of his teammates in the crosshairs.”

Now imagine Elba in the role of a suicidal assassin with no regard for his own life and you can start to see why people are getting excited. Gunn made his name turning the offbeat misfits in his two Guardians of the Galaxy films into lovable oddballs. If this is the iteration of Deadshot he’ll be working with, there’s a ton of opportunity to invest The Suicide Squad with real pathos, centered on a character with serious issues.

Newby writes that in Ostrander and Yale’s 1988 Deadshot miniseries, the character’s suicidal ideation began when he accidentally shot and killed his brother. “It’s this act that awakens Floyd to the fact that he cares nothing about life, even when it concerns the people he cares about.”

If Gunn takes the can’t-miss assassin down this darker path, the relationship between Deadshot and Harley Quinn will be fascinating. While the villains and antiheroes that make up the squad aren’t supposed to care that much about life, the version of Deadshot being described here is someone who doesn’t value life at all. That’s an important distinction. Harley Quinn might be psychotic, but she feels deeply (if often for the wrong things/person, like the Joker.) Being teamed up with a man who might get her killed, and not on her own terms, could be a source of serious tension. This is to say nothing of the rest of the squad. Tension is one of the key ingredients to any great drama, superhero film or not. One imagines that Elba and Robbie will have no trouble at all making the most of Deadshot’s death wish.

Featured image: WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 02: Idris Elba attends Netflix’s ‘Turn Up Charlie’ For Your Consideration event at Pacific Design Center on March 02, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.