The stories that came from the sets of Fury and End of Watch made them sound like exceedingly intense productions to be a part of. From actors pulling teeth to fist fights, the question of ‘does the end justify the means?’ comes to mind. During a set visit, director David Ayer and the cast talk Suicide Squad, and even though he’s helming this summer’s biggest comic book blockbusters, his methods still seem like those of a psychopath.

“The rehearsal was very intense,” he tells Yahoo. “It wasn’t a normal rehearsal, we’d talk about their lives, their history, and really got them to open up as people to each other. I also had them fight.”

That was going really nicely there, wasn’t it? Sit down, have a chat, now I want you to punch Will Smith in the face.

“I had them fight each other. You learn a lot about who a person really is when you punch them in the face. It gets rid of a lot of the actor stuff.”

cast talk Suicide Squad

That’s one way to break the ice.

The madness of method

The conversation soon shifts to the green haired, tattooed elephant in the room, as Ayer is asked about the origin to this new iteration of The Joker; “A lot of it has to do with creating a character with some kind of history and footprint in our world,” he says. “And not have this sacrosanct being outside of our continuum, our reality. If a guy like him really existed today, where would he come from? How would he do business? Who would he know? What would he look like? In my mind, I took a lot of inspiration from drug lords on Instagram. It’s a great way to understand the lifestyle of a villain.”

When asked about those controversial tattoos – have the fanboys finished raging about that yet? – he says “The tattoos tell a very specific story,and eventually people will decipher them and understand what’s going on, but obviously they’re contentious, any time you do something new it’s contentious.”

The Internet does love a good hidden message, with fans of Marvel and DC always eagle-eyed for hints and nods towards further films and possible character reveals. Ayer has latched onto this, explaining “There’s very specific stories and easter eggs in those tattoos. And even his teeth, there’s an entire story behind that which is absolutely canon. It’s putting his history on his body. This Joker is a little more working class, who I believe could live in our world.”

cast talk Suicide Squad

Joining the dots

A popular theory as to why Mr J has those nasty looking metal chompers is the connection to the Robin costume in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Internet has pretty much decided that this was Jason Todd’s, before The Joker killed the Boy Wonder. Did it cause Batman to snap? Snap so much he busted a few teeth out while beating him to a bloody pulp? We really hope we get the answers in Suicide Squad.

But Yahoo weren’t just focused on finding out about Ayer’s thoughts on The Joker. No, no, no, this film’s focus isn’t solely on him. In fact, when each new trailer landed, all eyes were on Margot Robbie. “Harley’s one of my favourite characters,” Ayer confesses. “She’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. She’s so complex, she’s all about dichotomies, so many opposing qualities in the same person, just like all of us. It’s nice to explore those things. It’s rare to have such a strong female character who’s so active in the story, so driven and so powerful – yet has these weaknesses and achilles heels, just like anybody.”

The conversation soon shifts to Robbie’s presence on set, as he reflects “I don’t know what to say other than a star is born. She’s riveting, magnetic, she is the character. I don’t recognise her out of make-up, we spend so much time together on set, I’m uncomfortable around her if she’s not in make-up.”

Robbie ♥’s tattoos

When talking to Robbie herself, she too has a lot to say about Leto’s method. “It’s really interesting,” Robbie says with a smile. “Sometimes it can be awkward, sometimes it can be terrifying, most of the time it’s just funny. I’m trying not to laugh, because he says such hilarious things. Jared’s really funny, and terrifying, and just nuts. Absolutely nuts. It’s really interesting to work with someone so method, because I haven’t worked with someone doing that before.”

With tattoos seeming to be Yahoo’s second go to question of the day, Robbie says of Harley “She did these herself in prison. They’re stick and poke tattoos, prison-style tattoos, that you do when you don’t have a tattoo gun. She did them herself out of boredom and desperation… There’s ‘I Heart Puddin’, a Joker face, a love heart… that’s obviously reflective of her time in prison.”

cast talk Suicide Squad

The cast talk Suicide Squad

Weighing in on the director’s influence, Jai Courtney – who is playing Captain Boomerang – explains “There’s all sorts of little tricks he has, manipulations that fold into the process, you don’t know you’re victim to until it’s in full effect. It’ll be sad to stop working with him, all of us hope that opportunity will come again.” Courtney seems to be itching for a sequel, and from what we’ve seen and heard of the film so far you will be too.

“You often hear directors talk about a rehearsal period, and it often ends up being an advanced table read,” adds Joel Kinnaman, who has the unfortunate honour of heading up the Squad as Rick Flag. “But we actually had a month of rehearsals. We were all in one room, rehearsing the script, improvising, and that puts everybody in an insecure and vulnerable position. You feel like everybody is feeling the same things, and you overcome it together. That was really effective on this film. We all had to show our asses to each other.”

Ayer, genius or madman? The strange techniques don’t end there; “He asked questions in front of everyone that were hard to dodge,” Kinnaman continues. “‘What are you most afraid of?’ ‘What is the most embarrassed you’ve ever been?’ ‘What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever done to someone?’ Those kinds of questions. So it becomes very honest, it strips the facade and you get to know each other for real.” Summing his director up, Kinsman says “He’s very fucked up,” with a laugh.

cast talk Suicide Squad

Jay Hernandez – the heavily tattooed (and in this film that’s saying something) El Diablo – sums up the process with “We just had to get out there and do it, build trust with the other actors. It was an interesting process, David has a certain way of doing things.”

A lot has been said already on Leto’s crazy antics, but now that we’ve heard more about Ayer’s techniques as the mad captain of the good ship Suicide Squad, we’re not surprised the cast brought so much crazy to the set.

Suicide Squad blows the doors off cinemas on the 5th August.