When James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad opens in theaters and streams on HBO Max August 6, Margot Robbie will return to the role of fan-favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. She previously played Mr. J’s former love in 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2020’s Birds of Prey.
Harley, re-incarcerated for making a cash withdrawal with her car, buys her freedom once more by joining the Squad. This colorful, cheeky, cheerful psychotic still has all her deadly dynamic moves and is as eager as ever to show them off. But Harley, in her signature, ladylike style, isn’t afraid to manhandle anyone who comes her way.
Robbie states, “I love playing Harley. I don’t know when I’ll ever get sick of playing Harley, she’s such a catalyst of chaos. And every time a different director approaches the character, I think they gravitate towards certain aspects of the character that they find intriguing or interesting, and then I get to explore all these different angles of Harley.”
Of Gunn, Robbie notes, “James is clearly a comic book fan, so reading his script I could see that the character was in the hands of someone who respects the source material and was excited about incorporating whatever he could for the comic book fans. And his humor is incredibly weird and specific, which is perfect for Harley and all of these characters, but there’s also a lot of heart; everyone gets their moment.”
She adds, “On top of that, he’s such a visionary director that I could tell the scope of the project was just going to be massive—which it was. He pulls off the bizarre in such a spectacular and cinematic way. I think there’s a particular tone to a James Gunn film, which was evident in the script and it felt evident on set. I think people are going to freak out when they see this film because it’s huge and insane and fun and funny and weird, the music’s incredible and it’s emotional… It’s just such an experience.”
“Margot can really do anything,” Gunn shares. “When I wrote one of the Harley sequences, which turned out to be one of my favorite things in the film, I knew it had to be a lot of fun and funny and worthy of Harley Quinn, but also worthy of Margot Robbie. Margot is fantastic and very athletic and has an incredible amount of control over her body. She’s able to express herself through her emotions and her humor, but also the way she moves her body to tell a story in an action sequence makes my job a lot easier.”
Gunn adds, “There’s a scene in the film that illustrates this perfectly, but part of her costume covers her face and I know people are going to think it’s a stunt double—and Margot’s stunt double is fantastic—but this shot is really Margot. She’s amazing.”
Capturing so much of the action—especially the heavy action sequences—in-camera was, for Robbie, invigorating, particularly on her first day of filming, which required her to run along a massive beach created on a backlot, dodging all kinds of gunfire.
“I felt like I was in a war zone,” she relates. “It had the look of a 1970s Vietnam War film, and I love those films. My adrenaline was through the roof because I was hearing explosions, smelling gun powder, so that and knowing you’ve only got one or two chances at it just ups the ante. Whereas, if we relied heavily on CG, I think it would be so different. I really appreciated that we were doing so much practically, especially the action and stunt work.”
In addition to delivering realistic action, Gunn knew the hardcore Harley fans wanted to see her in the character’s classic red and black and, in concert with Robbie and Makovsky, delivered it in spades.
No longer lovesick, Quinn would be battle-ready, and her look needed to reflect that. Makovsky put Robbie in fitted pants, a bustier vest and bolero-style leather jacket emblazoned on the back with a motto devised by Gunn that’s 100% Harley: Live Fast, Die Clown.
Each piece of the look was custom-dyed and a mix of waxed denim and leather. She even has her goggles, another nod to the comics. Makovsky offers, “The first thing James said to me was, ‘I want to do the Harley from the comic, I want what the fans want, the red and black—I even want the hair red and black. And I don’t want the shorts anymore because she’s going into battle.’ So we went with her battle look, which is more serious, but we looked at a lot of the comics and tried to do our own thing with it, too. And I think it was really fun to give Margot’s Harley something new, to show she’s evolved. She’s pretty badass in this movie, I’ve got to say.”
The story also called for a change of clothes for Quinn, and Gunn was adamant that it not only be a sparkly red evening gown, but that it also evolve throughout Harley’s many action scenes in the film.
Makovsky created an exquisite piece she dubbed “a cross between haute couture and a quinceañera gown.” Taking months to make the 15 dresses needed to cover its various stages of distress, the design included asymmetrical pleated netting, sequins and Swarovski crystals, with ruffles to give it a South American flare.”
Robbie’s hair and makeup, which took over two hours to accomplish, also reflected Harley’s more traditional look. Thorisdottir used a `60s-inspired eyeliner application along with a bright red lip. Thompson followed suit, parting Robbie’s hair to separate the jet black from the blood-red.
Keeping the red vibrant while also keeping it from running into Robbie’s alabaster base makeup during certain scenes was a challenge, but Thompson, through trial and error, found that combining carpet dye and sealers reduced bleeding.
And though Harley, formerly Dr. Harleen Quinzel, still has numerous tattoos, Gunn requested only one be removed: from her jawline, the word “rotten.”
Finally, Harley’s ability to adapt to any situation, wielding any weapon at hand, is on full display in the film. However, her initial weapon of choice? A rocket launcher. Designed specifically for the character, it’s a modern version of an RPG. A lighter option was crafted to make action sequences in the water possible, and operation was aided by the special effects and pyrotechnics teams.
Warner Bros. official description says:
From the horribly beautiful mind of writer/director James Gunn comes Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero action-adventure The Suicide Squad, featuring a collection of the most degenerate delinquents in the DC lineup.
Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) 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 on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.
The Suicide Squad opens in theaters and will stream on HBO Max starting August 6.