Sylvester Stallone on adding bite to Suicide Squad’s King Shark

(Sylvester Stallone)

In The Suicide Squad, which opened in theaters and began streaming on HBO Max last weekend, the enormous King Shark is half-human and half-shark, with a childlike naivete that belies the teeth beneath. Voiced by Sylvester Stallone, the character is, unsurprisingly, also at the center of much of the film’s humor.

Add to that a bite that far outcries his bark in this genetic experiment gone way awry, who is far more brawn than brains and always in the mood for his next meal, no matter who is on the menu…nom nom.

Nanaue (his “real” name) is the son of a shark god. Though he is part man and part shark, his shark qualities—and proclivities—far outweigh anything human about him. At least on the outside. Despite his primary train of thought revolving around food and his favorite meal being human flesh, Nanaue has a deeply human emotional core and pulls at the heartstrings of more than one fellow Force member.

Stallone, who is no stranger to playing underdogs, says of King Shark, “He has the intelligence to know that no one likes him, partly because he has a bad habit of eating people. So, I thought, wow, this guy is kind of like the Hunchback of Notre Dame—he’s ugly and he’s completely rejected, but he has a kind of nobility among all his defects. And he’s dying for companionship, and so you also have a great deal of sympathy for him.”

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Writer-director James Gunn says, “I wrote the role for Sly, but it didn’t really come to life until Sly’s voice was in there and I was like, that’s him. That’s King Shark. His voice brought the character to life in a way it hadn’t been brought to life before. It really is a marriage of all the right components coming together to create a character that I think people will really love.” Stallone also appeared in Gunn’s Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2.

The character was completed via CGI in post, but actor Steve Agee embodied him on-set, in order to get the physicality and dialogue down and give the ensemble someone real to act with. In addition to being photographed for movement, which would provide a reference for the animators, Agee was also tasked with wearing a gigantic chest piece and helmet with two eyes, in order to assist fellow cast members find the proper eyeline.

And while there’s no denying King Shark’s seemingly impenetrable bulk and brute strength, his weapon of choice could only be one thing: his razor-sharp chompers. Agee also appears in the film in the role of John Economos, one of the government techies surveilling the Squad. He works alongside a small, trusted motley crew that also includes Stephen Blackehart as Briscoe, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden as Flo Crawley, and Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt.