The Suicide Squad Director Defends Decision To Racebend Characters


Comic book movies have always had a lot more leeway when it comes to taking liberties with the source material than most other genres, because when you’re dealing with superheroes, gods, monsters and aliens, realism was never much of an option in the first place. A small minority of longtime fans might not be too happy about wholesale changes, but if it benefits the story being told and results in a much better end product, then the decision is ultimately justified.

As one of the most active filmmakers on social media, James Gunn is more willing than most to give people some insight into his creative process and explain why he’s made the choices that he has, but a recent interaction with a fan seems to have crossed a line. The Guardians of the Galaxy director was asked for his thoughts on predecessor David Ayer casting Will Smith as Deadshot in Suicide Squad when the character has usually been depicted as white in the comics.

Ignoring the fact that Smith is one of the biggest actors on the planet and his presence gave the cast of Suicide Squad a huge boost in star power that massively helped the marketing sell the relatively obscure team to more casual audiences, Gunn’s response nonetheless went straight to the point and called the so-called ‘fan’ out.

“People aren’t making movies about unknown superheroes. In addition, it’s innately discriminatory to think what makes a character a character is his or her ethnicity and not his or her personality. What is it, if not racism, that David Ayer, for casting Will Smith as Deadshot, and John Watts, for casting Zendaya as Mary Jane, got thousands of times more sh*t for those choices than I did for making Drax and Mantis aliens instead of humans in Guardians? In most cases, these are great casting choices, Will Smith is a lot like Floyd in the books, he just happens to be black. And it isn’t done for no reason, it’s usually done to more effectively reflect our world and to cast the best actor for the role, regardless of race. If David Ayer thought Mark Wahlberg would have made a better Deadshot, he probably would have cast him.”

There’s always going to be some narrow-minded people that can’t see past ethnicity when it comes to casting major roles in comic book blockbusters, and whether it reflects their appearance on the printed page or not, the final decision should always be made based on the best fit for the character above anything else.