Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Flula Borg and Mayling Ng start THE SUICIDE SQUAD off with their explosive presences, pretty much literally. They’re characters, Javelin and Mongal (respectively), have been enlisted to be a part of an elite crew, Task Force X, gathering intel on a potential threat. They do an iconic slow motion hero walk, trash talk each other in a military transport and take a moonlit beach by storm. All Hell breaks loose after and their fates are in the hands of the movie gods. Yet their lead-in is all that an actor could hope for.
At the film’s recent virtual press day, I spoke with the pair about what it was like to breathe life into their characters and, in Ng’s case, what special news she received during filming.
I’m curious what both of your prep work was like. Was there a lot of fitness training for you, Flula, and, Mayling, was it easy to get used to working with literal added layers on your body?
Mayling Ng: “In regards to the make-up, you put it on and zone out. Doing the face was probably the hardest bit because that’s when it all starts to drag after a few hours and you start to feel your face get tired. But you get used to it. Probably the only hard thing was you couldn’t lean against thing because you’d stick to it. I’d stay propped up all day and then the days where I was sitting down, in the chopper, they’d have to spray me with sealant and they couldn’t get it off. That was the hardest bit. Other than that… I’ll do it again. Mongal rocks. Bring it on!”
Flula Borg: “What was great was we had to purchase zero Post-it notes on set. We could just take a piece of paper and just put it on her shoulder. There was a lot of budgetary dollars saved.”
Ng: “[laughs] I was useful! Thank you for reminded me.”
Borg: “I could’ve reminded you with one of my papers. To answer your question, unlike Mayling, I had never done super action things before. This was new for me. So I hired a trainer. I hired a person that knows how to deal with bow staffs. I had someone teach me how to ingest calories – how to lift weights up and down and left and right. This was very fun for me. Increase my masses. Make my buttocks harder.”
Ng: “Flula has the real superhero body in all of this. Have you seen his Instagram?! He’s got the full on 8 pack. He was really shredded. Always in great shape. I was surprised. You kept it still!”
Borg: “Look at you! You’re always in the most phenomenal shape in the history of shapes.”
Ng: “I used to be a trainer and use to compete. I know what you need to eat. I eat protein pizzas and shrimp burgers. I cheat with my food. I eat a lot of naughty stuff, but it’s low calorie. It’s easy. If Flula’s around, I’ll pick him up and give him a few bicep curls. No worries. No worries.”
You two were working against nature’s elements in one of your scenes. You’ve got water, sand and explosions. What sort of challenge did that add for you both? I would assume that impedes, or impacts, the stunt choreography.
Ng: “The water was like a spa. It wasn’t a hard gig. Give me a few bath salts and a body scrub and I would’ve stayed in there. It was temperature controlled and didn’t get cold. I could’ve done that all day. It was beautiful weather. I’m from Singapore and so I love the heat. The only thing I had to worry about, [with] the stunts and stuff, was getting the sand in places – like in my helmet. My ears were fully covered anyway. Sometimes water would get in and sand would get in. But it was a really good set.”
Borg: “Oh no. Everyone paid attention to me too much. Javelin thinks he’s the most beautiful person in the room. I can’t help it. I’m just embodying the character. Mayling is right: that water, nice and warm. Our suits were designed to be workable in water. So it wasn’t a weird thing. It was kind of delicious.”
Ng: “The only problem I had, in the pool scene, I had zero buoyancy. I think [Flula] was on a ladder.”
Borg: “You had spike like weapons and I had a ladder.”
Ng: “I had weapons and everyone had a ladder. And they were like, ‘Action!’ and I was like, ‘Help!’ That was my only thing, trying not to sink. That was my biggest scene.”
Borg: “That was impressive.”
Ng: “No. I literally sank.”
I assume the beach scene was shot outdoors?
Borg: “The beach scenes were all outdoors and we shot at night. Everything else we did was indoors.”
Ng: “The first bit was at night and then we switched it around.”
Was it easy to get used to the night shoot?
Ng: “James was really good because even on the first weekend, he entertained us. We all went to a restaurant. Another weekend, we hung out at his house. We kinda got used to staying up late and we’d wake up late. So we would be acclimatized.”
Borg: “Even on the different nights I wasn’t working, I’d stay up until 6 am. I would go to night movies. I saw HOBBS AND SHAW three nights in a row like at midnight, just to stay up.”
When you both were cast, was any of the writing changed to better suit your personalities and strengths?
Borg: “I just feel like he knew who he wanted for these roles. What he wrote was already exactly…If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have cast me. I think he was just like, ‘Flula is playing this guy and this is how weird he is so just let him play within this weirdness.’
Ng: “That’s an interesting question. How did you get it Flula? Did you audition?”
Borg: “I auditioned, yes.”
Ng: “Yeah. I think James has someone in his mind and then it’s whoever fits that. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or if you’re a big star, or a newcomer. I auditioned as well, for a creature. I didn’t even know who I was auditioning for, or what film I was auditioning for. It was ‘Creature for James Gunn’ – that was it.”
Did you have a favorite day on set?
Ng: “The one where we were walking down the airport helipad and the American flag was behind us. It was pretty iconic. Cool music was playing. James was doing the direction and it was a hundred production and we were all in our badass costumes. It was a really hot day and pretty epic. I had just applied for my Green Card and it was going through, and I looked at that American flag, and I was like, ‘This is just so meant to be.’ It was a ‘Yes!’ moment.
Borg: “That’s so cool. I didn’t know that. That’s outstanding.”
Ng: “Yeah, it was. I waited for James to give me a reference. He was so kind. He was so busy and he still made time to help me with the letter. And I submitted it. The next day I went to set and I didn’t know there was going to be a flag. And then I got it. I got it! And for you, Flula?”
Borg: “The scene where we’re all in an aircraft together and it’s very intimate. And I just love it, because there’s lots of cross-talking and shit-talking, and that was so fun to see other people work and you can just feel James Gunn’s writing pop.”
Ng: “Flula was let free to improvise on that day as well. It was amazing to watch. I didn’t want to break character and laugh. But he was being so funny. Both Harley and him are going after each other and I’m trying to keep a straight face. That was a great day too.”
Borg: “Courtney, I am the prince of cutting room floors. I leave everything on the floor and I’m happy.”
What does it mean for each of you to be in a film like this? Now you’ll get stopped on the street.
Ng: “Luckily, I’m not because I’m an alien. No one is gonna recognize me. [laughs]. I’m still okay chilling in my baseball cap and whatever. I’m not gonna get stopped, unless I walk around like an orange alien.”
Borg: “Listen, consider it. I’ll come over with lots of glue.”
Ng: “If Flula starts growing his hair and going blonde, then we know how it got to him… walking around with a javelin.”
Borg: “I’m a blonde man in a very yellow suit with a large staff, so I don’t think I would get spotted as much. It will be very fun that people will see this, and that will recognize us, would be a double bonus.”
THE SUICIDE SQUAD will release in theaters and will begin streaming on HBOMax on August 5 (if you’re in the non-ads tier) at 7pm ET.