Composer John Murphy's past projects, such as 28 Days Later, Friday After Next, Sunshine, Miami Vice, The Man, and Kick-Ass, are as varied as the characters in his latest project for James Gunn, The Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn, Polka Dot Man, King Shark – these are not particularly noble characters, so Murphy and Gunn were never going to go with your typical superhero movie score with this one. Murphy picked up his guitar, plugged it into a Vox AC15, and started writing riffs as down and dirty as the Squad themselves.
Today Murphy sits down with Bleeding Cool to discuss working with James Gunn, why each member of The Suicide Squad doesn't get their own theme, and which character he thinks is an "asshole."
What was it like to work with James Gunn?
John Murphy: To be honest, he was a dream to work with. There wasn't a moment where we had any words. He was very involved from the beginning. From day one, and very musically intuitive…very involved in every single note and idea. It was all good stuff. He knows what he wants, and he knows what he's talking about.
Some composers will take the approach that a good score is one you don't notice, but I'm told you think that is bullshit. Can you explain that a little?
JM: To me, if you're going to be creative and work on something that is going to mean something to people, you got to entertain. Whether you're scaring the shit out of them, or you're making them cry, or you're making them laugh. Nobody can say to me that the music is not important… Scare the shit out of them with everybody else. Don't just sit there politely hoping nobody else notices… I'm not just talking in terms of loudness. I'm talking in terms of being brave. Sometimes that can just be one note, or it can be one sound or one instance. I just think it's a movie you should be trying new things out. You should be brave.
Does The Suicide Squad's soundtrack compare the attitude of some of your earlier work?
JM: I would say the closest film in terms of that kind of attitude, maybe Kick-Ass was a little bit that way. With a lot of the edgy stuff, juxtaposing the action. So maybe I was dabbling in it a little bit of that in Kick-Ass, again being very comic book about it. Sometimes you have guitar songs, like in 28 days Later – sometimes you just want to have a little more fun and be more entertaining, which Kick-Ass was. Some of that attitude probably ending up in Suicide Squad as well.
From the trailers, It feels like you have about a baker's dozen of characters. Did you have to write a score or sting for each one?
JM: No, We didn't have to do that. With any film, no matter the genre, when you have an ensemble piece, which obviously this is, there is only so much time you have to tell the story musically, which is the most important thing. The thematic stuff is actually not the most important. That comes after you've taken care of the story. So with an ensemble piece, you really have to choose your battles. You have to pick the characters that in some way are carrying the underlying themes of the story. Because they are really the more important, in this film Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior) was an important character because she was very much intrinsic to one of James's themes throughout the film, which is family. So you got to choose which ones are going to get their own, added depth of a theme. But you can't go with everybody; otherwise, it just sounds like a cartoon.
What can you say about the soundtrack? Can you mention the title of any tracks?
JM: They've released a single from it, which is quite hilarious. I think the opening score of the film, the opening soundtrack. It's like this really simple kind of punky guitar thing. They just loved it, so that single is out, which is called " So This is the Famous Suicide Squad." The album will be out about the time of the release, which in the US is the 9th (August)… (But) not without giving any spoilers away. We don't want to do that because that would ruin it for everybody.
Without spoiling anything, who is your favorite character?
JM: Everybody's so good. I mean Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), god, she really brings it, you know? And we explore a bit more of her. Apart from Harley, I really love Peacemaker (John Cena) because he's just such an asshole. He's so funny. The movie is hilarious, you know. I don't know if people release it or not yet, but you're literally laughing on the floor almost all the way through. It's got that really quintessential, irreverent, dark James Gunn humor.
Besides your score, what do you think fans will love or be most surprised by most in The Suicide Squad?
JM: I just think it's a rollercoaster. Absolute, full-on entertainment from beginning to end. It's hyper-violent. It's hyper funny. It's hilarious. It's like a Troma film that exploded into a huge big rainbow of madness on steroids. So I think anybody who loves comic books is going to love this because, for me, it is the most comic book big studio movie I've ever seen… it doesn't posture. It just goes Bang! And it succeeds because of that. It has a lot of warmth, it gets really sad in places, and there's a lot of depth to it. There are a lot of serious questions being asked, but overall a serious comic book movie.
The Suicide Squad releases theatrically on August 6 and will be available to stream on HBO Max. Watch the trailer:
The Suicide Squad Detailed Summary: 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.
Enjoy John Murphy's incredible soundtrack in The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn, which stars Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Steve Agee as King Shark, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, John Cena as Peacemaker, Flula Borg as Javelin, Nathan Fillion as T.D.K., Mayling Ng as Mongal, Pete Davidson as Blackguard, Sean Gunn as Weasel, Joaquin Cosio, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Taika Waititi, Alice Braga as Soulsoria, Tinashe Kajese, Peter Capaldi as Thinker, Julio Ruiz, Jennifer Holland, Idris Elba as Bloodsport, and Michael Rooker as Savant. It will be released on August 6, 2021, in theaters and on HBO Max for 31-days.