James Gunn won’t be making the leap from Marvel to DC alone. THR reports that Thor franchise star Idris Elba is in talks to replace Will Smith in Warner Bros.’ upcoming Suicide Squad sequel on the heels of the news that Smith would not return as Deadshot in the follow-up to David Ayer‘s 2016 antihero team-up film.
According to the report, Elba is “the first and only choice for Gunn and the studio,” and met with the filmmaker on Friday. That meeting went well and the actor is now in talks with the studio. The wheels have been moving fast on the sequel ever since Gunn signed on to write and direct in October, with the filmmaker quickly turning around drafts of the script and already moving into the casting phase.
It’s a refreshing change of pace for the project, which has been in flux since it was announced, with a number of writers and directors passing through along the way. Most recently, The Accountant and Warrior director Gavin O’Connor was attached with writers David Bar Katz and Todd Stashwick later coming on to help with the script. That version of the project reportedly fell apart because the story was nearly identical to Birds of Prey and O’Connor dropped off the project when the Harley Quinn-centric film was given the green light first.
Gunn’s version of the script is reportedly something of a soft reboot, which will mostly feature DC characters who did not feature in the first film. Major players like Deadshot and Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn are expected to return, though THR notes they’re hearing conflicting reports on whether Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) remains in the sequel. The film is heading towards an August 6, 2021 release date, so no doubt we’ll learn more details in the future as it continues casting.
Elba is coming off his run as Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which he likely wrapped up in Avengers: Infinity War. The Molly’s Game star already has another major blockbuster on the books this year — he’s joining the Fast and Furious family as the villain in the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham-led spinoff Hobbs and Shaw, which lands in theaters on August 2nd. Later this year, he’ll also appear as Macavity in Tom Hooper‘s film adaptation of the Broadway sensation Cats.