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BIRDS OF PREY

About The Production
"Quick history lesson: The Joker and I? We broke up... For the first time, I'm all on my lonesome. But I wasn't the only dame in Gotham looking for emancipation.

This is our story. And I'm telling it, so I'll start where I f*ckin' want." -Harley

It's open season on Harley Quinn when her always unpredictable life spirals even more out of control following a particularly explosive break-up with her one true love, Mr. J. For the first time, she's unprotected and on the run...with every thug in Gotham running after her, starting at the very top with crime lord Roman Sionis. But with an unexpected assist from three very unlikely sources-Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya-Harley and her newly contrived cadre just might survive this insanely wild, potentially (probably) deadly day.

Margot Robbie, who reprises the role as well as produces the film, says, "The most exciting thing for an actor is to have choices with your character, and you can really do anything when you're playing Harley Quinn. With some roles, you can react one or two ways; with Harley, it's more like 20, and every one of them makes sense for the character. That is really liberating and creatively stimulating."

For that reason, among others, even while she was still filming her first turn as the fan favorite anti-heroine in "Suicide Squad," she recalls, "I knew that I definitely wasn't ready to stop playing her, that there was still so much yet to be discovered and explored on screen."

That uncharted territory led Robbie to delve into options for Harley that included surrounding her with a girl gang, namely the popular DC team up Birds of Prey. "I wanted to see what Harley would be like without someone to take care of her. And it's always been a part of my own life to have a group of girlfriends that do everything together. We're a very mixed bag of personalities," she smiles, "but everyone loves each other despite being pretty different. That's what drew me to developing a story for Harley with the Birds of Prey, to find a group that's unique, but who complement each other, especially in their fighting styles. Together, they make up all the pieces of the puzzle."

To help draft the players and create the world of the film, Robbie reached out to screenwriter Christina Hodson, who relates, "Margot and I fell in love over early morning pizza and mimosas in the summer of 2015. She told me of her dream of doing a Harley Quinn/girl gang movie and I was 100 percent in. We really saw eye to eye on the tone, on keeping it fun, and on doing something boldly different in the superhero movie space. We both love those movies, but we wanted to try something a little different, something non-linear, action-packed but also with a lot of humor."

"Christina and I got along the moment we met and we're going to be friends forever," Robbie adds. "She's a genius. I had a lot of ideas that didn't fit together yet, like this relationship or that tableau from the comics, this character here, that storyline there. She found a way to weave it all in and turn it into something that reflected Harley's personality and was in Harley's authentic voice."

For the origin story that would pair Harley Quinn with a new collection of characters, they drew inspiration from various comics, such as the New 52 series, when Harley is out on her own and no longer with The Joker. That circumstance appealed to them as a logical starting off point because, in order to be the lead in her own film, shouldn't she also be the star of her own life? For Black Canary, they opted for Dinah Lance, daughter of the original, same-name Super Hero with the killer cry, but who still hesitates to hit that high note. They liked the version of police detective Renee Montoya who could be a little too tough and sometimes get in her own way, and felt that Huntress, with her tragic backstory, made for an ideal enigmatic loner averse to social interaction. All of whom made for the most unlikely grouping of wholly reluctant individuals, so who better to match with the infamous criminal girlfriend known for standing by her man...after her man has kicked her to the curb?

Once they had their onscreen team locked in, Robbie teamed with producers Bryan Unkeless and Sue Kroll and the trio, collectively, found their director in rising star Cathy Yan, a discovery out of Sundance.

"I couldn't have asked for a more supportive creative team, they were amazing," says Yan. "I know it was a very personal journey of many years for Margot, so I felt very honored to be a part of that. And she was so actively involved as both a star and a producer, which was pretty amazing."

The director also felt connected to the world of Harley and the Birds. "Growing up, I loved Gotham," she relates. "When I read Christina's script, I appreciated how she transformed it and the spirit of her storytelling, as well as the style and attitude of the characters. They are these badass fighters, plus Harley is over the top, drops F-bombs and makes terrible decisions; her imperfections make her both relatable and also just really fun, and it was all there on the page."

Kroll recalls, "Margot loves playing Harley and devoting the time and energy to figuring out all her quirks. She and Christina had captured every dimension of the character, so when Cathy laid out her ideas for the film-the characters, the environments, the context-she really created a sense of place that allowed us to understand what she saw and felt, and how in line it was with our vision." Kroll says that Yan provided a comprehensive viewpoint that aligned with theirs from start to finish. "Even her ideas for the music, which is incredibly integral to this film, were undeniable."

Robbie concurs, "Cathy's ability to give each character in an ensemble his or her moment on the screen was one of the main reasons I loved her film 'Dead Pigs,' but also why I felt she was the right person to direct this film. When she came in, it was clear she understood the story and the characters and had so many wonderful additional thoughts. Sue and Bryan and I just looked at each other and knew it just felt right."

When the film opens, Harley Quinn is unceremoniously dumped by The Joker and, as she tells the audience (peppered with perhaps a few little white lies), she's finally living her best life, which includes a new best friend: a hyena she names Bruce for, well...that other Gotham guy. At the same time, she comes across several other women, each going about her day in her own way: solving mass murders, committing mass murders, or performing at a club patronized by mass murderers and their friends. Respectively, they are GCPD detective Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez; Huntress, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead; and Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell.

"I love action movies. If you want to put me in a movie about a bunch of girls kicking ass, I'm in," says Perez.

Winstead agrees, noting, "I loved that this was a story about strong women trying to find their independence, and by coming together they find it within themselves and within one another."

And Smollett-Bell, who would have double duty acting and singing in the film, loved the collaborative aspect of the Birds and Harley. "Between the characters teaming up and Harley's kind of humor, I felt like we were doing something a little different," she says. "I could really see myself in Black Canary and in this crazy, Harley world."

To unite the women in a common cause, the film is infused with non-stop, edge-of-your-seat action as it pits them each against two very uncommon villains-mob boss Roman Sionis, aka the Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor, and his henchman Victor Zsasz, played by Chris Messina-in order to save one young girl, Cassandra Cain. Cass is a sticky-fingered street urchin who picks the wrong pocket, and she is played by newcomer Ella Jay Basco.

For the look and feel of the film, the filmmakers and the design teams, led by production designer K.K. Barrett and costume designer Erin Benach, drew visual inspiration from Quinn herself, incorporating certain motifs into a very Harleyized version of Gotham City.

Unkeless offers, "The story takes place in the mean streets of Gotham-not the Manhattan-inspired version, but the outer boroughs where the seedy underbelly thrives. It's all about attitude, told through the lens of Harley Quinn and all that entails: her crass perspective, her impolite exuberance, and her madcap, acerbic, subversive energy that is always unpredictable. Put all of that together with this eclectic group of really powerful women who are pushed to their limits and have to form an alliance-albeit a loose one-not only to do what's right, but just to survive the day."

That's right, it all takes place over about 24 hours. Just another day in the life of one Harley Quinn.

HARLEY QUINN
Hey, you're that singer no one listens to!
BLACK CANARY
You're the asshole no one likes.
THE BIRDS...
Margot Robbie was eager to step back into the role of the endearingly daring ne'er-dowell Harley Quinn. This time around, Harley is the recently liberated girlfriend of The Joker and presently wanted dead by every other lowlife in Gotham City. Her closest ties now are to her newly acquired roomie, a hyena.

"At the beginning of the movie," Robbie offers, "Harley and Mr. J break up. Though she'll tell you it was her choice and that she's handling it really well, you can see that it very much wasn't, which is the classic unreliable narrator aspect of her that Christina Hodson and I so enjoyed playing with."

"Harley is a million opposing things at once," Hodson adds, "but mostly she's about having fun, so that was the tone we went for in our storytelling-to just exploit that and see what would happen if a character delighted in not following any rules and didn't do anything that was expected. With Harley as our storyteller, she'll lie, she'll exaggerate, she'll change facts to suit her needs, and she's scatterbrained at times, so things will go forward and backward. I loved writing with her at the wheel, so to speak, because she allows you to say things you shouldn't say and she'll do things she shouldn't do, in a way she shouldn't do them."

Yan observes, "I think Harley's become such an iconic DC character because her complexity is so fascinating. At the heart of who she is lies the former Dr. Harleen Quinzel, but in her heart she's all Harley Quinn. Is she good, is she bad? She's funny, but she's also got a dark side, is both vulnerable and strong, and she does terrible things, but has a heart of gold. That duality is even epitomized by the pink and blue in her hair-she can't even choose a color, right?"

Without Mr. J's protection, Harley opts to strike a bargain for her safety with mob boss Roman Sionis by agreeing to retrieve an encrypted diamond from a slippery young pickpocket named Cass. But Harley being Harley, sticking to any deal she makes is less than likely. Not so with Robbie, who, Yan says, couldn't be more committed. "Margot is so devoted to her work. She went full throttle both as an actor and a producer on this project, and she was totally unafraid, ready to do anything. She's also a great improviser, quick-witted, and understands Harley better than anyone."

In researching Harley via the vast DC canon, Robbie came across Huntress and found herself immediately drawn to the character and her history. "I love a good revenge tale," Robbie says, "and Huntress's actions are entirely motivated by revenge."

Huntress's real name is Helena Bertinelli, and she was once the daughter of one of the richest mafia dons in Gotham. That is, before he and the rest of the family tree were killed by rivals. Now grown up, the traumatic event has driven her to be single-minded about avenging her family. That, and being raised by assassins, has also made her a resilient fighter who doesn't give up.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead took on the role of the enigmatic killer, deadly accurate with a crossbow and accustomed to being on her own, having lived so long with one mission in mind. "Huntress is definitely one of those great comic book characters who's born out of pain. She witnessed her family being murdered in front of her eyes when she was a child and has trained her entire life to be an assassin, basically, with the very focused goal of tracking down these men who killed her family and systematically annihilating them. Now she's a killing machine on a manhunt. Fitting in with society or being social has never been on her radar and she's not particularly interested in making friends. That's not really part of her strategy," the actress says.

"When she ends up running into all these other women in the film, she's not really interested in joining a girl gang or working as a team," Winstead continues. "But she realizes that the situation that they're in sort of requires her to step up and do that. So, begrudgingly, she does, which I think it opens up all these other windows into who she is in a really interesting way. That was some of the most fun for me-getting to figure out how that would manifest or come out in her personality."

Unlike her onscreen counterpart, Winstead enjoyed the on-set camaraderie and observing the dual-focus of co-star Robbie. "Margot was amazing, she really had her hand in everything on this movie," she notes. "At the same time, she managed to keep such a clear head, which was so impressive. She was always cool as a cucumber.

"And Cathy was fantastic, so poised and confident with such a reverence for the material," Winstead adds. "We had such a great time."

Reciprocating, Yan says, "We discussed at length what a woman who grew up in Sicily with assassins, who never went to school or made friends and missed out on important, normal life experiences, would be like. Mary was really able to bring a level of depth, but also humor, to the role of Huntress as she goes from complete outsider to part of this team."

Another integral member of the Birds-and the only one with an actual avian appellation- is Black Canary. Known by most as Dinah Lance, the mysterious siren is Sionis's favorite lounge singer at his club Black Mask by night, and (thanks to Harley) his driver by day. Still sorting out her strengths from her superpowers, one thing's for sure: this songbird's got a killer voice, her signature "canary cry," and as such is the only one among the group with a real superpower.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who portrays her, offers, "She's very much the Dinah Lance that we love from the comics. What I really wanted to capture was the essence of that character, and one of the things that I love about Dinah is her heart. She's all heart. She's all compassion. She's also this amazing martial artist and expert street fighter; however, when we meet her in the film, she hasn't yet become this powerful Black Canary that we know her to be, she hasn't really owned her strength or power.

"She's at this point in her life in which she wants nothing to do with cleaning up Gotham," the actress continues. "She doesn't care to be a vigilante, she just wants to keep her head down and do her job as a nightclub singer."

Like Helena Bertinelli, Dinah Lance has a bit of a heartbreaking tale to tell. "She lost her mother to the work of being a crime fighter, which has made her kind of jaded and feeling like, 'Well, what the hell does Gotham offer me? They killed my mother, so why would I care about cleaning it up?' Still, it's actually against Dinah's nature to be that way, so for me, it was very interesting to explore this idea of a woman who is so powerful, yet she's in her own way; she's so strong and yet she chooses to not use her powers."

All of the character's vocals, both musically and "metahumanly," were done by SmollettBell. "It was a lot of fun to embrace the vocal demands of Black Canary-the singing and the canary cry," she relates. "It definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone and was a little intimidating to do because I have such respect for singers, but it was fun. And singing 'It's A Man's Man's Man's World?' How ironic, right?" she grins.

"Jurnee is a beautiful singer and her cover of 'Man's World' in the movie is wonderful," says Yan. "But it was an especially fun exercise working with her to figure out the canary cry, and how to make it unique to her in bringing it to the big screen for the first time."

In fact, Smollett-Bell's supersonic sound was derived from not only the depictions found in the comics, but from her own first introduction to Black Canary in a video game. "I was first introduced to her in the 'Injustice 2' game, and so, in my mind, that was always her cry," she says.

Perhaps the most unexpected Bird to join the flock is also the smartest detective in the Gotham City Police Department. Although Renee Montoya is well aware of Harley Quinn's reputation in the crime world, their paths have yet to cross. But Renee is, unsurprisingly, the first to deduce that mobster Roman Sionis is consolidating his interests. Unfortunately, she's the last cop the GCPD higher-ups will listen to. Her intense approach on the job often gets in her way and, by virtue of being a female, she garners little if any respect from her peers. Nevertheless, she'll do whatever it takes to take him down-even fight alongside one of Gotham's most wanted psychos.

Rosie Perez, who has portrayed a wide variety of New York City archetypes throughout her career, embraced the hardened-but not hard-hearted-Gotham cop. She also appreciated being able to bring something fresh to the role, offering, "When I did my research on Renee Montoya in the comic books, I learned she's much younger than I am. She's also very angry about wanting to make the world a better place, but always being second-guessed. What I had to do was not to try to act younger, but to bring the wisdom and the maturity that I have to the character."

"Rosie is just iconic," says Yan. "She was awesome to work with and brought so much grit and such a grounded quality to Renee. The character is so strong, and Rosie is innately just as strong, and she gave Renee the perfect do-not-f*ck-with-me attitude and tenacity that she needed."

Perez says that Renee "has one thing on her mind: justice. But she has to put aside her prejudices, her judgments, in order to come together with the others for the greater good, which, in this story, is defeating a powerful villain and also protecting a child."

One of the actress's choice moments in the film comes when Renee realizes what she's gotten herself into. "Harley says to the three of them, 'Who's in?' and Renee says, 'With you?'" she laughs. "My character is used to relying on herself because she's been disregarded by her colleagues for so long, but luckily she is smart enough to know that she'd rather have this psycho on her team who's going to go way beyond the call of duty to kick some ass, than anyone less, let's say, committed. Plus, she looks around and sees that they also have Black Canary and Huntress, so she thinks maybe they have a shot. I think it's a great statement for women and girls to see, because we're always told to lean in, but just yourself, you know? No one ever says lean in as a team. But we do."

Perez also hopes her appearance in the film will inspire "women of a certain age to go out there, get back in the gym, and kick some ass! It's not over, you know!"

If Renee Montoya has become toughened by the job, Cassandra Cain, at age 12, has learned to tough it out on the streets of Gotham. Cass, as she's known, is a smart-mouthed kid surviving on her own-thanks in part to her uncanny knack for pickpocketing. But when she nicks a priceless gem, she becomes a target for real trouble, and it'll take Harley and the full complement of Birds to save her.

In her feature film debut, newcomer Ella Jay Basco plays the fifth and final member of the group, who also serves as the catalyst to unite them. Basco remembers, "When I read the script, I just loved Cassandra Cain. She's a street girl without a family or a home, so she's both really misguided and super independent. She has had to fight to survive in this world, until she meets Harley Quinn." Basco also says that as soon as she learned she'd gotten the part, "I bought this big stack of Birds of Prey and Cassandra Cain comic books, and that definitely helped me understand who she is, but also develop the character as she is in the movie."

In fact, it was a particular storyline in a comic that initially inspired Robbie to include the Harley/Cass relationship that ultimately plays out on screen. "In my research, I read Harley Quinn: Behind Blue Eyes, and I knew I wanted to explore that mentor-mentee relationship," she recollects. "It told me a lot about who Harley was and what she was capable of. We didn't use the exact storyline from the series, but just understanding her and her connection to Cass in that way was enlightening."

Basco found Robbie and the entire cast, along with Yan, to be great mentors. "It was honestly so exciting to work with all of them, they're so inspiring," she says. "Every day was a full-on learning experience, and so much fun. Everybody was super nice; it was like one long dream." Due to the circumstances of the story, the young actress spent the bulk of her scenes alongside Robbie. "Margot was like a big sister to me, we had the best time with each other. She taught me so much about working with people on- and off-camera. It was amazing."

Yan admired the hard work that her youngest actress put in. "Ella was so impressive," she states. "This is her feature debut, so I can't imagine how she must have felt to show up to set and work with Margot Robbie every day, but she was a total champ, incredibly mature for her age. And she really understood Cass and brought a certain authenticity to her-a real kid, not a shiny, perfect version of a little girl."

HARLEY QUINN
He's after all of us now. Unless we all want to die, we're gonna have to work together."
THE BAD GUYS...
In the film, it's both Cassandra Cain and the very shiny object she acquires that set the story in motion. The diamond she lifts from one of Roman Sionis's men is more than a rock: encrypted with essential financial information, it could lead him to acquire all the power he desires and full control of Gotham's underworld. Roman wants it back and assures Harley that if she can retrieve it for him, he won't have her killed...exactly the kind of offer even Harley Quinn can't refuse.

Ewan McGregor portrays the mobster bent on cutting out (or up) the competition and consolidating the rest. He holds court in his own Gotham City nightclub, the Black Mask-where he serves as gentleman, judge and jury.

"I wanted to work with Margot, and then I saw Cathy Yan's movie 'Dead Pigs' and really liked it. It reminded me of 'Trainspotting'-something new and interesting, so I was excited to work with her as well," he says. "But mainly, I just liked the script. The dialogue was clever and very well-written, and I was happy to play the chief villain who's all about control and power and thinks he's so clever and wonderful. But of course, he's a horrible, despicable person."

Roman, too, has a backstory that aided the actor in comprehending his nefarious motivations. "It's important for an actor to understand the character," he says. "You can't play the 'bad guy' or the 'good guy,' you have to play the person and know what makes him tick. In Roman's case, he is an absolute narcissist, which makes him think he can charm anyone, and he has rage issues that come into play, so he loses his temper all over the place. Both were really fun to do."

"I love Roman," Yan states, "I think he's hilarious because Ewan was able to bring such charm and even comedy and vulnerability to the role. He really used the trust fund/party boy element that Christina wove into the script-coming from a great, blue-blooded Gotham dynasty that owns the Janus Corporation, Roman's the black sheep rather than the elite. And he gets unhinged when someone like Harley steals his thunder or his limelight. They both love being the center of attention and that makes them interesting foils for one another."

Robbie states, "Ewan was a great villain; he made some unexpected and brave choices with Roman. As Roman, he was able to shift from a toxic masculinity to playing up the narcissism by emphasizing how completely erratic and irrational Roman is. I love him as a villain because his reactions are just so disproportionate to the situation."

Unlike his prickly connections to Harley or Renee, Roman actually instills a sense of loyalty from Black Canary...at first. Smollett-Bell explains, "Dinah's relationship with Roman is complicated because he's helped her, he's given her a job that not only helps her survive, but lets her be seen, in a sense, which no one else in her world does. But I think she also sees herself in Cass, so when he unleashes all of Gotham on her, that's something Dinah can't ignore."

McGregor describes their connection from Roman's point-of-view as "his new possession. It could be construed that he wants her romantically or sexually, but he doesn't. He likes the way she sings, but he sees her as a canary in a cage. His cage."

While Roman may call all the shots, it's his right-hand henchman, Victor Zsasz, who fires the bullets-or, more likely than not, makes the cut. McGregor details, "Roman couldn't exist without Zsasz. Business-wise, he takes care of everything, certainly all the nasty stuff."

Especially handy with a switchblade, Zsasz is loyal to his boss and to the job-in fact, he probably enjoys his work a little too much. Chris Messina, who took on the role of the maniacal man behind the man, offers, "The script was fantastic; there was a lot to draw on, but since I'm not a big comic book guy, I didn't know much about him, so I went back and read all of the comics and origin stories about Zsasz...hence, my hair color," he notes, referring to Zsasz's close-cut, platinum locks. "In the books, he was often bald, so I'm glad we went with just the blond," he smiles.

Zsasz works for Roman, "but he has an agenda, too. His approach, I think, is simple," Messina surmises. "He looks at everybody as a zombie, and he's setting them free, putting them out of their misery." And Zsasz doesn't just practice his knife-work on his victims. "He's a cutter," Messina reveals, "so he has scars all over his own body-tally marks for all his kills." Messina wanted to ensure authenticity for the role, thus, he says, "I worked with a friend who knows knives, and he taught me about them, their different uses. I tried to do some tricks with them, but I was never very good with that, so that won't be in the movie!"

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