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."
It's open season on Harley Quinn when her always unpredictable life spirals
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
just might survive this insanely wild, potentially (probably) deadly day.
Margot Robbie, who reprises the role as well as produces the film, says, "The
thing for an actor is to have choices with your character, and you can really do
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
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
That uncharted territory led Robbie to delve into options for Harley that
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
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
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
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
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
For the origin story that would pair Harley Quinn with a new collection of
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
who better to match with the infamous criminal girlfriend known for standing by
her man has kicked her to the curb?
Once they had their onscreen team locked in, Robbie teamed with producers
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
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
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
Robbie concurs, "Cathy's ability to give each character in an ensemble his or
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,
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
way: solving mass murders, committing mass murders, or performing at a club
mass murderers and their friends. Respectively, they are GCPD detective Renee
played by Rosie Perez; Huntress, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead; and Black
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
And Smollett-Bell, who would have double duty acting and singing in the film,
collaborative aspect of the Birds and Harley. "Between the characters teaming up
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
designer K.K. Barrett and costume designer Erin Benach, drew visual inspiration
herself, incorporating certain motifs into a very Harleyized version of Gotham
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
her impolite exuberance, and her madcap, acerbic, subversive energy that is
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
Hey, you're that singer no one listens to!
You're the asshole no one likes.
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.
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
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
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
named Cass. But Harley being Harley, sticking to any deal she makes is less than
Not so with Robbie, who, Yan says, couldn't be more committed. "Margot is so
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,
understands Harley better than anyone."
In researching Harley via the vast DC canon, Robbie came across Huntress and
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Winstead adds. "We had such a great time."
Reciprocating, Yan says, "We discussed at length what a woman who grew up in
with assassins, who never went to school or made friends and missed out on
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
is Black Canary. Known by most as Dinah Lance, the mysterious siren is Sionis's
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
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
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
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
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
In fact, Smollett-Bell's supersonic sound was derived from not only the
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
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
she'll do whatever it takes to take him down-even fight alongside one of
Gotham's most wanted
Rosie Perez, who has portrayed a wide variety of New York City archetypes
her career, embraced the hardened-but not hard-hearted-Gotham cop. She also
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
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
"Rosie is just iconic," says Yan. "She was awesome to work with and brought
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
Perez says that Renee "has one thing on her mind: justice. But she has to put
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
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
let's say, committed. Plus, she looks around and sees that they also have Black
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,
learned to tough it out on the streets of Gotham. Cass, as she's known, is a
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
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
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.
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
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."
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
Ewan McGregor portrays the mobster bent on cutting out (or up) the
consolidating the rest. He holds court in his own Gotham City nightclub, the
he serves as gentleman, judge and jury.
"I wanted to work with Margot, and then I saw Cathy Yan's movie 'Dead Pigs'
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
Roman, too, has a backstory that aided the actor in comprehending his
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
charm and even comedy and vulnerability to the role. He really used the trust
element that Christina wove into the script-coming from a great, blue-blooded
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
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
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
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
McGregor describes their connection from Roman's point-of-view as "his new
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
without Zsasz. Business-wise, he takes care of everything, certainly all the
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
platinum locks. "In the books, he was often bald, so I'm glad we went with just
the blond," he
Zsasz works for Roman, "but he has an agenda, too. His approach, I think, is
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
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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