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BIRDS OF PREY

About The Production (Con'd)
THE BADASS STUNT TRAINING...
Training began well before a frame of film was shot. Robbie's role required a great deal of stunt work, with her fight style incorporating a good deal of gymnastics. The actress did much of the work herself but felt very fortunate to work with world-renowned stuntwoman Renae Moneymaker for Harley's more acrobatic moves. In addition, she worked with stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio and his team at 87Eleven Action Design, who handled training Winstead, Smollett-Bell and Perez, too.

"There is nobody better than Jonathan and 87Eleven at fight choreography and finding a way to make it intense and visceral, like you're right in there, right in the mix," Unkeless says.

"Added to that, Cathy wanted to encapsulate the fun and joy in it," Eusebio notes, "because it's Harley and the Birds, so the hardcore action had to provide for moments of levity."

The team started months in advance with certain drills in order to get the actors' body mechanics ready for choreography. "When we train actors, it's important they look like they've been doing this their whole lives, and tailor the fight style to each character's personality," he relates. "In the comics, Black Canary is a martial artist, but in the film she's not exactly a superhero yet, so we went with taekwondo and kickboxing, really using her legs. Jurnee came in nearly every day for a few hours and trained her butt off.

"Rosie plays a cop," he continues, "and she likes boxing, so we used a boxing base for her workouts. And because Huntress is a trained assassin, we taught Mary Elizabeth a bit of judo, jujitsu and karate-very efficient and brutal, which is a reflection of the character, a vigilante." Inspired by an issue of The New 52 comic book, the action-heavy feature includes scenes with Harley Quinn in a roller derby match on a banked-or elevated-track, and also racing through Gotham. Though Robbie is proficient on skates thanks to her turn as ice skater Tonya Harding, she nevertheless had two skate doubles. All three were tasked with making the skating look less technically refined and more down-and-dirty, like Harley.

"It wasn't as painful as ice skating, but it was hard," Robbie admits. "We were fortunate enough to work with real roller derby teams so it would look as authentic as possible." The majority of the athletes came from Angel City Derby, Los Angeles's premier Flat Track roller derby league (and the #6-ranked Flat Track team in the world) and the LA Derby Dolls, Los Angeles's premier all-female Banked Track roller derby league.

Robbie adds, "Learning more about the roller derby community and the idea behind it was so fitting for our film, because it's a lot of women coming together who feel like they're different, who maybe don't fit in in a traditional way, but they've found this sport that they all love. The sense of community and friendship is so strong, and they're tough as hell. It stood for everything we were doing in the film, so I was grateful to have them be a part of it."

For the skating as well as all the physical elements required, Robbie comments, "The 87Eleven team approached their work by talking with us about the story and characters, and how to meld the movements together so that there was never just action for the sake of action but woven through the story or character beats. So, the training became even more vital." And there was a lot of it, she says. "We were having a good time, but we were absolutely knackered."

CASS
Oh sh*t, is that a hyena in a bathtub?
HARLEY QUINN
I named him Bruce, after that hunky Wayne guy.
AND...BRUCE?
Not that Bruce.

"Harley's got two hyenas in the comics, and they're her babies, Bud and Lou," Robbie remarks. "We just have one, and he's Bruce."

The actress/producer says that she can't quite recall when Bruce made his way into the screenplay. "I can't even remember what Christina and I were thinking at the time, but we certainly weren't thinking about the logistics of it! Fast-forward a few years, when we're in pre-production, and it was suddenly the biggest conundrum we had. How do we shoot scenes with a hyena?

"We consulted an expert-a man who actually has a trained hyena in California-and it was confirmed that they are incredibly dangerous and, we learned, if a hyena touches anything, he considers it to be his," she continues. "'Will he sit on a couch?' we asked. 'Yes, but then it's his couch, and he'll eat it-and likely you-if someone tries to take it away from him.' It would be like having a massive, deadly diva on set!"

Though most of the film's stunts and action sequences were captured practically, the filmmakers determined a real hyena was not the way to go, and cast, as Robbie describes it, "a big, big, big dog for Harley to interact with." They then turned it into Harley's loveable pet hyena Bruce via VFX during post production.

HARLEY QUINN
It's time for Gotham to meet the new Harley Quinn.
COSTUMES: NEW LIFE / NEW LOOK
Since the film is a story told by Harley Quinn about Harley and several other badass women, and with Harley being anything but traditional, the filmmakers wanted to take the costumes in a direction that truly reflected her personality, as well as the tastes and needs of the Birds. Working with costume designer Erin Benach, each actor among the cast was instrumental in defining her or his costumes with an eye toward style, comfort and high-octane action.

Benach and Robbie naturally began with Harley who, as evident in the title, is evolving, altering her look to reflect her new sense of independence. But taking charge doesn't preclude her from making rash decisions. As Robbie states, "Initially, Harley's not dealing with things very well and cuts her hair whilst very drunk. Hence, the uneven bangs and jagged pigtails, which I really enjoyed."

For Harley's unusual wardrobe, Benach worked with Robbie and Yan to design and build 13 different costumes. As with the script and performances, everything began with the source material.

"We read the comic books in order to know where to start from, and I thought it was so interesting to see the evolution there," Benach relates. "But this was also an opportunity to take that to a place she hasn't been before and into our world, which was very 'street.' That was one of the first conversations I had with Cathy and Margot, because I wanted them to know I wasn't interested in creating a bunch of purely sexy looks, but designs these women could feel great in. "Of course Margot had played this character before, so that's always nice," she continues.

"She was able to talk about her prior experience, what she took away from the character, and help fill in the full story. And Margot is a producer, too, so she was able to talk about the ethos of the movie we were making. She was great at collaborating and then giving us our space to be creative."

According to Robbie, "Everything Harley does is totally impractical. She will wear something that is just not appropriate for her situation, like a big jacket with fabric flowing off of it in a fight scene, or roller skates to fight on a moving platform. None of it makes sense, which is so Harley; she'll bring a baseball bat to a gunfight because to her, it seems like the most fun option. Erin did a phenomenal job of interpreting Harley's every need and then incorporating her every whim."

Benach says that in this incarnation of Harley Quinn, "she loves to mix her fashions: sweat pants and sequins, absolutely. Glamour and comfort, always. Harley is the life of the party. She is unabashedly honest, present in the moment and always ready to deal with any challenge coming her way. Never a stiletto or a skirt to be found, because we always wanted our Harley to be able to move and kick and run, and so all of her shoes and all of her outfits were actually highly functional, despite what it may look like on screen. We built everything to stretch and all of her shoes had really sturdy heels. I approached all of the designs for her by coming from a place of what Margot, Cathy and I thought a woman would feel strong in, whether that was a combination of the functionality, feeling fashionable, and so on. And Harley is very distracted by anything sparkly and also has the ability to steal anything she wants, which meant we were unlimited in what we could do."

The designer found that even when Harley's world is crashing down around her, she still somehow looks "aspirationally cool. It's her 'I don't give a hoot' vibe that makes her lovable and magnetic. And there's a little part of every woman, I think, that wants to feel like that, at least for a minute."

Perhaps the best example of this, Benach feels, was a piece Harley wears early in the story. "The caution tape jacket was obviously fun and sparkly, but also caution tape sort of having this idea of, 'Don't f*ck with me, you know. I am Harley Quinn, I'll kick your butt.'"

While Harley is nursing her broken heart, she does what any woman might, from having a wild night on the town to solo bonding with her sofa. "I designed the pink onesie with crying hearts for Harley because she is so sad after her breakup with The Joker," Benach says, "but also because she has a real inner child as part of her core character. We played into that childlike side of her with that piece, including adding a hoodie with little ears."

They also created a fun and highly functional one-piece overall-style jumpsuit of alternately shiny and matte gold in her signature diamond pattern, which Robbie wears for the climactic action scenes-with a neon pink bandeau tank top underneath.

Thanks to Harley's danger-prone lifestyle, her life wouldn't be complete without a cache of weapons to suit her every spontaneous need. Only one of her original mallets from "Suicide Squad" was put into service on this film. Instead, the property department created mallets that were roughly 30 percent smaller to facilitate the extensive action and stunts. They made one heavyweight hero mallet, along with three lightweight rubber versions for use during filming, all covered with Harley's colorful drawings.

Colorful could not be used to describe Huntress, however. "Think Supreme meets Louis Vuitton; think dressing for functionality first," Benach states. "Everything for her is custom-made and high tech, and we dove deeply into her comic book character, using her color scheme of purple, silver and black. We kept her hooded silhouettes, a cape, and other variations that are all very, very Huntress."

Her look would not be complete without her constant companion, the crossbow. The props team created six-three heroes and, for safety's sake, three rubber versions to use when filming stunts.

Benach thought of Black Canary as the "ultimate survivor, the kind of woman who innately knows how to put a look together just by walking into a vintage clothing store, spending seven dollars, and walking out looking great, or even making something for herself."

The iconic look with which the character is associated in the canon inspired Benach, but she didn't want to duplicate it. "We took her key components-the fishnets, black leather, yellow, blue and black color palette-and sort of blew it out to create a dress for her. And by day she wears a sort of business suit-inspired attire that's also blue and gold."

Black Canary was not only armed with her signature cry-in fact, she's the only character in the film to use Harley's traditional embellished baseball bat.

GCPD detective Renee Montoya, Benach says, "is all business, so we designed for her what a police detective would wear-dark slacks, dark button-down shirts." However, the designer says, "There's a real low point for Renee in the movie when, after an 'accident,' she has nothing to put on but items she finds in the police station lost and found: a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt that reads 'I shaved my balls for this?' across the front. Though Renee is definitely not amused, we hope audiences will be when they see it," she grins.

The final female to outfit was 12-year-old Cassandra Cain. "Cass is our little street urchin, a tomboy, a rebel with a cause: herself," Benach offers. "She is sneaky and loves to stuff all sorts of stolen goods away on her person, so we gave her a big, puffy red jacket, as well as beat up Air Jordans, which, you can presume, she also stole."

Cass's character also required a very important prop: a cast for her "broken" wrist that made a "handy" receptacle for Cass's smaller pocket-picks. To decorate the plaster, the props department wrapped it in hot pink gauze and gave it to Basco, who drew all over it over the course of a weekend.

Benach created several looks for the ultra-vain Roman Sionis-the mobster from whom Cass stole the all-important diamond. "Roman is the ultimate in personal vanity," Benach observes. "He's impeccable, dresses for every occasion, and cares about what he wears. He dresses for inside his home and for going out, for appearing at his club and at killing sprees. We used a color palette for him that always read very well in interior night lighting, like his club, that would really reflect light well-his teal velvet jacket, for example, which looks really rich on camera."

Many of Roman's costumes and props also had his initials or a mask insignia embroidered or printed on them somewhere: inside a jacket lapel, on his leather gloves, the family crest on a ring. Even his pajamas were emblazoned with his own face.

For Roman's henchman Victor Zsasz, Benach says, "Because Zsasz is one of Roman's men, he also had to be somewhat stylish, but he's a little more street, a little high-end punk, and a bit...scarier. After all, he is a killer."

"Erin Benach is probably the coolest woman alive," Unkeless raves. "She brings a hipness, a real contemporary spirit to her costumes. She certainly works within the world of the comic books for Harley and the Birds, but also brings some naturalism to it, that edge you see when you're going to the party where everybody's at least 25 percent cooler than you are. Erin let our characters live in that space and made it feel real."

Benach also created most of the accessories worn by the characters. Director Yan states, "Erin is an amazing designer. She just knows what people-women, especially-want to wear today. It was so fun getting to see her designs pay homage to the comics, but at the same time feel relevant, and it really contributed to the vision of the world we were creating as well."

RENEE
We've gotta clean this city from the inside out.
LOCATIONS / PRODUCTION DESIGN
The action-packed "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" was shot in and around Los Angeles, California-primarily Downtown, Chinatown and surrounds-and on four soundstages on the Warner Bros. Studios lot.

Production designer K.K. Barrett reveals, "All of my design comes from the characters, their view of the world." For this film, that meant getting inside the charmingly erratic mind of Harley Quinn. "Harley moves through the world with humor and cunning, using things and disposing of them-like fast food wrapped up in a bright, appealing package, very spur-of-the-moment. She's also our window into the other characters and their place in her world."

That world, of course, is Gotham City, but intended to feel unlike it's been depicted before. Barrett says, "Cathy and I determined our version of Gotham would be more akin to New York City's outer boroughs-Queens, The Bronx and Brooklyn, for instance. Gritty and scrappy-a different level of Gotham that's more down on the street than up in the air. We're not up on the rooftops because that's more of a Batman viewpoint. Harley's view is down on the street, sometimes stepping off the curb into the gutter and bouncing back, so it's even a bit noisier. Cars are being repaired, people are getting mugged on the street corners, and everybody is living by their wits and, like Harley, reinventing who they are."

Because Harley is promptly booted out of her home, Barrett had the pleasure of creating one, noting, "In our story, she lands in a place above a Chinese restaurant, so there's a bit of décor left by previous tenants, and a bit of her own spontaneous dressing, spurred by her feeling down in the dumps. For example, there's a large target painted on the wall, which kind of reflects how she feels about her current status. And it appears that she's sleeping on the couch."

Barrett's other personal touches in the apartment include a pillow with Queen Elizabeth's portrait on it, loose bunches of dynamite, Chinese lanterns, and evidence of Harley's crazy diet: multiple boxes of ramen, cheese balls, cotton candy ice cream, Twizzlers, Marshmallow Fluff, Peeps, cookies, Cheez Whiz, sugary cereal, lollipops, Mike & Ike candy and candy necklaces. And a stuffed beaver wearing a pink tutu, on which property master Andy Siegal personally painted the toenails.

At the opposite end of the design spectrum are Roman Sionis's chic nightclub and apartment. Barrett included an unusual mix of elements in Roman's place, such as 24 acupuncture statues in two different sizes; a statue of Roman himself; several velvet upholstered chairs and fainting couches; and large red sculptures in the shape of old Victrola speakers. It was all intended to denote the character's insatiable desire to acquire things.

Barrett says, "Roman is a very vain person who cares about the way things look as much as he cares about the way he looks, and even how the people around him look. His aesthetic is intrinsic to the way he thinks and presents himself, which is not at all timid. He collects things- vanities, masks. Even his club is called the Black Mask. Many of the items in both the apartment and the club are metaphors for his personality and his behavior."

Kroll offers, "I love the dimension K.K. provided in his designs. Our Gotham is populated, culturally diverse, vibrant yet grounded, and a little bit dirty. The Black Mask club is my favorite set in the film. I love all the female iconography: the statues, the color palette, the textures. It's just sumptuous, and it suits Ewan's character, Roman, perfectly."

Perhaps Barrett's most elaborate-and certainly most expansive-set was the shuttered funhouse known as the Booby Trap, where an equally elaborate and critical action sequence takes place. The designer says he imagined it as "a fantastical place that clearly was built on the cusp of the 1960s or '70s, but was shut down maybe 15 or 20 years ago."

The exterior entrance to the funhouse features a graphic of a giant screaming woman made of Styrofoam and plaster, created in four separate pieces and installed by the art department and construction team over the course of one week.

Robbie says, "That set was incredible. We were so fortunate to have K.K. Barrett as our production designer. He is such a visionary. He can build out a seemingly absurd world in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. It's just an explosion of color and movement, and his design gives the scene fluidity, speaking to the fact that the Birds, when they fight together, are stronger." Winstead agrees. "It was incredible, so colorful and surreal and just an absolute work of art-pop art. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, including the slide, which was pretty epic and really spoke to my inner child."

Speaking of the slide, while filming a stunt sequence with Huntress descending it inside the Booby Trap, cinematographer Matthew Libatique himself slid down with her, operating a mini Alexa camera to catch the action.

Yan was impressed by everyone's efforts on both sides of the camera. "The cast really gave it their all at all times," she says. "And the crew was incredible-from Matt's team to K.K., who's just a genius and who was constantly pushing me and everyone else to think outside the box with his beautiful designs. For me, the funhouse especially is unforgettable, and I hope audiences have as much fun with it as we did."

HARLEY QUINN
You made me wanna be a less terrible person!
MUSICAL NOTES & PARTING SHOTS
To interpret the themes and the uniquely Harley-esque nature of the film, Yan turned to composer Daniel Pemberton to create the score for "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)." She also combined an exciting range of popular songs from such artists as SOFI TUKKER, Doja Cat, WHIPPED CREAM featuring Baby Goth, Jucee Froot and Halsey, with classic hits like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Barracuda," "Love Rollercoaster" and every girl's breakup anthem, "I Hate Myself For Loving You."

Yan states, "The tone of the movie is totally inspired by Harley Quinn and her irreverent humor, as well as her dark side and the incredible, childlike glee she has for the world around her. Christina had captured it all in the script and we made sure to continue it throughout all aspects of filming so that, hopefully, it will be part of the DNA of the movie. I hope that by immersing themselves in Harley's world, audiences will get to know her and her heart, but also just really enjoy themselves watching these amazing, kickass characters."

Robbie concurs, adding, "The film is a wild ride and a lot of fun-a taste of life from Harley's point-of-view that's unpredictable, out of order, funny, dangerous, heartwarming...a little bit of everything, like her."

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