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
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
Moneymaker for Harley's more acrobatic moves. In addition, she worked with stunt
Jonathan Eusebio and his team at 87Eleven Action Design, who handled training
Smollett-Bell and Perez, too.
"There is nobody better than Jonathan and 87Eleven at fight choreography and
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
it's Harley and the Birds, so the hardcore action had to provide for moments of
The team started months in advance with certain drills in order to get the
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
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
with Harley Quinn in a roller derby match on a banked-or elevated-track, and
through Gotham. Though Robbie is proficient on skates thanks to her turn as ice
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
enough to work with real roller derby teams so it would look as authentic as
The majority of the athletes came from Angel City Derby, Los Angeles's premier
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
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
Oh sh*t, is that a hyena in a bathtub?
I named him Bruce, after that hunky Wayne guy.
Not that Bruce.
"Harley's got two hyenas in the comics, and they're her babies, Bud and Lou,"
remarks. "We just have one, and he's Bruce."
The actress/producer says that she can't quite recall when Bruce made his way
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
and it was suddenly the biggest conundrum we had. How do we shoot scenes with a
"We consulted an expert-a man who actually has a trained hyena in
was confirmed that they are incredibly dangerous and, we learned, if a hyena
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
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.
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
women, and with Harley being anything but traditional, the filmmakers wanted to
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
in defining her or his costumes with an eye toward style, comfort and
Benach and Robbie naturally began with Harley who, as evident in the title,
altering her look to reflect her new sense of independence. But taking charge
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
For Harley's unusual wardrobe, Benach worked with Robbie and Yan to design
13 different costumes. As with the script and performances, everything began
with the source
"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
"She was able to talk about her prior experience, what she took away from the
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
According to Robbie, "Everything Harley does is totally impractical. She will
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
Benach says that in this incarnation of Harley Quinn, "she loves to mix her
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
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
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,
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
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
While Harley is nursing her broken heart, she does what any woman might, from
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
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
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
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
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
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.
team created six-three heroes and, for safety's sake, three rubber versions to
use when filming
Benach thought of Black Canary as the "ultimate survivor, the kind of woman
knows how to put a look together just by walking into a vintage clothing store,
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
she didn't want to duplicate it. "We took her key components-the fishnets, black
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
in the film to use Harley's traditional embellished baseball bat.
GCPD detective Renee Montoya, Benach says, "is all business, so we designed
what a police detective would wear-dark slacks, dark button-down shirts."
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"
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
Cass stole the all-important diamond. "Roman is the ultimate in personal
observes. "He's impeccable, dresses for every occasion, and cares about what 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
Many of Roman's costumes and props also had his initials or a mask insignia
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
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
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
"Erin is an amazing designer. She just knows what people-women, especially-want
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."
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
Quinn)" was shot in and around Los Angeles, California-primarily Downtown,
surrounds-and on four soundstages on the Warner Bros. Studios lot.
Production designer K.K. Barrett reveals, "All of my design comes from the
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
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
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
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
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
one, noting, "In our story, she lands in a place above a Chinese restaurant, so
there's a bit of
dÃ©cor 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
Barrett's other personal touches in the apartment include a pillow with Queen
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,
Peeps, cookies, Cheez Whiz, sugary cereal, lollipops, Mike & Ike candy and candy
And a stuffed beaver wearing a pink tutu, on which property master Andy Siegal
painted the toenails.
At the opposite end of the design spectrum are Roman Sionis's chic nightclub
apartment. Barrett included an unusual mix of elements in Roman's place, such as
acupuncture statues in two different sizes; a statue of Roman himself; several
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
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
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
funhouse known as the Booby Trap, where an equally elaborate and critical action
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
made of Styrofoam and plaster, created in four separate pieces and installed by
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
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
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."
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
composer Daniel Pemberton to create the score for "Birds of Prey (and the
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
and Halsey, with classic hits like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Barracuda,"
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
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
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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