No Batgirl or Joker, but lots of female empowerment

Sue Kroll is an executive producer on the wildly popular 2018 re-vamp of A STAR IS BORN starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. With a budget of only $36 million, the film went on to gross over $430 million worldwide, in addition to winning an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) for “Shallow”, along with a Golden Globe. Bryan Unkeless is a renowned producer who worked with Margot Robbie previously on I, TONYA, as well as making a name for himself on THE HUNGER GAMES, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 and THE HUNTER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2. Together, this tag team duo is excited to bring a new, edgier vision of Doctor Quinzel to the big screen in 2020 with the upcoming BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN. So, what’s the new film about? Here’s a warm-up…

BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN is a twisted tale told by Harley Quinn herself, as only Harley can tell it.  When one of Gotham’s most sinister villains, Roman Sionis, and his sadistic right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city’s wicked underbelly is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.

While on the set of BIRDS OF PREY earlier this year, we were lucky enough to speak with producers Kroll and Unkeless, as well as costume designer Erin Benach and even get a peek at the props department and a quick view of an unfinished set piece. It was exciting being on a big budget film set where so many of the people in front of and behind the camera were women, a big step forward in the DCEU, and a giant lead forward in the very male dominated industry of Hollywood movie making. “We’re very excited about this whole [project] because it really is the first of its kind for DC just in terms of being female led, a girl gang” explains producer Kroll happily. “It has a very different kind of attitude and spirit to it. It’s very funny, very smart, and very audacious”.

In the film, Harley Quinn joins up with a motley crew of fierce female warriors for the very first time, including Mary Elisabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli a.k.a. Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance a.k.a. Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain. Together, they aim to take back the power from the patriarchy – mostly in the form of Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask – and each, in their own way, find a path to some much needed emancipation. “The cast is spectacular,” swoons producer Unkeless. “They are all bleeding for this and we’re trying to take chances and really try to do things a bit more differently and push the envelope. Be a little more sardonic and edgier and a little bit more attitudinal and subversive”.

Just to be clear, there will be no Batgirl. Although there are different iterations of the Birds of Prey in the comic books, Batgirl is an entirely different project that DC is putting together with an entirely different cast and crew. This movie is also not tied in any way to David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD, other than Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn. The Joker is mentioned, but most likely, will not be seen in this film. This is very much Harley Quinn’s origin story – as well as the rest of the Birds of Prey – a fleshed out notion of not only how Harley deals with the break-up from her puddin’, but rather, who she is when she is on her own. It’s less of a post Joker movie, and more of a parallel timeline. Kroll describes their BIRDS OF PREY as “very funny and spirited, and each of the women bring a very unique kind of dimension. And they’re in very different stages of their evolution as characters”.

When it came to choosing a strong director to lead their girl gang, both on and off the screen, Unkeless was extremely impressed with what DEAD PIGS filmmaker Cathy Yan had to bring to the table. “Cathy came in and just completely blew us away. Just came prepared with a fully realized vision that tapped into the voice and perspective of Harley Quinn in a stylized, cool, contemporary, edgy, subversive way, and did it in a way that made it feel relevant, made it feel fresh, and stood on its own. She brought in the sizzle reel. She brought in this visual document. She already had a great movie in DEAD PIGS that tapped into a very unique tone. It’s rare when you leave a room and you’re like, ‘Phew! All right. We’re in for a good year and a half, two years’, because you felt like, okay, the foundation’s laid out for you immediately”.

Kroll: “If you imagine all these women finding themselves, discovering who they are without their male counterparts, we talk about female empowerment. It’s obviously not intended to be on the nose and it’s still entertaining, but that’s what’s going on here. Cathy really brings that sensibility to the movie”.

Margot Robbie was clear from the beginning when she pitched the movie to producers that this was not meant to be a world-ending, massive scale stakes kind of movie. In other words, think of it more like a gangster-scale movie, which works well considering that the Huntress comes from a mafia background. With that in mind, most of the clothes, especially Harley’s, look handmade, like a craft project she put together in her bedroom while hanging out with her pet hyena – who by the way, happens to be named Bruce. “Behind [Harley Quinn’s] story is always something a little bit off from center and a little bit crazy” explains costume designer Erin Benach when talking about Harley Quinn’s caution tape infused outfit. “The idea being that caution tape may be a place to stay away from and maybe it’s a way to caution the world against what she might do. So, we kind of took the idea of that caution tape and tried to repurpose it into a costume. We always wanted to create something that felt like Harley made it herself, so she’s a crafty person. It’s fun and a little bit crazy like her”.

Huntress, on the other hand, is all about function. All business all the time, her outfit is more fashion-forward and cool, so she’s usually in a tracksuit. Canary has a kind of ‘created herself’ look as well, consisting of armbands and ‘70s inspired streetwear. Renee, a hard cop caught up in the injustice of Gotham’s PD, was stuck rummaging through the department’s lost and found box, and her outfit is more about what she came up with based on those limited resources. Cassandra Cain is the street urchin, savvy and cool and tomboy in her own way. She’s got a mean little cute girl vibe. She would have a jacket just because she has lots of things she needs to stash in it. Roman Sionis has fun plethora of looks in the movie. The world is his oyster, so he’s usually donning something like a clean white suit in his Black Mask club, which plays off nicely in the interior lighting.

“Roman’s club is both bold in color and in style. Harley’s apartment is the same in her own way, That’s kind of her dog house where she retreats to.” explains K.K. Barrett. “Roman is a collector of people and things. He doesn’t always know what to do with the, but he knows he needs to possess and try to control. That includes cultures…possessing other people’s culture. And then there’s the fun house. The world of Amusement Mile, which I guess is in the lore of some of these characters. The film isn’t in any time, it’s in the story time that it exists in by itself. Like the characters being in their own heads, the story takes place [is not in] any singular time. There’s nothing that adheres to it now or to then. It could be a story that’s told and made up, as these are, and there’s a little bit of fiction and lies going on so you can’t really trust what you see”.

Likewise, many of the weapons are homemade as well. Harley Quinn’s doodled on baseball bat, grenades garnished with office supplies, a crossbow Huntress has tweaked for style and efficiency, and lots and lots and lots of candy – like the Twizzlers Harley likes to share, LADY AND THE TRAMP style, with her best bud Bruce the Hyena.


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