‘Birds of Prey’ Director Cathy Yan On Film’s Representation & Influences

Birds of Prey Cathy Yan Margot Robbie Rosie Perez

Director Cathy Yan revealed her feelings on the representation shown in Birds of Prey as well as the films that influenced her during shooting.

Birds of Prey is the first comic book film to focus on an all-female superhero team and while that in itself is an accomplishment, there is a ton of representation on camera as well as behind it. Back in 2015, Margot Robbie became the shepherd for Harley Quinn’s niche in the DC Extended Universe by developing a film focusing on the Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie brought in Christina Hodson to write the script and Cathy Yan was hired to helm the film.

Cathy Yan would go on become the first Asian-American director to helm a comic book movie of this size and the representation didn’t stop there. It was later announced that Rosie Perez would play Renee Montoya, Jurnee Smollett-Bell was cast as a race-swapped version of Black Canary and newcomer Ella Jay Basco signed on to play Cassandra Cain. Birds of Prey would go on to utilize an all-female crew and from there we knew that this would be a groundbreaking project for women in the film industry.

While in London for the Birds of Prey press junket, Heroic Hollywood sat down with Cathy Yan to touch on her feelings of what the film’s representation means to her. See what she had to say below.

You’re the first Asian American woman to helm a superhero film and Birds of PREY was also the first big all female comic book team-up movie. How does it feel and what does this representation mean to you?

Cathy Yan: It feels pretty great. When we’re making the movie, we’re just trying to make the movie, but now with everything, I think it’s really humbling. It’s really nice to see the way that people are reacting to it… and really having seen that narrative come to life . Of course, it’s really such an honor.

The film is R-rated and Harley is definitely an R-rated character. Did that free up what you could with her?

Cathy Yan: Of course. Absolutely. It was so fun.

Was there any other DC Comics character that you wish you could’ve included in this one?

Cathy Yan: I think we had plenty of characters in this one, so I’m good. Yeah. Didn’t need another one.

Birds of Prey is very different from other DC Comics movies. It’s very colorful, stylistic. Was there any other kind of film that you drew inspiration from? Whether it be DCU or like Marvel or films in general?

Cathy Yan: Yeah, sure. There are tons of influences for this film. I mean in terms of just the look and style of it, there is kind of this combination of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange… and then just like the bizarreness and the use of female figures and that kind of ’70s look to it. But we obviously added a little more grit and color… and on top of that I have always loved the way that Baz Luhrmann can do his heightened worlds that create a really beautiful, subsitive space. His Romeo and Juliet was a big influence too.

One of the film’s key plot points is Harley’s big breakup with the Joker but we don’t really see his face in the movie. Did you ever think about recasting th erole or not including him at all in the film?

Cathy Yan: The movie starts with the breakup and then it’s all about Harley and we just wanted to work with that and whatever we needed him to be… just to show that he existed and that there was a breakup, but the focus of the movie is definitely not on the Joker.

Would you return for a sequel?

Cathy Yan: I don’t know. Hopefully. Yeah.

The versions of Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain and Renee Montoya are very different from their comic book counterparts. Did you actually go to the comics for inspiration for this?

Cathy Yan: Absolutely. Yeah. I don’t think they are that different. I think all of those characters have been reinterpreted multiple times in their comic book runs. If you look at the long history of Black Canary, we took the color palette from her earlier stuff, and then we obviously took the more rocker chick, fishnet, singing Canary from the later Annie Wu comics. This movie was not based on a specific issue or volume of a comic, so we were kind of able to pull references from all these different places, but their backstories, the way they look, they’re all inspired by the comics.

Would you like to see the team that’s at the end of the movie go up against another team like the Gotham City Sirens?

Cathy Yan: That’d be pretty fun. Yeah, sure.

You can watch the interview below.

What do you think of Cathy Yan’s comments? Are you excited for Birds of Prey? Sound off in the comments section!

Here is the official synopsis for Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey:

“You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis, and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.”

Directed by Cathy Yan from a script penned by Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson, Birds of Prey stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Ewan McGregor as Black Mask, and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Ali Wong, Robert Catrini, and Michael Masini have also been cast in undisclosed roles.

Birds of Prey will be released in theaters on February 7, 2020. Stay tuned to Heroic Hollywood for all the latest news on Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey and the future of the DC Extended Universe.

Nathaniel Brail

Nathaniel Brail

Running things at HH. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @NateBrail