‘Birds of Prey’ Director Cathy Yan On Harley Quinn Being An Unreliable Narrator

Director Cathy Yan discusses how Harley Quinn is an unreliable narrator in Birds of Prey and becoming the first Asian-American woman to helm a superhero movie.

When it was revealed that Cathy Yan would direct the Birds of Prey for Warner Brothers, fans were very excited that the film was actually getting off the ground. Little did they know that the hiring of Cathy Yan was pretty special. Not only would Cathy Yan direct the first all-female superhero team-up project, but she would also become the first Asian-American woman to helm a superhero movie.

Earlier this year, I visited the set of Birds of Prey ( And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) and got to sit down and talk with Cathy Yan amongst a group of journalists. Cathy Yan talked about numerous Birds of Prey details with us, including Harley Quinn being an unreliable narrator, the shift from Suicide Squad, the use of practical effects and her making history as the first Asian-American woman to direct a superhero move. Here’s the full discussion about the Birds of Prey movie:

Q: I’m curious just about the fact that this movie is kind of being told from her perspective and the idea of like just laying her in as an unreliable narrator and also is she an actual narrator?

Cathy Yan: She is the narrator and she’s definitely unreliable, which is part of the fun of the film.

Q: We heard a little bit about films that were influencing this like The Professional and like but can you talk a little bit about that?

Cathy Yan: Sure.  Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of influences on the film.  I mean, the way that I sort of talked about the structure of the film is a bit like Pulp Fiction meets Rashomon. So it’s an unconventional structure. There’s a for me there’s a lot of my favorite filmmakers that are influenced, that have influences on this film so like Tarantino obviously.  The Professional for sure, especially the relationship between Harley and Cass. We actually have a few like oh I guess I would say like odes to certain films in the movie. Watch out for that.  And then also just we also visually I think very much influenced by A Clockwork Orange as well. And that and like the Milk Bar. The Black Mask Club has a lot of that. The female figures, I’ve been kind of reinterpreting that.  The Mod style, the ’70s era. We really tried to make this film look like nothing that you’ve seen from a superhero movie before. And really ground it in a reality and in some of the films that I’ve loved through the years, yeah.

Q: So speaking of like odes to films I’m curious if you could talk at all about how you kind of took something, a character that was established elsewhere and maybe paint odes to any other films in the shared universe, but also made it isolated ’cause that seems to be the theme of today?

Cathy Yan: Right.

Q: Just the isolation of it.

Cathy Yan: Yeah.  It’s definitely a challenge because you wanna pay homage to not just the comic books, but then also the films before it and obviously we’ve seen Margot play Harley before in Suicide Squad. And so it’s definitely a fun challenge to figure out like what do we keep from that version of Harley and what we differentiate. I think that given what the story’s about and her emancipation and that she’s out on her own, she’s not gonna do the Joker and with Suicide Squad she’s so connected to the Joker.  I mean, their story is so intertwined. It really is their love story if you will. But this is not. And so I think that gave us a lot of opportunity to say like what is she like? Not necessarily post Joker but just in almost like a parallel universe and allowed I think all of us the freedom to say like we’re gonna create a different Gotham. And then of course we do keep certain things that is very Harley esque. Like her tattoos have remained the same. Her hair is a little different, but it feels like a natural like arc to her character from Suicide Squad. And she still remains recognizable I think. And even her like white skin. We do a different like patina on it so it feels a little bit different.  It’s less thickly white I would say. But those are all like still touch points for sure.

Q: Is there like an amount of time that we’ll see has passed since the last time we saw her that you can share?

Cathy Yan: There is not any known amount of time. No. Like it kind of exists in a parallel timeline.

Q: Can you talk about your casting for Jurnee as Canary and Mary Elizabeth as Huntress?  ‘Cause obviously Margot Robbie was established as Harley Quinn, but bringing them into play opposite her.

Cathy Yan: Yeah, sure. We really casted everyone. We didn’t, we saw everyone. We had them do chemistry reads and both Jurnee and Mary just like gave such depth to their characters. I think that’s what was really compelling about them immediately from the get go. Like there’s such personality to them. And they become, when I cast them always looking also to find like a similar soul in the actors as well as the characters that they play. So I think with Jurnee, I mean, she’s just so like intelligent and deep and like grounded and she manages to be both like very soft but also really street smart and tough, which was very much Canary. And then I think with Huntress, Huntress has such an interesting back story and the psychology of someone who frankly is a little bit like has potentially P.T.S.D. and just like reeling from all of that. And Mary was able to really understand that and bring the depth to it so that she became yeah, a real character and not just like a badass. Yeah

Q: And Rosie.

Cathy Yan: Yeah.  And Rosie, I mean, I’ve loved, I’ve been a big fan of Rosie Perez for many years. I think for me I wanted when I first read the script I always sort of imagined a bit of a more mature Renee as like a nice balance to the other women and the way I’ve always described this group is like it’s a motley crew. Like you’re not, you don’t, they don’t look like the typical girl gang and I liked that. I like that they come together kind of unconventionally and randomly. And so with Rosie, I mean, she just brings such like strength to the role and such personality as well. And she’s just yeah, she’s awesome.

Q: Superhero movies you’re used to seeing a lot of big visual effects from Marvel, DC, whatever, everything we’ve seen here is pretty grounded. Are there a lot of visual effects or is it more in camera practical?

Cathy Yan: Yeah.  There’s it’s I would say it’s mostly in camera and practical. It’s just the way I like to work. And it is again just a it came from the story and the script itself being more grounded. And so this film is definitely that. I mean, we definitely have some visual effects but it’s mostly just to augment whatever we’ve been shooting in camera.

Q: Everybody’s talking about your producers are so enamored with your ideas coming into the project. Can you talk about like, I mean, I know you can’t reveal everything, but about your pitch when you were trying to get the role for director?

Cathy Yan: Sure. I mean, frankly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And I’d put together I think this is public now, so I put together like a little pitch deck that just had all my thoughts about the aesthetics of the film and the world. And then I also kind of created a sizzle reel, but it wasn’t like a sizzle reel where it just was like here’s a reference and here’s another reference and here’s another reference. But to me the story’s super compelling and personal to me because it is about emancipation, about women sort of like almost being competitive with one another and bringing each other down, but also because of our own inabilities I think to feel so powerless and like the stranglehold that is the patriarchy. And so I feel like I very much have gone through that arc myself, so and I’ve seen it with especially I think set against the backdrop of like Me Too and what has been happening in our industry in the last few years. So that definitely infiltrated its way into my pitch as well. So that for me this film was so much more than a superhero film about like and the first girl gang film or any of that.  But it really has like a compelling narrative and theme to it that like is very, very personal to me.

Q: Sorry, going off of what you said a second ago, if I’m not mistaken you’re the first Asian American woman to direct a big budget superhero movie.

Cathy Yan: Yeah.

Q: What does this moment mean to you?

Cathy Yan: It’s been really amazing and it’s very humbling certainly… and I try not to think too much about it.

What do you think of Cathy Yan’s comments? Are you excited to see how unreliable Harley Quinn is as a narrator in Birds of Prey? Sound off in the comments section below!

Here is the official synopsis for Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey(And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn):

“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 for the latest news regarding Cathy Yan, Harley Quinn and the rest of the Birds of Prey members.

New ‘Titans’ Photos Show Off Aqualad And The Original Team

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Titans Aqualad 01DC Universe has released eight brand new images from the upcoming fourth episode of the second season of Titans entitled, "Aqualad".

"Aqualad" will explore the dynamic among Dick Grayson/Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Donna Troy/Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie), Hank Hall/Hawk (Alan Ritchson), Dawn Granger/Dove (Minka Kelly) and Garth/Aqualad (Drew Van Acker) and how four years prior, their tight-knit family dynamic developed only to have their personal feelings bleed more into their work only to be exacerbated by the arrival of a new villain.

These new images give fans a new look at Drew Van Acker as Aqualad as well as a couple of new looks at the original team united together for action. In particular, we get our best look at how the Aqualad suit translates onscreen in live-action form.

You can check out the rest of the gallery for "Aqualad" by clicking "Next".

Here is the official synopsis for season two:

In Season 2, following the aftermath of their encounter with Trigon, Dick reforms the Titans. Under his supervision in their new home at Titans Tower, Rachel, Gar and Jason Todd train together to hone their hero abilities and work together as a team. They are joined by Hank Hall and Dawn Granger aka Hawk and Dove and Donna Troy aka Wonder Girl. Although these original Titans attempt to transition into a regular life, when old enemies resurface everyone must come together to take care of unfinished business. And as this family of old and new Titans – including Conner Kent and Rose Wilson – learn to co-exist, the arrival of Deathstroke brings to light the sins of the old Titans which threaten to tear this new Titans family apart once more.

The series stars Brenton Thwaites as Robin/Nightwing, Anna Diop as Starfire, Teagan Croft as Raven, and Ryan Potter as Beast Boy. Newcomers for its sophomore outing include Joshua Orpin and Esai Morales playing Superboy and Deathstroke, respectively, while Chella Man and Chelsea Zhang have also joined the cast as Deathstroke’s children Jericho and Ravager. Natalie Gumede has signed on to play Mercy Graves and Game of Thrones star Iain Glen is on board as Bruce Wayne.

Titans season two is now airing on DC Universe.

Source: DC Universe

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Nathaniel Brail

Nathaniel Brail

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