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Birds of Prey: everything you need to know about Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn spinoff

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Including who will play the villain and why everyone is so excited about the team behind it. 

We can all agree that the best thing about 2016’s Suicide Squad was Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.

As the baseball bat-wielding bad girl, Robbie was charming and cheeky, somehow managing to make us believe that she could have fallen in love with Jared Leto’s dour Joker. However, without the mega-wattage star power of Robbie and her co-star Will Smith, who played assassin Deadshot, that movie would have been almost unwatchable.

It’s good news, then, that Robbie is getting her own spinoff Harley Quinn movie in lieu of a straight sequel to Suicide Squad. Called Birds of Prey, it will follow Robbie’s Harley Quinn and two other female DC superheroes joining forces to protect a young girl from a dastardly mob boss. It will carry an R-rating – meaning serious violence and action scenes ahead – and, somewhat frustratingly, will receive a “much smaller budget”, Robbie says, than other superhero movies. 

Here’s everything we know about the hotly anticipated female superhero flick being called the ultimate girl gang movie. 

Ewan McGregor will play the bad guy

Birds of Prey’s villain is a nasty guy called Black Mask, a Gotham City mobster and one of Batman’s many antagonists. 

Despite figuring pretty heavily in several editions of DC Comics, Black Mask has never been in a movie until Birds of Prey, where the character will be immortalised onscreen by Ewan McGregor, who is currently in final negotiations to take on the role. 

Playing a bad guy is not exactly in McGregor’s wheelhouse. The actor is best known for archetypal good guys Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels and lovesick Christian in Moulin Rouge. But hey, it’s never too late to turn to the dark side. 

Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

The rest of the cast is pretty epic

Robbie and McGregor will be joined in Birds of Prey by a rogue’s gallery of Hollywood’s most buzzed-about actors. McGregor’s Fargo co-star and offscreen girlfriend Mary Elizabeth Winstead will play Huntress, a DC superhero whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow.

“[That] is new for me,” Winstead told The Wrap. “Being with the other actresses and a female director and just the whole energy behind this is so unique, so I’m really happy about that.”

Also starring in the film is Jurnee Smollett-Bell, an American actress best known for her television roles in Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. She’ll be playing the leather-clad martial artist and singer Black Canary.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Rumour has it that The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby and Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer were both in the running for the role of Black Canary, but that the studio wanted to cast a biracial actress. Lady Gaga was also approached for a role in the film, but according to reports she turned it down. 

Representation is key

Getting a kickarse female crew together was paramount for Robbie. “I was like, ‘Harley needs friends’. Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film,” Robbie told Yahoo! Movies. “She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space.”

But even beyond strong female characters, Birds of Prey will prioritise representing different ethnicities, too. In Birds of Prey Black Canary will be played by Smollett-Bell, a biracial actress, despite the original DC Comics never explicitly detailing the character’s ethnic background.

A key character called Cassandra Swain, the young girl protected by the triumvirate gang of Harley Quinn, Black Canary and Huntress, will also be played by a biracial actress.

Fans of DC Comics know that canonically Cassandra Swain is half-Asian and grows up to become Batgirl, though in Birds of Prey it appears she will appear as a child rather than as the adult superhero we later come to know and love. As of November 2018, the role is yet to be cast. Might we suggest Anna Cathcart, who was jaw-droppingly good as precocious little sister Kitty in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before?  

Behind the scenes, the team is just as diverse

Robbie serves as producer on Birds of Prey, adding another notch to her film production belt after the success of her company Lucky Chap’s movie I, Tonya this year.

In the director’s chair is Cathy Yan, a Chinese American filmmaker raised between Hong Kong and Washington who burst onto the scene at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival with her debut movie Dead Pigs. Before turning her hand to filmmaking, Yan was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal and one of the youngest staff writers in the paper’s history. When Birds of Prey is released in 2020, she will also become the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie. 

Director Cathy Yan

The script was penned by the British Taiwanese writer Christina Hodson, the woman behind the scripts for the female-led Transformers movie Bumblebee and the forthcoming standalone Batgirl film.

Considering both Hodson and Yan’s Asian heritage, Birds of Prey is an exciting prospect for anyone looking for more Asian representation in blockbusters. “There is a half-Asian character and our screenwriter is half Chinese and she’s sneaking little bits in,” Yan said in a recent interview.

It will start filming soon

Production on Birds of Prey will commence in January, 2019 in Los Angeles for a slated release date of February 7, 2020. 

Images: Getty

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