Cathy Yan spoke on the performance of her big-studio debut, Birds of Prey, which floundered in its opening weekend and swiftly made it to digital VOD in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.
She told The Hollywood Reporter “everyone was pretty quick to jump on a certain angle” after the film’s “lack of success” and added she had an “extra burden” on her as a woman of color.
“Yeah, I think that if you actually look at the details of the budget breakdown… I know that the studio had really high expectations for the movie — as we all did. There were also undue expectations on a female-led movie, and what I was most disappointed in was this idea that perhaps it proved that we weren’t ready for this yet. That was an extra burden that, as a woman-of-color director, I already had on me anyway. So, yes, I think there were certainly different ways you could interpret the success or lack of success of the movie, and everyone has a right to do that. But, I definitely do feel that everyone was pretty quick to jump on a certain angle.”
Yan went into her expectations, admitting there weren’t many:
“I don’t even know what my expectations really were because this whole process was something so entirely new to me. I just came from one small indie [Dead Pigs] before this, one that doesn’t even have distribution in the U.S. yet. So, I really have never gone through the process. I guess it’s hard to answer that question because I’m not really sure what I expected.”
She added she was elated by the reactions she got around the world from people who felt they were finally being represented:
“A lot of people — especially a lot of women and younger people — really felt like their voices, their type of people, they themselves … were represented for the first time on the big screen.”
Yan said she similarly related to the material:
“I really related to the material, and I think the movie is very much a story about female representation and the female experience. I felt like I was going through something like that myself and finding confidence in myself as a filmmaker, as a person and as a woman of color in the world. So, those are definitely things that I wanted to make sure were part of the story of this movie, and I think that’s what their intent was as well.”
She then talked about how the film “paid homage” in “very cheeky ways” – including the callback to Captain Boomerang – without feeling pressure from Warner Bros. to keep it connected to Suicide Squad:
“So, we did what we could with it, and there’s obviously that little homage like “Hey, I know that guy!” [to Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang] as well. So, we definitely tried to pepper it in, and it wasn’t just Suicide Squad. It was all the different comics that had come before, and it’s such a long, incredibly interesting history of where these characters came from.”
Yan remarked on the inspiration for Harley Quinn, Arleen Sorkin in a clown costume, which can be seen on a TV in Renee Montoya’s apartment at one point.
A Bird in a Cage in a Costume
Harley’s had many costumes over the years but, THR noted, her outfit in Suicide Squad became a phenomenon, as we all know; and it became a sacred cow of sorts.
So much so, the get-up in BOP has detractors that prefer the 2016 look but Yan defended her team’s new fashion choices as part of the character’s evolution from one film to the next.
Joker had a lot to do with it too:
“It’s Harley finding herself and being her own hero in a sense. Suicide Squad was very much about her with the Joker, and the way that she looked was part of that. They looked like a couple; she literally had “Puddin” choking her neck with a choker. So, there were obvious and deliberate decisions that I’m sure were made when designing her look for her character and central relationship in that movie. For us, she goes through that, and she goes through a physical transformation as well. So, it was always grounded in the story that we were trying to tell, and in that case, it didn’t really scare me. On top of that, I think our approach to her was to still make her feel confident and fun, and it’s still flattering even if it’s a weird, hideous haircut. Margot can pull so much of that off, and it was fun to take those risks. It was fun, as women, too, to gather around with hair, makeup and costumes and go, “Okay, what do we want to wear? What looks good on her? What’s fun? What feels current, relevant and now?” So, it became just a really fun exercise — one that we felt women would understand and also be excited to see.”
Harley’s costume will change again for The Suicide Squad. Set photos confirm it shall have a color scheme that matches her attire in Batman cartoons. But things go a step further.
Writer/director James Gunn revealed in a social media Q&A last week her character will echo early incarnations. Invoking her co-creator Paul Dini, Gunn tweeted Harley is “Exploding Paul Dini-esque” in the upcoming film and tagged the DC animated producer for good measure.
Exploding Paul Dini-esque. Cc @Paul_Dini. Also that Easter Egg guess was probably more like 70% now that I think about it. Who’s next?
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) April 1, 2020
Hopefully, Gunn’s descriptor of “Exploding” is pure hyperbole and not an indicator Harley blows up and dies. You run that risk when working for Amanda Waller.