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Margot Robbie explains Harley Quinn’s return in ‘Birds of Prey’

Cathy Yan, first Asian woman to direct superhero film, sends message of women’s empowerment

Screen shows casts of “Birds of Prey,” (from top left) Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Basco, (bottom left) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, seen seated with director Cathy Yan (bottom right) during video press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Warner Bros. Korea)
Screen shows casts of “Birds of Prey,” (from top left) Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Basco, (bottom left) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, seen seated with director Cathy Yan (bottom right) during video press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Warner Bros. Korea)


Harley Quinn does not cope well with the breakup from her “pudding” Joker in the beginning of “Birds of Prey,” but this may just be her first step out into the world, said Margot Robbie, who reprises her role from “Suicide Squad,” during a video press conference Tuesday.

Robbie was joined by director Cathy Yan and lead actors Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Ella Jay Basco.

In the first DC flick to hit the screens this year -- “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” -- Robbie not only plays the lead and most prominent role, but also participated in the film’s production.

“When I played Harley Quinn the first time, I fell completely in love with her and also felt there was so much more to explore that we could show you than in ‘Suicide Squad,’” the actress said.

The latest movie starts off as Harley Quinn, the notorious girlfriend of Gotham City’s evil Joker -- aka Mr. J -- breaks up with her lover. 


“Birds Of Prey” (Warner Bros. Korea)
“Birds Of Prey” (Warner Bros. Korea)

“In this film, you’ll see a very different side of Harley Quinn, in a far more vulnerable state which, to someone like her, she can manifest in a number of erratic and insane ways,” Robbie said. “But we also do get to see -- what it is like when she feels a sense of responsibility for a young kid and how she wrestles with that. It was so much fun to get to explore the vulnerability and watch that play out a little bit more.”

The same struggle with vulnerability and overcoming personal weakness is shared by the ensemble of five female characters leading the movie.

“For me the big takeaway was that we are showing these women as vulnerable, wrong and imperfect, but still empowered, especially together at the end. And that was a big theme and message that I responded to in the movie,” director Yan said.

Such a message of female empowerment, especially from the male-dominated DC Comics universe, is not surprising coming from Chinese American director Yan, who is the first Asian woman to direct a DC film, or any US superhero action film for that matter.

“With the ensemble of female cast, I think this film set was even more particular. It was unique because it doesn’t happen so often that you’re working with so many other actresses,” Robbie said. “I think we have an innate understanding of the female experience in this industry. For us, the bond happened quite quickly, and it went a bit deeper than you normally get.”

As a movie packed with action scenes no less fierce than those featuring male characters, the actresses endured tough training together, during which they were able to bond even more. All the actors sustained some kind of bodily injury while on the set, according to Smollett-Bell, who plays Black Canary, the songbird with a killer voice.


“Birds Of Prey” (Warner Bros. Korea)
“Birds Of Prey” (Warner Bros. Korea)

Although the title of the film picked up the name of the all-female superhero team featured in DC Comics, Yan says it has an original story of its own, with the script drawing on a number of different issues of the comics.

“We sort of took what made a lot of sense and Christina Hodson (the scriptwriter) and Margot really worked on a lot of that together in terms of drawing from different inspirations,” the director said. While paying homage to the entire history of the comic book series, they wanted to make sure the movie had its own perspective as well, Yan explained.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as crossbow-killer Huntress while rookie actress Ella Jay Basco plays pickpocket-turned-Batgirl Cassandra Cain.

The movie hit local theaters on Feb. 5, its first official release worldwide.


By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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