You’ll be forgiven for not being familiar with ‘Birds of Prey’ director Cathy Yan. After all, her first feature film, the indie family comedy/drama ‘Dead Pigs’ just arrived in January of this year. So how did a fledgling indie director get handed the reigns to a major comic book franchise?
“I did my homework,” Yan said, while attending the U.S.-China Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles, on the evening of October 30. Yan credited the script by Christina Hodson (‘Bumblebee’) with drawing her in.
“I could not put the script down, it had so much dark humor to it which a lot of my work does, and there are themes of female empowerment which are so strong and relateable. So I went in with, not with confidence, but at least a sense that I belonged in the room, that somehow magically in terms of timing and luck that this opportunity was open to me and I was definitely going to make the best of it.”
She acknowledged that she had never pitched a giant project like this, so she had to ask for some direction from her agents.
“I have never done any of these things and I asked my agents for examples to get a better sense: I put together a pitch deck and also assembled a sizzle reel. But I would say it wasn’t like a lot of other sizzle reels which reference other films that remotely feel like your film. I find those to be rather pointless. But I created my own version that thematically and tonally conveyed what you would feel (in my movie).”
Yan is Chinese American and Hodson is half-Chinese, so Yan, who has explored Asian identity in her past work confirmed that bits of Eastern culture will find their way into the film, mainly through the half-Asian character Cassandra Cain, alternately known as Batgirl, Black Bat and The Orphan.
Yan confirmed that ‘Birds of Prey’ will be rated-R, which could go either way in terms of this film’s performance. It could appeal to adult fans who want a grittier flick, like the ones who turned out for Fox’s ‘Logan’ and ‘Deadpool’.
On the flip side, ‘Deadpool 2’ didn’t do as well, so now Fox is releasing a PG-13 edit of the film in theaters in December, in hopes of courting a younger audience which may have been excluded from the R-rated cut. So ‘Birds of Prey’ may benefit by attracting older viewers who like more hard-hitting action, but may be hurt by not allowing the kid audience to see it. (At least not without a parent or guardian.)
In this picture, Margot Robbie, who is also producing, reprises her role as Harley Quinn, Rosie Perez portrays Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya, Jurnee Smolett-Bell depicts Black Canary and Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays assassin The Huntress. This unlikely team will assemble to rescue Cassandra Cain from crime boss Black Mask. For an undisclosed reason, Gotham is no longer under the protection of Batman.
‘Birds of Prey is scheduled to open on February 7, 2020.