Welcome to the DC Extended Universe, Cathy Yan. She won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival for her bracing debut “Dead Pigs,” and was quickly scooped by Warner Bros. and DC to helm “Birds of Prey.” Subtitled “The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Miss Harley Quinn,” the tentpole is led by Margot Robbie’s cupid of crime in a candy-colored display of female power.
During a recent chat with /Film, Yan spoke about the cinematic influences on “Birds of Prey,” and with this introduction to the film, she has certainly set a high bar of expectations for her upcoming DC debut.
“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,” Yan said. “For me, there's a lot of my favorite filmmakers 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 of course, Yan is also indebted to Stanley Kubrick, specifically the idea of a ragtag group of criminals banding together as seen in “A Clockwork Orange.” “We also visually, I think, very much [were] influenced by ‘A Clockwork Orange’ as well,” Yan said. “And the Milk Bar,” referring to Alex Malcolm McDowell and his cronies’ iconic haunt. “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.”
“Birds of Prey” features Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. And of course, Margot Robbie reprises the role she originated in 2016's “Suicide Squad.” Robbie recently spoke about her character’s storyline this time around, and how it was more relatable than as portrayed in “Suicide Squad” because “Birds of Prey” deals with her breakup with Joker.
“Birds of Prey” picks up where “Suicide Squad” left off, with Harley having left Joker's clutches to team up with Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya to save Cassandra Cain Ella Jay Basco from Black Mask McGregor. The film also includes Chris Messina as self-mutilating serial killer Mr. Zsasz, and Ali Wong in a mysterious role.
Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan already has ideas for a sequel. Although a direct Birds of Prey follow-up has not yet officially been confirmed, Yan has already started plotting out where she would take Harley Quinn on her next adventures — and with whom. And that character will be very familiar to longtime fans of Harley Quinn in both her animated and comic book forms.
In an interview with The Wrap, Cathy Yan said that if she were to direct a Birds of Prey sequel, she would focus on the fan-favorite dynamic of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy:
“I would love to see Poison Ivy and I would certainly love to see the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.”
A Harley and Poison Ivy romance — or at least a criminal team-up — seems to be on everyone’s minds, as Margot Robbie also recently said that she has also been pushing for the eco-friendly supervillain to appear alongside her Harley Quinn. “One [character] been pushing for as long as I’ve been pushing for this film is Poison Ivy,” Robbie told /Film. “I mean, there’s two versions of that, you know, with some comics, it’s friendship, some comics, it’s romantic. Either way, I want to explore that because I just I love their relationship so much in the comics.”
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have long been paired together, first becoming partners in crime in Batman: The Animated Series during one of Harley’s breaks with the Joker. Their gleeful chemistry and Thelma and Louise-inspired dynamic in the animated series became so popular that their friendship was soon integrated into the comics. Harley and Ivy would appear as allies and maybe more in the comics and more animated shows, but their romantic relationship only became canon recently, becoming official in 2015. The second season of DC Universe’s animated Harley Quinn series, in which Poison Ivy is a recurring character and Harley’s sardonic best friend, will see Ivy finally become Harley’s romantic partner.
A Birds of Prey sequel is still unconfirmed, but Yan doesn’t dismiss the possibility, despite the film’s somewhat disappointing box office returns. “I think people aren’t ready to let go of Harley Quinn quite yet and you know, Margot I don’t think is ready to let go of Harley Quinn yet either,” she said.
Before Marvel made billions with the concept, there was the Tarantino Cinematic Universe. Quentin Tarantino’s movies all exist in a shared universe technically, universes, a theory that the director himself confirmed a few years ago. “There’s the realer than real universe, alright, and all the characters inhabit that one. But then there’s this movie universe,” he said. “And so From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, they all take place in this special movie universe. So basically when the characters of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, when they go to the movies, Kill Bill is what they go to see. From Dusk Till Dawn is what they see.” One easy-to-spot connection between nearly all his films, from Pulp Fiction to Inglourious Basterds to The Hateful Eight, is Red Apple cigarettes. The fictional brand also pops up in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood “Better drag, more flavor, less throat burn”, but according to the Hollywood Reporter, bonus Red Apple content was filmed, but left out of the theatrical cut. That’s what Blu-ray extras are for:
In the faux cigarette commercial, different Red Apple options are introduced, such as Red Apple Lites and Red Apple Menthol. At the end of commercial, James Marsden appears playing a young Burt Reynolds endorsing the brand. There is another commercial for Red Apple that made it into the film, which stars Rick Dalton Leonardo DiCaprio, occurring during the end credits.
Burt Reynolds — not Sonic the Hedgehog‘s James Marsden playing Burt Reynolds, but Gator and Smokey and the Bandit star Burt Reynolds — was the original choice to play ranch owner George Spahn, but he died before the unsettling Spahn Ranch scene could be shot. Bruce Dern took over the role, but Reynolds’ influence can still be felt in the film.