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SYFY WIRE Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

How does Birds of Prey fit into the DCEU?

By Jenna Busch

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn opens in theaters early next year, and SYFY FANGRRLS took a visit to the film's Los Angeles set, where we spoke to director Cathy Yan and producers Sue Kroll and Bryan Unkeless. They told us all about where Harley (Margot Robbie) is when the film starts, her relationships with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and where the movie fits into the DCEU.

Kroll stated a number of times that this film takes place after Harley has broken up with Joker, but that doesn't mean we’re going to see what happens right after Suicide Squad. "She’s the thing that’s the same, but other than that, it’s a standalone story." The film may be from Harley’s perspective, but, Kroll added, “It’s very much the story of these women and how they come together.” 

Yan also shared a bit of what we’re going to see in terms of Harley’s journey. “When our title is The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, that is essentially the story that [Harley] goes on,” she said. “So we find her basically without the Joker at the beginning of the film. Through the film, she learns that she doesn’t need anyone but herself. She doesn’t necessarily make friends with the other women, but they come together. Through that, they emancipate themselves.” 


Everyone’s favorite former psychologist still has a bit of her old self in her, according to Yan. “I think that there is such a duality in Harley Quinn, even just the blue and the pink [hair], and Dr. Harleen Quinzel versus Harley Quinn. Both sides of her are there. She’s still the smart doctor that she once was. She’s still capable of armchair diagnosing anyone… but then she can be so easily manipulated and has really low self-esteem, and then she has all the issues that Joker really brought out in her, so this is, I think, a great opportunity to explore the woman behind Harley Quinn… and try to dive deeper into her psyche even more.”

Aside from Dr. Quinzel herself, Kroll and Unkeless said we will spend a lot of the time with each character, getting to know them as individuals before they come together. The scene SYFY FANGRRLS previewed on set featuring the full team actually happens fairly late in the movie. In it, we see Harley, Huntress, Renee, Canary, and Cass in what looks like a storage area for a circus searching for weapons in a trunk. Though we don’t want to spoil anything, there's a strong sense of the group dynamic, and we see who each of the women is in a very short time.

“What’s interesting about this story is that it has a very distinct feminine ideology and tone, but it isn’t fully encompassed by it,” said Unkeless. “It isn’t so much that these women come together, and we’ll put them up on a pedestal, they’re this girl gang. It’s more complicated than that. They all have their own interesting moral center. They form alliances or don’t, but it isn’t as pat as, 'Oh, we’re forming this sisterhood.' I think to push beyond doing a hopefully more authentic — at least that’s the aspiration — [or] a real look at relationships, and specifically, female relationships, and how that plays out, is something that’s been guiding us.”


On the villain side of things, there's Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask, and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz. Kroll said McGregor's reading of the character surprised them. “He’s created a really distinct character, who is at times larger than life, but still really relatable. Roman is so complicated and it’s not black or white... he’s not a villain that people know about. So what motivates him, his backstory, how he deals with situations, it’s always unexpected and surprising. You find yourself liking him and hating him at the same time, which I think is very unique.”

Of Messina, she told us, “I think for everyone he’s going to be a wonderful discovery. He’s a wonderful actor, but nobody’s ever seen him like this. He brought his A+ game to it and he got so into it. He’s amazing… They have great chemistry together. You know, that thing that happens that you think is never going to happen. Watching the two of them together is so much fun.”

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn will be released on February 7, 2020.