Cathy Yan’s Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) is aiming to come together unlike any comic book movie you’ve ever seen. Because the driving perspective of the film belongs to a spunky psychopath, reality is portrayed with a special distortion that only the mind of Harley Quinn can provide. It should make for a unique cinematic experience when the feature arrives in theaters in a couple months, and part of that will be because of the way in which the production drew from an eclectic assembly of inspirations.
Even when working to craft something wholly original it makes sense to take lessons from the greats, and that’s precisely what director Cathy Yan, writer Christina Hodson, and star/producer Margot Robbie aimed for in the making of Birds of Prey. Yan and Robbie both explained as much earlier this year when members of the press were invited to the set of the film while it was still in production.
Going back to the movie operating with an unreliable narrator, evidence suggests that Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) won’t be delivering a totally straight-forward narrative, and in that venture Cathy Yan looked to some of the best non-linear films ever made: Quentin Tarantino’s scrambled anthology Pulp Fiction, and Akira Kurosawa's perspective-shifting Rashomon. The director explained,
There's a lot of influences on the film. 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. For me there's a lot of my favorite filmmakers that have influences on this film, like Tarantino, obviously.
Continuing the trend of discussing crime movies, both Cathy Yan and Margot Robbie also namechecked a particular film that is specifically influencing one of Birds of Prey’s key relationships. A significant part of the narrative finds the seriously irresponsible Harley Quinn trying to protect young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from the evil forces at the disposal of crime kingpin Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), and cinephiles will hopefully note that their bond has a bond similar to the one between Jean Reno's Leon and Natalie Portman's Mathilda in Luc Besson’s classic Leon: The Professional.
Based on our interviews, this came about because of a discussion that Margot Robbie had with Christina Hodson during the development of the script, and became a part of the work when they discovered their shared appreciation for the film. Said the actress/producer,
[With Cas and Harley], Christina [Hodson], the writer, and I actually spoke about a lot of our favorite films, and wanted to pay homage to a few things, but, Leon: The Professional was one of them, and we just loved that relationship – the, mentor and mentee, a very unexpected friendship there. We kind of found ourselves gravitating towards that as well.
Clearly Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) looked to some fantastic works when determining the best way to structure the film’s story, but Cathy Yan noted that outside influence didn’t stop there. Again, because of the perspective of the story, this is going to be a Gotham City unlike any we’ve ever seen before on the big screen, and part of that comes from particular cinematic inspiration.
Discussing the special aesthetic Birds of Prey is playing with, the director highlighted the work done with production designer K.K. Barrett in the creation of the Black Mask Club, owned and operated by Roman Sionis. For that particular interior, Yan had Stanley Kubrick’s legendary A Clockwork Orange in mind – specifically the Korova Milk Bar that is featured throughout the movie:
We actually have a few I would say ‘odes’ to certain films in the movie. Watch out for that. Also, visually I think we were very much influenced by A Clockwork Orange as well, like the Milk Bar. 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.
The aim is to take ingredients from all those titles mentioned and throw them in a blender to create something special and different. We’re tremendously excited to see what that means in the case of Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn).