Birds Of Prey Didn’t Have To Fight For Its R-Rating ‘As Much As Anyone Would Think,’ According To The Director

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn aims a gun in Birds of Prey

At this stage of the game in the world of comic book movies, going for an R-rating is no guarantee. Sure, the Deadpool films and Logan did a lot to demonstrate viability and potential for the creative direction, and Joker was a billion-dollar success last year, but still PG-13 rules the day, as there is the logical expectation that a blockbuster with a less restrictive rating has the potential to sell more tickets worldwide.

Even with this philosophy firmly in place, however, it evidently wasn’t any kind of issue for the upcoming Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn). The movie is technically a spin-off from 2016’s Suicide Squad – a PG-13 film itself – and you’d think that might determine a particular direction for the project, but according to director Cathy Yan, getting the permission to be more adult was never the behind-the-scenes argument you might think it would be.

In the filmmaker’s own words:

I honestly don't think as much as anyone would think. It was never really a conversation; not a big deal.

It was back in December that we first reported about Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) was going for an R-rating, having spent time on the set of the movie when it was still in production. During that set visit, all varieties of curse words were being thrown around, and it seemed like it was clear that the film was going for an 18-plus audience… but at the same time nobody would 100% confirm it for sure.

That was months before the aforementioned massive success of Joker, though, and now the conversation around the idea of R-rated comic book movies has shifted once again. While there once seemed to be some hesitance towards the idea, this past weekend at a special “Harleywood” event in Los Angeles Cathy Yan explained that the 18-and-over approach was a part of the initial concept for the project from the very beginning, pitched as part of the package initially imagined by star/producer Margot Robbie. Said the filmmaker,

Margot always pitched it as such and she really wanted to do it that way. I think it stems from Harley Quinn herself and her personality and that she is just so raw and unabashed. And thankfully that's the rating that we have!

Written by Christina Hodson, Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) picks up shortly after the events of Suicide Squad, and finds Harley Quinn out on her own after having been kicked to the curb by the Joker. Heartbroken and angry, she is determined to make it on her own as a supervillain operating in Gotham, but this is easier said than done. Her relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime provided a certain amount of protection for her, with nobody wanting to mess with the city’s most terrifying, psychopathic villain – but now that shield is gone.

With Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) leading the charge, Harley must find a way to survive, and she ultimately finds an avenue working alongside some other women in trouble looking to do a little bit of fighting back.

Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smolett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ali Wong, and Ella Jay Basco, and will be in theaters everywhere on February 7th. Be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for a whole lot more of our coverage of the film as we get closer to the big release day!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.