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There are a few ways in which Chris Messina’s Victor Zsasz in the upcoming Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) deviates from the character that is familiar to fans of DC Comics. The broad stroke details are certainly all there, as he’s still the psychopathic, blood-lusting serial killer who is covered with scars representing his various victims, but there are some notable alterations.
One of these changes is in his appearance, as he’s sporting a silver-dyed crew cut instead of the typical chrome dome – but there’s also an added passion in his life that’s original to the upcoming film: an obsession with Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, as portrayed by Ewan McGregor.
Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor were paired for interviews during an event late last week in the middle of Hollywood – retitled “Harleywood” for the night in promotion of Birds Of Prey, and speaking with the duo I asked about the relationship between their characters in the film. Roman Sionis is the primary antagonist in the plot, with Victor Zsasz as his right hand man, and as described by Messina, the aide-de-camp really can’t get enough of his mask-loving club owner boss. Said the actor,
He's obsessed with Roman. He's obsessed. [Roman] is like the Pied Piper. He's so charming and funny and powerful. And then when he turns, it's very violent – and Victor's in love with that. We had a blast.
Thus far, the marketing for Birds of Prey has only given us a taste of what to expect from Roman Sionis – and none of it has been designated with a red band label – but we definitely have gotten a sense of the “very violent” side of the character Chris Messina mentions. The debut trailer for the film show the villain with a collection of hostages strung up by their ankles and giving the universal sign for “execute them,” and clearly Victor loves getting those kinds of orders.
While the relationship between Roman and Victor in Birds of Prey will be unique, it should be noted that the characters do have some history working together in the comics – an element that very well may have inspired their pairing in the new film. The two were first linked in 2009's Batman: Battle for the Cowl arc by writer/artist Tony Daniel, with Black Mask first enlisting Zsasz as part of a group of villains looking to conquer Gotham, and then financing the serial killer's wildest dreams with a suitcase full of money (resulting in an enterprise that sees Zsasz get rich from a scheme involving gladiator battles with kidnapped runaways and organized gambling).
It won’t be long until fans will be able to see these new incarnations of Victor Zsasz and Roman Sionis on the big screen (it will actually be Roman’s live-action debut), as Birds of Prey is now just a couple of weeks away from release. In the film, Harley winds up in Roman’s crosshairs following her break-up from the Joker – she having pissed him off in the past, and no longer under the protection of the Clown Prince of Crime – and she’s not the only one. In fact, Roman is actually at the center of many beefs and deals gone wrong, and it results in the formation of an unlikely alliance between Harley, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).