How Birds Of Prey Got John Wick's Director To Help Direct Its Action Scenes

Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ella Jay Basco, Margot Robbie and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in a sc

Action films are deceptively hard to pull off. You have to find a way to incorporate intense sequences that feel both original and believable, within the context of the story. And what’s happening in the moments of explosive action have to match the tone of the rest of the film. Luckily, Birds of Prey’s team had some experts on hand to help make sure they accomplished all that and more.

In an exclusive interview with ReelBlend, Birds of Prey’s director Cathy Yan revealed that she had the John Wick series in mind when she began to plan the film’s action sequences. And she reached out to Chad Stahelski, the franchise’s director, to help her realize her vision:

We had been working with [Stahelski’s] 87eleven from the get go. That was the style that I wanted for the movie. It just felt right. It was that mix of practical but also heightened, like where it felt really real, but they're also kind of having fun with it. And I like the way it's shot. I liked that it wasn't too ‘cutty,’ like all of his work beforehand.

Cathy Yan also worked closely with other members of the 87eleven team, both during initial production and in the reshoots that followed:

During production, I was working mostly with [stunt coordinator] Jonathan Eusebio on that. He's just a delight. He choreographed some really amazing fight sequences. And then when it came to reshoots, it was like, ‘Let's add more action. Let's lean into this. It's working. Let's make it even more cool and badass.’ And at that time, I think, Chad was just available. So it was like, ‘Cool! We got the best of the best.’

Birds of Prey’s director had nothing but praise for Chad Stahelski, who’s had a storied career in Hollywood -- first as a stunt double for actors like Keanu Reeves, and now as a successful director in his own right:

Because obviously he runs 87eleven, so it just kind of became this natural fit. It was really interesting to see how he shoots things, too. Working with him in that way, and just kind of having fun and… he's awesome. It was interesting because he's a real director and so I think we actually kind of learned a lot from each other, because he's quite a cinephile. … I learned so much from him and his team in terms of just like how to shoot stunts, the practicality of all the equipment and stuff that I'd never seen before. I'd never worked with before.

Ultimately, it seems as though the whole cast and crew of Birds of Prey were on board to take the action in the film to the limit. By all accounts, the actresses that make up Harley Quinn’s motley crew put their all into bringing the film’s most exciting sequences to life.

The collaboration at the heart of Birds of Prey’s action sequences paid off big time. The film has been praised for its no-holds-barred approach to Harley Quinn’s vengeance-fueled story. And if it becomes a hit, and spawns a franchise, Cathy Yan and the 87eleven team may end up working together more in the future. Birds of Prey opens in theaters Friday, February 7. Check out ReelBlend's interview with Cathy Yan when the podcast goes live Wednesday, February 5.

Katherine Webb