Birds Of Prey: Why Ewan McGregor Was Able To Improvise Black Mask’s Best Lines

Ewan McGregor as Black Mask

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey has been in theaters for nearly a week now, and expanding the DCEU in the process. The Suicide Squad spinoff was a star vehicle for Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, and gave her a group of Gotham City gal pals along the way. But the titular Birds of Prey were only able to take flight due to a common enemy: Ewan McGregor's Black Mask. McGregor was a serious scene stealer as Roman Sionis, and it turns out that many of his best lines were actually improvised by the actor.

The script for Birds of Prey was written by Bumblebee's Christina Hodson. It was a quirky and zany adventure through Harley Quinn's psyche, and each member of the cast got some raucous lines that helped the movie get its R-rating. But when it came to Black Mask's myriad hilarious one-liners, some of them came from Ewan McGregor himself. Director Cathy Yan recently appeared on our very own ReelBlend podcast, where she explained the actor's penchant for ad-libs, saying:

He also added lines. I like to work to a point where it’s a real collaboration between the actors, and we’ll have fun on set, and it’s very open. And what was great is that Christina (Hodson) was not precious with the script either and quite supportive of that. So we were just like throwing ideas around. He’ll come up with a line and I’ll go ‘I love that line! Let’s add it in.’ That happened a lot, and he’s just wickedly funny. I also think because he really understood the character, he really got it. He understood the background of the character, the chip on his shoulder, the desire for power the desire of control.

Well, it certainly sounds like the Birds of Prey set was a live one, and one that fosters creativity. As Cathy Yan explained, she is a proponent of collaboration on set, allowing her actors and crew members to take ownership over their roles. And once writer Christina Hodson loosened the reigns on the movie's script, magic could be made.

Powered by RedCircle

Ewan McGregor was a very strong aspect of Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, which helped to buoy the movie with laughs while also give the blockbuster some real stakes. He may be one of the strongest villains in the DCEU, which is a bit sad considering his fate at the end of the movie. But McGregor's performance shines, and from the sound of it that's because he truly understood the character and brought ideas to the table.

It should be interesting to see how Birds of Prey performs in its second weekend at the box office. While Cathy Yan's big feature debut debuted at #1 and has been steadily making money, the opening fell short of past DCEU installments. Warner Bros. recently rebranded the movie Harley Quinn: Birds Of Prey, in hopes that it would help drive folks to audiences. Critical and audience reviews were also positive, which may inspired moviegoers to check it out.

Birds of Prey is out in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.