Birds Of Prey Director Had To ‘Fight’ For The Movie’s Most Disturbing Scene

Ewan McGregor in Birds of Prey

The DC live-action universe is an ever changing place, with Warner Bros. planning the franchise's future based on the performance of each new release. The most recent addition to the DCEU is Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey, which expanded Gotham City and gave Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn a group of gal pals. The motley crew of femme fatales united against Ewan McGregor's Black Mask, who pivoted between being hilarious and terrifying. Although it turns out that Yan had to fight for the character's most disturbing sequence.

Around halfway through Birds of Prey, Roman Sionis / Black Mask's fragile ego truly takes center stage. After getting bad news in his club, Sionis hears a patron laughing at another table. Assuming she's mocking him, he publicly humiliates her, as she's forced to dance in her underwear or face certain death. It's an extremely uncomfortable scene that shows the true madness of Ewan McGregor's villain. Director Cathy Yan recently opened up about that scene, and how she had to fight to keep it in the theatrical cut. As she put it,

I’ll be honest: we had to fight to keep that scene because it was uncomfortable. It was risky, and we had to fight to keep it at all. There are cuts of the movie without it. I’m really glad that we kept it because I think it’s important. I think that a lot of people have been very impacted by that scene. I think it’s a huge turning point for Roman; it’s a huge turning point for Canary, and the way that we shot it was hopefully not about the sexual violence upon the woman. It was more about Roman, what he’s capable of and Canary seeing him for who he really is for the first time. Now, she can fully cut herself off from him, and I thought it was a really important scene. So, we fought for it.

As a director, Cathy Yan had a clear vision for Birds of Prey. That includes the movie's uncomfortable club scene, which highlighted how misogynistic and psychotic the film's villain was. It's an effective piece of storytelling, and also helps Black Canary find her own moral compass throughout the course of blockbuster.

Cathy Yan's comments to THR help to peel back the curtain on Birds of Prey's journey to theaters. Yan shot the film aiming for a hard R rating, allowing Harley and the rest of the cast to be as foul mouthed and violent as the story called for. But there was some push back from the studio when it came to Black Mask's disturbing dance scene. But she won that battle, and that scene does mark a big shift for Black Canary.

As a reminder, you can check out the Birds of Prey scene in question below.

Poor Erica. She was just trying to enjoy a night at Roman Sionis' Gotham City club, and ended up being publicly stripped and mocked. While she made it out of the encounter alive, its definitely a hard scene to watch.

It should be interesting to see if Birds of Prey ends up getting a sequel. The movie isn't DC's strongest outing at the box office, although it was well received by critics. And since it arrived early via video on demand, perhaps the money was made up for Warner Bros. Cathy Yan and Margot Robbie both seem eager to continue the property, possibly bringing Poison Ivy to the DCEU in the process.

Birds of Prey is available via video on demand now, and will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on May 19th. In the meantime, 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. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. 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 favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.