Cathy Yan Says ‘Birds of Prey’ Draws From ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Rashomon,’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’

The DC newcomer has set a high bar for her Harley Quinn-led film by naming Tarantino, Kurosawa, and Kubrick as her influences.
"Birds of Prey"
Margot Robbie in "Birds of Prey"
Warner Bros.

Welcome to the DC Extended Universe, Cathy Yan. She won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival for her bracing debut “Dead Pigs,” and was quickly scooped by Warner Bros. and DC to helm “Birds of Prey.” Subtitled “The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Miss Harley Quinn,” the tentpole is led by Margot Robbie’s cupid of crime in a candy-colored display of female power.

During a recent chat with /Film, Yan spoke about the cinematic influences on “Birds of Prey,” and with this introduction to the film, she has certainly set a high bar of expectations for her upcoming DC debut.

“The way that I sort of talked about the structure of the film is a bit like ‘Pulp Fiction’ meets ‘Rashomon.’ So it’s an unconventional structure,” Yan said. “For me, there’s a lot of my favorite filmmakers that have influences on this film, so like Tarantino, obviously. ‘The Professional’ for sure, especially the relationship between Harley and Cass. We actually have a few like, oh I guess I would say, like odes to certain films in the movie. Watch out for that.”

And of course, Yan is also indebted to Stanley Kubrick, specifically the idea of a ragtag group of criminals banding together as seen in “A Clockwork Orange.” “We also visually, I think, very much [were] influenced by ‘A Clockwork Orange’ as well,” Yan said. “And the Milk Bar,” referring to Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his cronies’ iconic haunt. “The Black Mask Club has a lot of that. The female figures, I’ve been kind of reinterpreting that. The Mod style, the ’70s era. We really tried to make this film look like nothing that you’ve seen from a superhero movie before. And really ground it in a reality and in some of the films that I’ve loved through the years.”

“Birds of Prey” features Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. And of course, Margot Robbie reprises the role she originated in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” Robbie recently spoke about her character’s storyline this time around, and how it was more relatable than as portrayed in “Suicide Squad” because “Birds of Prey” deals with her breakup with Joker.

“Birds of Prey” picks up where “Suicide Squad” left off, with Harley having left Joker’s clutches to team up with Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya to save Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from Black Mask (McGregor). The film also includes Chris Messina as self-mutilating serial killer Mr. Zsasz, and Ali Wong in a mysterious role.

“Birds of Prey” opens February 7, 2020.

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